Most people that enter the child care field do so, in part, because they enjoy being around children. But, as much as we enjoy the presence of children, we also appreciate being able to leave our jobs at the end of the day and return to our own homes, families, etc. Children who are left in our care after our program's ending time can be frustrating to staff and scary to the children.
Upon enrollment in your program, each parent needs to be informed, in writing of your policy for late pick-ups. At the very least, the parent must call if they are detained and cannot arrive at the Center prior to your closing time. This will give your staff a heads-up and allow them to help ease the child's fears about when Mom or Dad will be arriving. From there, you need to decide what sort of late fees you are going to collect and when those fees will be collected? Will they be collected immediately, added to the parent's fee, or paid the following day before the child will be accepted into care?
The parent needs to understand what late fees you will charge. And, not to be unkind, but the fees have to be high enough to be an incentive for the parent to not want to pay them. If you don't charge enough, at least one researcher has shown that all that is accomplished is giving parents permission to be late and just throw a few more dollars your way.
The last issue, and the one that needs to be most clear with both parents and staff, is what to do when the parent does not show up to pick up their child and you cannot reach a parent or emergency contact person. Which staff members will stay with the child? How long will they continue trying to reach someone who is authorized to pick up the child? Your staff cannot stay with the child all night. At what point do you contact the police for assistance in locating the parent and perhaps taking emergency custody of the child? This policy has to be very, very clear so that your staff knows exactly what to do and the parent knows that police will be involved if necessary.
This is not a policy that you want to assume parents read in your handbook. Parents must be given this information both verbally and in writing, before the policy is needed.
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