Day-care providers depend on prompt payment

By: JUDY LYDEN

Scripps Howard News Service

Paying a day-care provider should not be the last thing parents want to do.

Day-care providers provide a very needed service in exchange for what’s usually a very nominal, but nonetheless a very needed, paycheck. Just not paying is something many parents feel they can get away with, in part because there often is no company to back up the provider, no strong-arm collection agency sending out threats.

Here are some fictions lots of parents live by that make the difficult job of child care even more difficult:

-- “My provider has no overhead, so she must be doing really well.”

-- “My provider has a husband, so she really doesn’t need her check until next week.”

-- “People in business for themselves know that payments are helter-skelter.”

Now let’s turn this around and see if it fits. You are informed by your boss:

-- “The office overhead is such that we are unable to pay you this week.”

-- “You have a husband (or wife), so you really don’t need your check until next week.”

-- “This is a business that receives payments helter-skelter, so the employees can wait, too.”

First fiction: Overhead in a day care does exist. A food bill for a home of 10 children is generally around $150 a week, including milk. Cleaning is another expense. Replacement materials also consume a great deal of a provider’s income.

Fiction two: Most providers don’t work for fun. They work to help, if not support, their homes. Regular paychecks are important.

Fiction three: If payments are helter-skelter, then it’s only fair that day-care hours be helter-skelter, too, and you won’t mind being called in the middle of the day to retrieve your child.

Any self-employed person knows that when clients get too far behind, they can’t catch up. That’s why the following suggestions are good business practices any child-care provider should use to remind parents that child-care payments are important:

-- Payment for child care should be made in full and on time, or there should be a late charge of 10 percent, a late fee or both. Late means setting a definite pay date and sticking to it.

-- Contracts between clients should state if day care is tuition-based (every week the same payment whether the child-care space is used or not) or whether child care is an hourly matter. Hourly charges should be twice a tuition payment.

-- There should be a limit on how many missed weeks are allowed before the provider calls in the debt. Child care should be suspended until the debt is paid. Unpaid debts should be reported to a credit bureau.

Parents should believe that the payment made to their child-care provider is one bill that’s well-spent.

If this is not the case, then parents should start looking again for other child care.

It only makes good sense ... child-care business sense.

(Judy Lyden is a licensed day-care provider. Write to her:
c/o The Evansville Courier, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, IN
47702, or e-mail to jlyden@evansville.net.

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