In every family child care program, the day begins and ends with two major transitions known as daycare pick up and drop off.
Child care providers across the country will tell you that the goal is for their clients to: “arrive at or after their opening time, and to pick up their child before their closing time.”
While this is the expectation set forth by many programs, it is not always the reality.
THE FRUSTRATION BEHIND PARENTS PICKING UP STUDENTS LATE
Clients who are late when picking up their child at the end of the work day is one of the top complaints I hear from child care providers.
A person who runs a family child care business in their home has no control over what time they end their work day; they are dependent upon how punctual their clients are.
I often encouraged my clients or friends of mine using family child care to imagine being at their job and not being allowed to go home until the last person has left the building.
As you can imagine, not having control over when your work day ends can leave a person feeling vulnerable because he/she may have a commitment shortly after work (i.e. child’s soccer practice, PTO meeting, conferences at school). They are counting on their clients to pick up on time.
DAYCARE LATE PICK UP FEE
Most child care contracts have a late policy in place to protect their hours of business.
Typically there is a late fee that will be applied when and if a parent arrives after the closing time to pick up a child late.
Here are two examples of daycare late pick up fees:
- $10 for every 15 minutes the parent arrives late.
- $1 for every minute past closing time.
Enforcing a policy that was agreed upon by the client and provider at the time of enrollment is not a form of ‘being mean’. It simply means the provider is adhering to her business contract as any wise business owner in any other industry would do.
The problem is: Having a late pick up policy does not prevent late pick up. In one article, Tom Copeland shares some creative ways to manage late pick up including one provider’s tip on calling over time an “evening fee” because enforcing a ‘late fee’ caused her too much stress.
THE IMPACT OF PARENTS PICKING UP STUDENTS LATE
When a client violates daycare pick up and drop off rules, it sends a message to the provider that says, ” My time is more valuable than your time.”
Often times, this is not done with intention, but habitual late pick up reflects upon the parent’s choices. A parent chooses their own obligations or needs over arriving on time to pick up their child. In real life, this can look like:
- Staying 10 minutes late at work to finish a project.
- Chatting too long at the end of the day with a co-worker.
- Running into the grocery store after work and getting stuck in line at the register.
- Not leaving early enough to allow for traffic in your commute.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and share what I think child care providers WISHED they could tell their clients.
HOW PARENTS CAN MAKE SURE TO AVOID PICKING UP THEIR CHILD LATE FROM SCHOOL OR DAYCARE
No one can predict what the day will bring! That’s what makes daycare drop off and pick up such a vulnerable time for both parties.
Create a back-up plan with a trusted friend or adult who can pick up your child when unexpected delays like these happen:
- An accident on the highway; stalling traffic
- You get sick at work and your spouse is out of town.
- Your car breaks down on the side of the road.
Arrive a few minutes early to ensure a rush-free and timely exit.
Child care providers prefer to have their home cleared out at or before their closing time.
Example: If the child care program closes at 5pm, it is better to arrive at 4:50 to help your child get ready to go; rather than showing up at 5pm and leaving by 5:10.
CHILD CARE POLICY SAMPLE FOR LATE PICK UP
I’d like to share a snip-it of my child care late pick up policy.
But first, I need to share my thoughts for anyone thinking I might be making a big deal out of 5 minutes.
If a parent arrives 5 minute late and is now charged $5.00 ($1 per minute), it can feel really uncomfortable and stressful to adhere to your late pick up terms. It can feel petty to gripe about 5 minutes. Hear me out:
After all…what’s 5 minutes in the grand scheme of things?
If we’re talking about a massage…5 minutes feels like 5 seconds.
If we’re talking about having coffee with a friend…5 minutes just isn’t enough.
If we’re talking about holding yourself up in a plank position…5 minutes can feel like an eternity.
LATE PICK UP POLICY SAMPLE:
LATE PICK-UP: Ellie’s Daycare closes promptly at 4:30pm. Late fees ($1.00 per child/per minute late) will be assessed beginning at 4:30pm and will be due upon arrival of the parent or will be added to the following week’s invoice. The clock in my entryway will serve as our official time; please adjust your clocks accordingly. Habitual late pick-ups will result in termination of services.
A NOTE FOR PARENTS PICKING UP LATE:
A late fee has nothing to do with the love the provider has for your child.
Zip. Zilch. Nada.
Your provider may not say anything because:
a) she’s afraid of confrontation
b) she’s not sure how to enforce her policy without you getting upset
c) she doesn’t want you to think that she doesn’t want to spend time with your child
At the end of the day, this person has already put in a 9+ hour day and is ready to focus on their own family.
PARENTS PICKING UP STUDENTS LATE SHOULD ALWAYS DO THIS
- Always apologize sincerely. No need to give a reason why you are late.
- Hug your child, grab their things and quickly exit.
- Tell your provider “thank you” on your way out.
- Read through your contract and find out what the ‘late pick-up policy’ is and have a check or cash ready for your provider the next morning. (Insider Tip: Don’t ask if you can pay the late fee. Just hand it over with another apology for being late.)
- Understand that the provider is not trying to make an extra buck by collecting late fees. Rather, he/she is using the late fees to encourage clients to pick up on time.
- Create an emergency plan so you have someone to call who can pick up your child if you ever find yourself in a pickle.
Parents, you might be thinking, “Not ______ (insert name), she’s so nice. She never gets mad if we pick up late.”
I’m about 99.8% that’s not true.
No one likes to be surprised with over time; even if for just 5 minutes.
Picking up your child on time is simply a sign of respect for the provider’s time and if you are late, paying the late fee is still a way to honor her time.
It really doesn’t have to be much more complicated than that.
Respect feels good all around; no matter your line of work.
Interested in learning more about the partnership between parents & family child care providers? Check these out!