Protecting Yourself Against Allegations

General

1) Keep in close communication with your licensing worker about any potential problems with parents. Licensing workers say that if they know there is a conflict between the parent and the provider about payments before the parent calls and makes a child abuse allegation, they are much less likely to take what the parent says seriously. This can make a big difference when it's one person's word against another. Therefore, you should call your licensor to report parent problems as they occur. The purpose of these calls to your licensor is not to ask for help in resolving the conflict, but rather to go on record as saying that a conflict exists. This will help support your position later that the parent is making up the accusation to avoid paying what he or she owes you. It is very important to contact your licensing worker whenever a parent is leaving. This is particularly important when the parent is expressing any bad feelings to you. Before you terminate a parent (or before suing a parent to enforce your contract), call your licensor and explain why you are taking this action. Ask for any suggestions the licensor might have about how to handle the situation. If you fear that the parent may file a complaint against you, tell the licensor. Refer to your notes about previous incidents with the parent. 

2) When a family first enrolls with your program, start keeping a notebook and record any incidents, arguments, problems, or observations about the child or parents. Situations when you may want to write something down might include the following: a parent yells at you and uses abusive language; you notice signs that the child has been injured; the child is biting other children; or the parent complains about how you are providing care. It is always a good idea to talk with parents right away about any problems that arise, but keeping a written record will help you remember incidents and can be useful later if a more serious conflict arises. Of course, if you suspect that the child is being abused or neglected, you should report this immediately to your licensor or child protection services. 

3) Require parents to pay you at least a week in advance and pay you for their last two weeks of care in advance. If you follow these rules, a parent will never leave owing you money. Therefore, you won't have to threaten parents with a lawsuit to collect what they owe you, and parents will be less likely to make false accusations to avoid paying.

4)      Ask parents to fill out a written evaluation of your program on a regular basis. The evaluation should contain these key questions: What do you like best about my program? What can I do to improve my program? Would you recommend me to another parent, and if so, why? Such evaluations should be passed out at least once a year and at the time a parent is leaving. Parents will usually say wonderful things about you, and you can use these evaluations as references with prospective parents. But you may also be able use them to help you refute any serious complaints by the parent later. 

5) Once the decision has been made to terminate the relationship with the parent, no matter whose decision it was to end it, try to be as positive as possible about the transition. If it was your decision, do not put the reasons for terminating the parent in writing. Parents will never agree with your reasons and anything you write will probably insult them. Just tell the parent that the situation is no longer a good fit and that no one is at fault. 

Child Abuse

You are a mandated reporter of child abuse and neglect. Make sure you understand the scope of your responsibilities under your state law. You must report all children at risk. If you are not sure if you should report an incident, report it to your licensor and let the authorities determine if action should be taken. You cannot be sued for reporting an incident that turns out not to be child neglect or abuse.

To reduce the chances that you will be accused of abuse or neglect:

  • Stay informed about the latest information on child development
  • Follow your state’s licensing regulations, particularly with regards to supervision and corporal punishment
  • Monitor your own stress level to reduce errors in judgment
  • Document observations about marks or bruises on children
  • Keep your licensor informed about all conflicts with parents

If you are accused of child abuse or neglect, follow these steps:

  • Be truthful in answering all questions from your licensor, an investigator from child protection, or the police
  • Keep a chronological record of all events associated with an investigation (including your observations of the child, and conversations with parents and the authorities)
  • Report any allegations to your business liability insurance agent and ask for advice. They may hire an attorney to defend you
  • If the authorities are conducting a serious child abuse investigation, hire an attorney to protect yourself and your business
  •  If you have experienced such false complaints and came out of it without penalty, you may want to consider talking to your local media about your story. The more the public understands that false accusations do occur the more likely it is that the next falsely-accused provider will get better treatment.

Photo Credit:Bruce Tuten