The regulations governing Child Care Facility Licensing in Colorado are anything but simple, but they make clear that each Colorado-licensed child care facility has to have a parent handbook with certain elements. If writing a 30+ page handbook instead of running your business sounds a little uninspiring, here are a few tips to make the writing process easier, and of course we’re always happy to help.
1. The Regulations Give You A Table Of Contents
The Colorado Department of Human Services sets out the policies and procedures your Child Care facility needs to disclose to parents/guardians. Colorado Regulations Section 12 CCR 2509-8: 7.702.31, titled “Statement of Policies and Procedures”, gives you a list of handbook requirements to disclose how you operate basic aspects of your facility like pickup and dropoff of children, emergency planning, mission, and fees. It’s not exactly color by numbers, and the list is not exhaustive. You may want to talk about how you withdraw offers to attend your facility, escalate because of repeated problematic behavior, accommodate special needs, change fees based on attendance, or use security cameras, for example. If a parent would want to know, put it in the handbook.
2. Forget Legalese, But Avoid Overselling
Thankfully for you but unfortunately for us, the folks in Human Services do not expect you to be a lawyer. The Regulations call out when you need to mention a specific legal provision, like TV & Media Use for young kids or the Colorado Nursing Act. Otherwise, we have seen all styles of language in Child Care handbooks. One thing to avoid is committing your facility to a higher standard of care than you will maintain. Words like “never”, “always”, or “best” can create a duty of care and higher expectations from parents than you are equipped to fulfill, increasing your potential liability. In the same vein, be truthful about the training of your staff. Are they really all trained in First Aid and behavioral techniques, or just some? Whenever you mention a child care philosophy or standard, like PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports), discuss how your staff will implement that standard. The idea is to create a reasonable expectation by parents of how you will treat their child.
3. Protect Your Decisionmaking Ability
Ideally, every child in your facility would be an angel and every parent would pick up their child on time. In the real world, you may have to ask a parent to withdraw a child, parents will be late, disciplinary problems resurface, and kids get sick. The more you say about your procedure in each situation, the greater your power to defend your decision to inquiring parents. For example: a list of illnesses can help you tell a parent to keep their child home; a three strikes in one week rule can make it easier to remove a problematic child; and late pickup fees can nudge on-time pickups. Reinforce these policies with the right tone and regular disclosure, and your handbook will protect your ability to run your center efficiently.
4. Don’t Forget to Document!
The single most important thing we see missing from most handbooks is disclosure of what a facility documents. Consider documenting regular child assessments, action plans for children with special needs, problem behaviors, disciplinary actions, and the like. Documentation can squelch a parent conflict before it begins, increase continuity of care in the face of staff departures, and protect you from regulatory action. If you want to be able to rely on it later, document it now and tell parents you do. This can be as simple as adding a line on the end of the relevant paragraph like: “We will document the actions taken in accordance with the above and keep the child’s file available for discussion with the Parent(s)/Guardian(s).” The downside is actually having to do all that paperwork, but that’s what you pay lawyers for (just kidding, we hate paperwork too).
Writing a long handbook can be a daunting and thankless task, but it is certainly a necessary undertaking if you want to stay in compliance with Colorado regulations. If you have questions, feel free to reach out.