I was browsing the internet in the past few days and happened across a website suggesting that child care programs increase their revenue and get more exposure in the community by scheduling their staff members out as babysitters for center clients or for members of the community. This would be a HUGE liability for a child care program. (I did send a note to the printing company that made this suggestion and explained why they should remove it from their site, but haven’t heard back from them yet.)
So, why is it such a big deal that my heart skipped a beat when I read that suggestion? Per our lawyer, if we hire someone to work with children, that implies that we believe that person is safe to be around children. We have done our due diligence with background checks, reference checks, our interview process, initial staff training, etc. Fair enough, but here’s where it starts to get sticky. If our staff member then babysits for one of our clients or anyone else that they met through us, the client can rightly assume that we are implying that our staff member is safe to be around children. If something were to happen to a child while in the care of our staff member (after hours, not on our site, and even without our knowledge), we could be held liable because the client assumed that our staff member was safe to be around children due to our implied recommendation. The only exception to this is if the staff member and client had an existing relationship before meeting in our program; in that case, we are not liable because we are not the cause of the relationship.
Although I do firmly believe that my staff members are safe to be around children, I can only speak for what they do when they are operating within the parameters of my program with my policies and procedures and the oversight of management team. I simply cannot be responsible for what they do outside of work hours.
Because of this liability, this is one of the policies that we enforce most strictly. Each of our staff members and each of our clients has to sign an agreement that they will not enter into a babysitting relationship. If a staff member babysits for a client, the staff member is immediately fired and the client loses his child care slot.
If a program were to implement the suggestion made by the printing company to become the broker of after-hours babysitting services and to generate revenue from that service, the program would be more directly liable for anything that went wrong. No, this is not our most popular policy, but it protects everyone; the staff member, the family, and the program. If you don’t already have a Staff After-Hours Babysitting Policy, check ours out here.