Your policies and procedures will include a number of important topics. Some will be larger and overarching and others may seem less significant. All of these items, however large or small, are important to think about and establish ahead of time so that your business may run smoothly and all parties, from employees to families, know what to expect.
Code of Ethical Conduct
As a child care professional, you will have to make some difficult decisions. Your policies and procedures should address your program’s code of ethical conduct. Both the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) use the NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct as a guide for ethical behavior.
When you set your hours of operation, consider factors that affect your parents:
- Local school hours
- Traditional work hours for parents in your community
- Nontraditional work hours your parents may work (shift, nights, weekends)
- Time parents spend traveling to and from their jobs
Also think about factors that affect your own family:
- Your family commitments
- Your spouse’s working hours
Family child care providers often can be more flexible than center programs. They can extend hours if necessary on a case-by-case basis to accommodate parents’ work hours. Many child care programs charge a late fee to encourage parents to pick up children before closing hours. Make sure your operating hours do not extend beyond the time you are able to devote the necessary energy and attention to the children in your care.
Your parent handbook outlines your program’s policies and procedures. It includes information that is important for your parents to know. Encourage families to read the parent handbook and to ask questions. Parent handbooks often include the following topics:
- The type of program you offer (full-day, part-day, before- and after-school, infant care, inclusive care, mildly ill care, etc.)
- Your program’s mission and philosophy
- Required forms (registration, emergency contact, permission for field trips, physicals)
- Policies about:
- Communication with parents
- Discipline and guidance
- Drop-off and pick-up
- Others authorized to pick up your child from the program
- Emergency closings
- Fees and payment arrangements
- Food and nutrition
- Hours of operation and daily schedule
- Medication administration
- Parent involvement
- Program closings and emergency preparedness plans
Many states require that you have written policies and procedures for parents. Check with your state licensing agency to find out if it requires certain information or policies. Child Care Aware’s State by State Resource Map provides you with direct links to the office in your state that is responsible for child care licensing.
A staff handbook outlines the expectations that you, the business owner, have for your employees.
If you want your staff handbook to be a binding agreement between you/your business and your employee(s), you should review it with each staff member. Discuss any questions they have. Consider having staff sign the document saying they understand the contents.
The following topics are often included in staff handbooks:
- Your program mission and philosophy
- Child abuse prevention, identification and requirements for reporting
- Child behavior and guidance policies
- Ethical conduct
- Evaluation procedures
- Health and safety procedures
- Hiring and termination procedures
- Holidays and leave policies
- Job descriptions
- Organizational structure
- Parent communication and involvement
- Pay scale
- Professional development requirements
Check with your state licensing agency to find out if you are required to share certain information or policies with your staff.
- Staff Handbook – Sample
By North Dakota Child Care Resource and Referral
Disasters and Emergencies
Disasters and emergencies will happen. Include procedures in your business plan on how to handle the emergencies and disasters that are most likely to affect your geographic area. Develop a checklist or use an existing checklist suitable for your area. Regularly practice the procedures with the children and staff to ensure their safety.
- Disaster Planning Guide, by Child Care Aware® of America
- Your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency (CCR&R)
- Find your local CCR&R with a zip code search on our CCR&R Search page.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
Accreditation by a nationally recognized organization shows that your program has a higher level of quality than is required by licensing. To be accredited you will need to be licensed and in operation for one year. Accreditation is for a specific amount of time, usually three to five years. As you plan your child care business, take steps that will help you reach accreditation.
During the accreditation process, you evaluate your program based on specific program standards. When you are finished, the accrediting organization looks at your records and observes your program. It then decides if your program meets its standards.
Advantages to accreditation:
- It shows you are committed to quality child care.
- It supports children’s growth and development.
- The evaluation phase helps improve your program.
- It encourages parent involvement.
- It improves your program marketability because many parents look for programs that are accredited.
- In some states, there are state funds for accredited programs.
- It assists in recruiting new staff.
The following organizations have nationally recognized accreditation programs.
- Council on Accreditation (COA)
Offers accreditation for after-school programs
- National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
Offers accreditation for child care center programs
- National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC)
Offers accreditation for family child care programs
- National Accreditation Commission (NAC)
Association for Early Learning Leaders (AELL)
Offers accreditation for early care and education programs
- National Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NECPA)
Offers accreditation for early childhood programs
Becoming nationally accredited may affect your policies and procedures. You may need to follow additional requirements set by the accrediting organization. Be sure to notify families and staff in your handbooks if your agency is nationally accredited or if you are working towards accreditation.