Your pick-up time is 6pm and a parent shows up late several times a month. Another parent always arrives before 6pm, but often doesn't leave your home until 6:20pm.
You work long hours caring for children: an average of eleven hours a day, according to several national surveys. It can be frustrating to deal with parents who want even more of your time.
What can you do to address this issue?
First, make sure your written contract states the specific times when parents are expected to drop off and pick up their children. The pick-up time can be different from one family to the next.
Second, state the consequences if a parent doesn't pick up her child on time. Most providers charge a late fee. Here are some examples:
* Parents who notifies provider at least 2 hours before pick-up time that they will be late will not be charged a late fee.
* Parents who are late picking up their children once or twice in a month will not be charged a late fee. Parents will pay a late fee if they are late more often than this.
* Parents are given a fifteen minute grace period and then are charged $.50/$1.00 per minute. (You could charge $.50 or $1 a minute for early drop offs.)
* Parents are charged $1 a minute late fee if they pick up after the scheduled pick up time.
In a workshop of mine a provider once said, "My contract states that if you are ever late picking up your child, you will be immediately terminated." That's strict! It worked for her, but I wouldn't recommend this rule to anyone else.
Time versus Money
Before deciding on your late pick up rule, consider this question: What is more important to you - your time or the parent's money?
If your time is more important, this means you don't want to work after your scheduled pickup time of 6pm. It doesn't matter how much money parents might pay you to be late, because you want to do other things with your time. Therefore, set a high late fee to ensure parents won't be late.
At one workshop a provider said she charged $50 a half hour late fee. However, her complaint was that one parent kept paying it! Since this fee wasn't deterring the parent from being late, I told her to raise her late fee for this parent. You can have different late fees for different parents.
If the parent's money is more important to you, this means you wouldn't mind working after 6pm if you were paid enough. If parents paid you $1 a minute late fee, you could earn $30 for a half hour of work. This is a lot more than you are making per hour before 6pm.
However, most providers tell me that parents aren't consistently late if they have to pay $1 a minute late fee. Therefore, you might want to set a lower late fee to make it more affordable! If you charged $.50 a minute you would be earning $15 a half hour which is still a good wage. At the lower rate, more parents might not mind paying it, and you can earn some extra money.
One provider came up with a perfect solution in dealing with late fees. She said that late fees created tension and stress between her and her parents because they were associated with guilt and blame. Since she was willing to work a half hour after her pick up time of 6pm, she announced to her parents that if they picked up between 6pm and 6:30pm they would be charged an "evening rate" of $1 a minute.
No more late fees, because parents aren't late. No more stress because parents didn't have to rush to her home. It worked for the provider as well because she didn't mind working an extra half hour and being well paid for her time.
In the end, it's up to you to set your rules regarding late pick ups and enforce them. You can ask the parent to pay the late fee at the time they are late, by the next morning, or add the fees onto their next regular payment.
Here's a good discussion about this on Daycare.com.
How do you handle late pick ups?
For more information about contracts, see my book Family Child Care Contracts & Policies.