Child Care Complaints (page 2)
Child care complaints are probably inevitable. No matter how much parents like the program or provider serving their children, and no matter how much a provider likes the children in care, difficulties and misunderstandings can arise. This Handout is about complaints – how to avoid them and what to do about the ones that arise despite everyone's best efforts.
Communication is a Two-Way Street
Good communication is a must in any effort to avoid or reduce complaints. It should begin even before a child enters a program. Start off the relationship with a written contract. A contract initiates discussion about how a program operates and also serves as a written reminder of the agreement between the parent and the program. Contracts should be easy to read and understand. Signing a contract isn’t enough, however. Both parties should jointly review its contents before enrolling a child. See BANANAS’ Handout, “Sample Agreement for Parents and In- Home Caregivers” – available in English and Spanish – for a sample contract and information on writing and using contracts. (Handouts are available at our office, by mail with a self-addressed, stamped envelope or from our website, www.bananasinc.org.)
Verbal communication is just as important. Taking the time to talk in person and getting to know each other before the child starts in care will set the stage for continued healthy communication. Time and privacy are important for good communication. While some problems can be resolved in a few minutes during pick-up and drop-off times, any serious misunderstanding should be discussed when both parties have enough time to share their feelings without others being present. If either party is really angry, it helps to set a meeting time in the near future. Providers can do so with a statement like “Anne, I can see you are really upset. I am too rushed to talk right now. Why don’t I call you tonight or let’s set a time one evening this week when we can discuss this problem. It’s bothering me, too.” By the arranged time, the angry party will probably have “cooled” off enough for a good discussion to take place.
Honesty is another important ingredient to problemsolving. If a parent is upset because the provider raised her rates, but complains about some program activity instead, a fruitful discussion will be difficult. A lot of time and energy will be wasted discussing the stated complaint without addressing the real issue. It is crucial for both providers and parents to be honest about their true concerns. Nobody should have to guess what’s upsetting the other person.
Suggestions for Parents with Complaints
- Speak out – sitting on a problem won’t solve it.
- Think your concern through before discussing it; reacting out of anger or haste can make things worse.
- Find a time when both parties can talk freely.
- Make sure you have a clear understanding of the problem; relying on a child’s or another adult’s version may result in misunderstandings.
- Keep the child (and other families and children) out of a dispute.
- Listen to the other person; there are always at least two sides to every story.
- Be as clear as possible about what you would like to see happen (or never happen again); vague complaints are difficult to address.
- Try to leave any meeting with some kind of understanding – even if you and the provider “agree to disagree” and the child moves on to other care.
- Let the provider know if the situation does or does not improve.
Child care complaints seem to get most of their mileage from unfulfilled or, in some cases, unrealistic expectations.
Parents most commonly criticize child care programs for:
- Enrolling more children than the license allows and/or not hiring the legally-required number of assistants.
- Not supervising children at all times (e.g. children are left alone outdoors or during nap time).
- Closing at the last minute for vacations or emergencies without arranging for substitute care.
- Keeping the T.V. on too much.
- Not giving children enough to eat.
- Using harsh discipline.
- Constantly changing rules or not enforcing rules in a consistent manner.
- Failing to give parents advance notice about program changes (like fee increases, changes in hours).
- Having high staff turnover in centers or
- Family child care providers leaving children with assistants too often.
Providers, on the other hand, commonly complain about parents:
- Paying child care fees late.
- Picking up and delivering children late.
- Bringing children who are contagious or too sick to be comfortable in care.
- Not notifying the program when children are going to be absent.
- Expecting a provider to save a space for free while the child is on vacation or home sick.
- Not giving enough notice to the program when leaving child care. (Two weeks is the acceptable minimum; a month is better.)
- Wanting to pick up spotless children from child care.
- Making “good-byes” worse by lingering too long even after the staff has hinted “it would be a good idea to leave.”
Some of these complaints are the result of parents and/ or providers not following the program contract or rules (picking up a child late, not giving notice about a rate increase). Some of them are just plain old disagreements (whether children should be spotless after a day of care or whether the T.V. is on too much). And some of these complaints are violations of the licensing standards that the State Department of Social Services (DSS) has set for child care programs (enrolling too many children, leaving children unsupervised). When trying to decide what to do about a problem, a parent or provider should analyze the type of complaint s/he has before deciding how to proceed.
Reprinted with the permission of BANANAS, Inc. © 2007 BANANAS
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