Family & Relationships

Tips for Choosing a Childcare Provider and Creating a Childcare Contract

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When expecting a new baby, one of the most important (and stressful) decisions you’ll make is choosing a childcare provider. Everyone has opinions — in-home or center? Near your office or near your home? — that can make the decision seem even more overwhelming. Here are some general tips for how to choose the best one for your family:

  1. Start looking early. Whether you’ll be using an in-home provider, a childcare center or a provider coming into your home (like a nanny), start searching now (before you have the baby) so you can get arrangements squared away. In most cases (especially at childcare centers) space is limited and availability can change suddenly.
  2. Get referrals, ask questions. Talk to friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. to see who they preferred (and which providers may not have worked out and why). Also, take the time to do a full-on interview with your provider in the place where they’ll be caring for your child.
  3. Remember childcare is a business. This may sound a little harsh, but remember, you are paying this person or company for a service they are providing, which ultimately means it’s a business transaction. So it’s crucial to find that balance between a business partnership of sorts and a friendly relationship you’ll want to develop. That way everyone (especially your child) has a positive experience day in and day out.

A crucial part of this business relationship is the childcare contract or agreement.

You’ll definitely want to get the details of your arrangement and the type of services they’ll provide (and what is not provided) in writing. In short, you want to know who’s responsible for what. And here’s why: if something happens, like a disagreement over payment, confusion regarding a sleeping schedule or a conflict about disciplinary tactics, you’ll have something concrete to refer to.

The good news is that most licensed or certified childcare providers should already have a contract at the ready for you to review. A childcare contract is a legally binding document, and here are some of the essential terms it should include:

  • Contact information: This should spell out who the agreement is between, the name of the child and specific emergency contacts approved for certain situations.
  • Payment/fees: This should detail, in very clear language, the amount to be paid for childcare services, per child, for a specific time frame.
  • Additional fees/late fees: If you are late picking up your child (as opposed to the agreed-upon time listed in the agreement), are you charged an additional or late fee?
  • Holidays, vacations and absences: There are times when childcare centers may be closed for holidays, an in-home provider may be on vacation or your child is ill or absent and will not attend childcare. Do you still have to pay for childcare in these instances? A contract should clearly indicate what should take place and if you are still responsible for payment.
  • Discipline: You should have an open and respectful conversation with any prospective childcare provider about their discipline policies and the approach they take. Then get it in writing so your expectations are clear moving forward.
  • Termination: There should be language in the contract or agreement that stipulates how either the provider or parent/guardian can terminate the agreement.

Whether you’re handed a contract by your provider to complete or need to come up with an agreement on your own, it’s a good idea to have it reviewed by an attorney.

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