As family child care providers, we know the importance of a good relationship with the children in our care. But equally important is our relationship with the parents. A successful partnership with the family begins with the first contact, usually a phone conversation. It then builds during the interview and visit, as they see you interact with the children, and you share with them how your program operates. This is a time for parents to talk and share with you and to get to know each other.
The continuing development of this partnership happens even after a full day of caring for the children because parents also have needs. You want parents to experience their children's day. For most parents, separation from their children can be difficult at times, even if they know the children are receiving good care. Parents need continual reassurance from us that their children are happy and well cared for. A program that includes "family friendly policies" will foster a successful and healthy relationship.
Creating a written contract, and policies and guidelines, is one of the most important things you can do for your business. You will gain more respect as a professional. By establishing you program's policies beforehand, you will ensure that everyone understands what to expect. These should include the basics such as: day care hours, fees, drop-off and pick-up, vacation/holidays, meals, daily schedule, behavior management, illness, and toilet training. Additionally, a family friendly policy might include your hours of operation for example, 7:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. with a 15-minute grace period before you begin charging extra. Don't be afraid to charge a little extra after you close; you have a family, too.
Good communication with parents is vital and benefits everyone. By communicating with parents and involving them in the program, you can help reduce some of their concerns. Here are some suggestions for keeping in regular contact with parents:
1. Allow a few minutes during drop-off or pick-up for parents to talk with you.
2. Let parents know when they can call or meet with you to discuss their child's care and progress.
3. Send parents home with a written report of their child's day (activities, meals, diaper changes, ect.).
4. Encourage parents to write you notes to share a milestone or concerns about their child.
5. Develop a monthly or quarterly newsletter to share information about the children and their activities; include a provider's news section and child-related articles. Keeping in touch with parents regularly will allow providers to more effectively handle any problems or issues that may arise.
The parents also need to contribute to the relationship for an effective partnership. To get parents more actively involved in the program have them:
1. come on a field trip;
2. join the children;
3. teach the children a song or finger play;
4. contribute to the newsletter;
5. save "junk" for crafts;
6. share some of their children's favorite books;
7. display their children's artwork at home; and
8. talk to their children about the day.
When you work together with parents to provide a warm, supportive environment for their children, you can develop a partnership that will benefit everyone. Including family friendly policies actually makes the relationship better. We as providers are the child's extended family. Working together will be for the best interest and well-being of everyone.