Contracts and Policies

Family child care providers are generally free to construct their own contract with parents of the children in their care. There are two exceptions:

  • Some state licensing rules define what should be in your contract, so check with your local licensor before finalizing your agreement.
  • Federal anti-discrimination laws make it illegal for providers to discriminate in their contract on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, age, disability, or national origin. Your state or local government may add additional categories such as sexual orientation.


Other than these limitations providers can establish whatever rules they want in their contract. All contracts, however, should contain the following clauses:

  • The names of parties to the contract (the parent(s) and the provider), as well as the name(s) of the children).
  • The terms of the contract, for example:
    • Time the provider is open (holidays, vacation, ect)
    • Money that the parent owes for services
  • The method to terminate the contract. Usually providers will require parents to give them at least a two week written notice before the agreement can be terminated. We recommend that providers do not require the same notice for them to end the contract. Instead, providers should include this language: "Provider may terminate the contract at will." The reason why providers should do this is to allow themselves to immediately end the agreement if a parent becomes disruptive to the business (such as making false complaint to licensing, bad mouthing to other parents, threats of violence, etc.)
  • Signatures of the parent and provider. If the parents are not living in the same house, but share child care expenses, be sure to go over the contract with both parents. Have both parents sign the contract. This will make it easier to enforce the terms with both parents. This is good practic3e even with parents who live in the same house. Even parents who are "happily married" split or just might disagree with the terms when it comes time to enforcing your contract.

Policies should contain everything else about "how" the business is run: Contract terms can be enforceable in court but policies cannot. A change to a contract must be in writing or it's not enforceable. A provider can change her policies at will. A contract should be a separate document from the policies.

 Photo Credit: Branko Collin

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