Maybe the parent is leaving and wants all your records to pass on to her new provider. Maybe the parent is in a custody dispute and wants to use the records to support her case. Maybe the parent is just curious.
Your records might include: attendance records, Food Program claim forms, accident reports, enrollment forms, evaluation forms, contracts and policies, field trip permission forms, immunization forms, medical treatment forms from a doctor, child assessment forms, and so on.
What is your responsibility when a parent asks for her child’s records?
There is no federal law requiring providers to give parents copies of their children’s records.
Your state child care licensing rules, however, may require you to keep specific records (attendance records, etc.) and allow parents access to these records. So, before you respond to the parent’s request, talk to your licensor. Find out to if some or all of these records are public to parents.
If any of the records also contain information about other children (Food Program monthly claim forms) delete the names of the other children before making copies.
Assuming you must give copies of some records to parents, you may be able to charge them a copying fee to do so (unless is forbidden by state child care rules).
As a general rule, I recommend that you be extremely cautious about giving out copies of any records to parents unless your state law requires it. Some records might be used against you or draw you further into a custody dispute.
Exceptions to this general rule: I recommend you do give parents a record of how much they have paid you at the end of the year. Also, give copies of your contract and policies to parents if they lose theirs.
I also recommend that you create a separate file folder of any notes or records you keep about the parents’ or child’s behavior that aren’t required by your state child care rules. These notes might be parents or your personal comments that you want to record when there is a parent dispute.
Such notes might say, “Picky Parent was complaining about how dirty my house was ('Your home is a dump and my child is getting sick because of it!') and I told her 'I’m tired of your complaints and I don’t want to hear any more about it. Your child is sick because of your filthy habits at home. Another parent, Busybody Betty, told me you smoke dope in front of your child and let her play outside alone.'”
If this note was in the child’s official folder, it could be seen by your licensor or by a lawyer in a lawsuit. Instead, put it in a separate, personal folder and store it away from your official records.
Federal law requires you to keep business records for 3 years after you file your taxes (4 years for payroll tax forms). Your state tax rules may require you to keep tax records for 4 years or longer. Your state child care licensing office may also require you to keep such records for a longer period of time. Check with them about this.
Tom Copeland - www.tomcopelandblog.com
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