Every business relies on a solid foundation of set policies in order to keep the business successful and customers happy. The child care industry is no exception to the need for policies that keep administration, staff, parents, and students on track. A set of preschool policies and procedures that reflect your center’s needs and goals will set you on the path to stability and growth.
Policies for administration
The most important policies to establish for your business are the ones that apply to your entire center and administrative processes, including staff, parents, children, and most importantly, you. Everyone should follow these policies and, while they may not be as rigid as policies specifically applied to staff or children or parents, they are important to implement and follow. Here are some universal policies you could establish:
- Admission and enrollment
This area includes the formal process for families entering your program or care center. This may encompass your center’s capacity, how to apply or sign up for care services, and any restrictions that may result in the rejection of admission/enrollment.
Center-wide curriculum is important when it comes to setting expectations for teachers and keeping students on the same track throughout their time at your center. Having a curriculum also shows prospective parents that you are serious about the education and care their children are receiving. Parents may look for curriculums that focus on different subjects such as the arts or sciences, so your curriculum will help attract parents that share the same goals for their children as you and your staff. Setting a policy-mandated curriculum allows center owners to keep their program’s philosophy and goals on the front line.
- Emergency closings and preparedness
Planning ahead for emergency closings and situations needs to be written out clearly and frequently reviewed by you, your staff, parents, and children. Emergencies happen, so having a clear outline that everyone follows makes communication easier and emergencies less hectic than they already are.
- Fees and payment arrangement
In order for your business to run smoothly, payments and fees must be paid on time and in full by parents in your program. No one likes asking for payments, so setting clear dates on which fees are due helps to ease the stress and awkwardness of possible miscommunications.
- Hours of operation
This may seem straightforward, but the exact times and dates of operation should be clearly stated in your policy, along with any leniency around drop-off and pick up-times, holidays, and breaks.
- Medication administration
If your center does not already have a nurse, be sure to have clear outlines regarding various types of medicine administration and storage. This may include additional waivers and doctor’s authorization forms. Check with your state licensing agency as well, because requirements around medication administration may vary from state to state.
- Transportation and/or field trip
If your care center offers any form of transportation, whether it be buses for everyday pick-up and drop-off, or for sporadic field trips, clearly outline the forms of transportation and when they’re offered. Also, be sure to send additional permission slips that reference your official transportation policy prior to outings to keep staff and families on the same page.
- Expulsion and suspension
In very rare and serious cases, there is sometimes a need for suspension or expulsion of students from your care center. However, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have created an official nationwide policy that moves to limit expulsion and suspension in care facilities. Click here to learn more.
Policies for parents
Instituting policies that parents must follow allows for a better experience for everyone. Happy parents means happy students and staff, making for a happy environment in your care center. Setting policies that establish both formal regulations and suggestions for effective communication will limit any ambiguity that naturally occurs in the hectic overlapping worlds of parenting and work. Parent policies should incorporate the following:
- Communication with staff
While most of the communication between administration and staff is informal, there should be an outline of preferred methods of communication. Better communication in a care center means everyone’s needs are being met, creating a better work environment for teachers. Having a policy on communicating with staff shows your dedication for better work experience and your commitment to running a great center.
- Drop-off and pick-up
The lives of parents and teachers are hectic, and pick-up and drop-off can add to that stress. To limit the chaos that can happen during pick-up and drop-off, your policy should outline where, when, and how it’s going to be conducted. This area of your policy should also touch on late fees associated with pick-up.
- Fees and payments
This part of your policy will cover the costs and process in which parents pay the center, and in which you pay your staff. While each is different, they should both be included in this section. This portion outlines holiday and sick-day pay, any additional fees for parents who want additional care for their families, and much more. The fees should be clearly stated and totals should be in bold and explained to parents and staff.
- Feeding and breast milk storage
If your care center cares for infants, it’s important to outline your policy for feeding and breast milk storage. This policy should state whether your center is able to provide the proper storage and that staff are trained to handle breast milk. This may not be the case in all centers, which should be stated in this portion of the policy as well.
- Parent involvement
Encouraging parent involvement, while not necessarily a regulated policy, should still be touched on in your outline. Parent involvement is occasionally required for open houses, parties, or conferences, which should all be made clear when their child is entering the program. This section should include any method of engagement provided by your center including paper daily sheets or technology such as tend.ly.
Policies for students
Policies for children within your care center are arguably the most important policies for your business. You’ll need to cover everything from basic childhood needs such as snacks and sleep schedules to disciplinary measures and health regulations. Formulate policies for students that apply to these areas of children’s needs:
- Discipline and guidance
It’s important for caregivers to be kind and compassionate, but it’s equally as important for caregivers to provide fair, constructive discipline for children. In order to keep discipline and guidance for children equal, there should be clear, extensive guidelines in your policy as to what actions — such as physical violence or bullying — require discipline.
- Napping and sleeping
Naps and sleep schedules must be featured in your policy outline in order to ensure that children are receiving proper rest for their age and their needs.
- Food and nutrition, meals, and snacks
Keeping children in your care center happy and healthy should be your number one priority, so clarifying when and what children eat is necessary to document. This includes items such as whether meals and snacks are provided by your center, how to disclose allergies, and more.
Your official policy should state any state-mandated, center-mandated, or recommended immunizations for children in order to attend your care facility.
Policies for teachers and staff
Many policies for staff members may be applied to the entire center, thus do not need to be teacher specific. However, it is extremely valuable to create policies that apply directly to teachers due to the constantly evolving standards and best practices in early childhood education. Caregiver policies provide educators with direction for their day-to-day tasks and help them to better conduct communication with parents, students, and other staff members within your center.
Be sure to include child care educator policies covering:
- Communication with parents
Similar to the administration’s policy for communicating with staff, parent and staff communication is vital to happy staff and families. Open communication diminishes conflict and builds healthy relationships between a child’s home life and care life. This policy helps teachers take responsibility for communicating with parents and protect them from over-involved family members. In your policy, state the appropriate ways that parents and teachers should communicate and include any forms of technology that engages staff and parents with children.
- Daily schedule
Your policy should include whether or not your teachers are responsible for creating their own day-to-day schedule for their classes. This area should set expectations of daily activities that teachers should plan for such as subject oriented lessons or stimulating games and that align with your center’s curriculum.
- Ratios of staff to children
It’s your responsibility as a care center owner to hire the appropriate number of staff for the amount of children your center can support. However, it’s important to note that it is the teachers’ responsibility to always be sure that the proper ratio of students-to-staff is being met in their respective classrooms.
See this chart from Child Care Aware for suggested ratios for children-to-staff and be sure to clearly state and review a similar chart in your policy outline.
Without specific policies in your preschool or care center, you’re bound to face obstacles in all areas of work. Policies on parents, students, staff, and administration are necessary for a stress-free, financially stable child care center.
Every center is different, so policies must be different as well. Be sure to create policies that reflect both your needs and the needs of those working with you and those receiving care at your center. Remember to review and update policies frequently. With effective and efficient policies, you’ll be able to establish and — hopefully — expand your business!
For more information
To dig deeper into policies, check out these resources:
“Developing Your Policies and Procedures” – Child Care Aware
“Work-Life Reference Materials” – U.S. Office of Personnel Management
“How to Make Payment Policies for Home Daycare” – Little Sprouts Learning
“Outlining Child Care Policies for Staff and Parents” – Texas A&M AgriLife Extenion