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.
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 can establish:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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!
Every outstanding care center has policies in place to ensure things go according to plan, and help to quickly recover when things go south.
Before developing your center’s policies to reflect your philosophy, goals, and expectations, try not to think only of what policies you need, but also why you need them. Through this reflection, you should find that you need policies that first and foremost protect the safety, health, and happiness of the children and staff working in your center.
The primary reason to implement policies is to provide a safe environment where children can learn and grow. There are obvious reasons for some policies such as a policy regarding emergency evacuations or the CPR certification of staff, but there are also less obvious reasons for some safety policies. While policies tend to be rigidly-followed rules, they should also have the ability to expand and be subject to change to fit the safety needs of a child.
An example would be pick-up and drop-off policies. This is a central aspect of your care center’s everyday routine, and is vital to the safety of your students. Protecting children from parents or guardians without custody, who are intoxicated or under the influence, or who have inappropriate transportation is the responsibility of you and your staff, and may force you to break certain rules in order to best ensure the child is safe. For example, if a parent were to arrive at your center to pick up a child, and you smell alcohol on their breath, it’s in the child’s best interest for you to not allow them to leave with the adult, even if this adult is allowed to pick up the child. An administrator should be contacted to explain the situation to the respective parent, and they should arrange for another guardian or emergency contact to pick the child up.
Other policies that protect a child’s safety may include:
Keeping students healthy in your center and out of your facility when sick is another responsibility you have as an owner of a care center. While health policies include administering medication and even requiring certain immunizations, they can also involve sanitation regulations that prevent your center from exposure to illness or infection.Sick day policies are a perfect example of preventing your students and staff from being exposed to or exposing others to illness. Even if a staff or child has a slight cold, they are putting others at risk of becoming sick.Your goal should be to keep sick kids at home in order to get better faster so they can return to school. Sick day policies are a way to establish with parents when it’s appropriate or not to bring a child into your facility. Establishing this ahead of time will help avoid the sick day drama and allows parents for more time to prepare backup plans. This helps keep your children and staff healthy and helps sick students recover faster.
Other policies that protect the health of everyone at your center may include:
The physical well being of your students is a huge priority, but keeping children emotionally healthy—or happy—is also the responsibility of caregivers. Policies should reflect this importance. Understanding the impact that poor mental health and stress has on children is a relatively new topic of discussion, but has always been important. According to the Child Mind Institute, 1 in 5 children suffer from a mental health or learning disorder. Kids absorb the actions and traits of those around them, and are fundamentally impacted by the environment they are exposed to.
Policies that help kids support mental health within your center will help them gain emotional intelligence that helps them mature and gain control of their feelings and actions. Policies should implement a curriculum that challenges students appropriately and helps them accomplish goals, keeps younger students well rested and on a reasonable routine, and guides them to uphold positive relationships with staff and students alike. An example of a policy that keeps students emotionally aware and engaged in positive relationships are those that counter bullying and clique forming. Bullying policies are frequently overlooked in care centers, especially when the children are 4 to 5 years old. However, NAEYC studies show that cliques start in preschool, and you should establish policies that move to disassemble cliques if they form. Bullying puts the mental and emotional well-being of children in danger, so establishing these policies protects the happiness of kids and creates a more positive environment for both staff and students.
More policies that keep students happy and emotionally healthy include:
Policies can sometimes be hard to carry out effectively, but always remember that they serve to protect the most important members of your care community: the children. Ensuring a child’s safety, health, and happiness should be the primary reason for implementing policies in your center. The importance behind each policy should be reviewed frequently to ensure they are consistently being followed. Changing the lives of students, whether it’s keeping them from catching a cold or preventing them from being bullied or left out, is something that promotes a positive environment and an ever-growing center.
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
“What's Your Day Care Sick Policy?” - Care.com
“Child Care Contract and Parent Handbook, What to Include” - All-Things-Child-Care.com
“Choosing Quality Child Care” - Childcare.gov