Being a child care provider comes with a lot of responsibility. Ensuring that children are safe, healthy, getting an education, and learning social and motor skills is no easy task. Unfortunately, caring for other people’s children also comes with a lot of risk. No matter how well you run your child care business, lawsuits and licensing investigations can and do happen. It is also not uncommon for child care providers to get stuck in the middle of custody battles and child abuse cases. Learn how keeping accurate records and documenting everything can protect you if these unfortunate situations ever arise.
Signing Children In and Out
Having parents sign their children in and out is required by licensing, but you may not realize just how crucial this actually is. Making sure that parents accurately sign their children in and out can protect you in a number of situations.
- Licensing Investigations – If licensing asks to look at your files, they will note whether you have been keeping track of attendance. If you have signed children in or out yourself, or if records are inaccurate, licensing may cite you.
- Custody battles – Sadly, many providers get dragged into the middle of custody battles between parents. Often one parent will claim that they were denied their rightful time with their child, and you may be called upon to show when the child was in your care, who signed them in, who signed them out, etc. These records must be accurate in order to avoid any blame being placed on you.
- Subsidized care – Many providers work with referral agencies that send them subsidized children. If a parent reports to the agency that their child was not in your care on the days that you claimed, you will be asked to provide proof that your information is correct. We have seen cases where parents did not sign their children in or out properly, and the providers adjusted the time sheets for them. When it came time to show those records to their agencies, they were accused of fraud and were not paid for the time that they provided care!
Keeping a record of children’s behavior throughout each day, their activities while in your care, and parents’ feedback can be extremely useful to you in many ways. In addition, you should always note anything unusual when a child is picked up or dropped off.
- Parent Satisfaction – You should always make note of conversations in which parents tell you they are happy with your care. If you ever have a legal dispute with that parent later, it will be harder for them to uphold their claim if you have proof that they have never complained in the past. You may consider having parents fill out monthly satisfaction reports that let you know how satisfied they are with your services.
- Behavior – Keep notes about each child’s behavior every day. If you notice changes in a child’s behavior, notate it and discuss it with the parents. If a child has consistent behavior problems, be sure you are keeping track of it and recording the discussions you have with the parents. This can help you in a number of situations. If a parent accuses you of anything, if licensing comes to investigate, or if you get called to testify in an abuse case, it is vital that you have records of each child’s behavior for every day that they were in your care. Also, although we never want to see this happen, tracking behavior changes can help you in noticing signs of abuse at home. As a mandated reporter, these are signs that you need to be looking out for.
When writing an incident report for an accident or an unusual incident, be sure you include very detailed information, such as dates, times, who witnessed the event, and exactly what happened. You need to write incident reports to give to the following people or agencies:
- Parents – Whenever a child is injured in your care, even if you think the injury is minor, make sure you write an incident report and have the parents sign it. Keep one copy for yourself, and give one to the parents. Licensing can cite you for not reporting injuries to parents, so this is an important step.
- Licensing – You are required to report unusual incidents to licensing. Unusual incidents are defined differently in different states, but usually it includes any injury which required a doctor’s visit or any incident which could threaten the physical or emotional health of a child. It is also a good idea to report any disputes you have with parents. This will help you if that parent makes a false allegation about you to licensing.
- Insurance – Your insurance company should be notified if a child has an injury which requires a doctor’s visit or if anything out of the ordinary happens and you think it has the potential to lead to a claim. Remember that your insurance company is on your side and is there to help you. If you aren’t sure if you should report an incident, call your insurance agent and ask them. Many companies will not raise your rates when you have a claim, so you should always err on the side of safety and report everything.
These are just a few of the ways that accurate record-keeping can help you. Remember that in addition to running a business, you are also caring for a parent’s most precious asset. It is in your best interest to record everything that happens, no matter how small. Make sure all of your information is detailed and accurate. While we always hope for the best, you will thank yourself for your preparation if anything ever goes wrong. For more information on how to protect your business, visit www.dcins.com.