National Network for Child Care's Connections Newsletter
Christine M. Todd, Ph.D.
Child Development Specialist
Human Development and Family Studies
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Mrs. Dobbs just dropped Mary off. As Mary's mother starts to go out the door, you remind her that it is your payday. You don't even need to wait for her answer. One look at her face tells you she has forgotten the check – again.
As a child care professional, you have the right to expect your customers to pay on time. You are providing a service to families, and you should be paid for that service just as the phone company and the gas company are paid for the services they provide. Many of your customers will pay on time. But, just as some customers do not pay the phone company and the gas company, some will not pay you. Here are some suggestions to help ensure prompt payment from parents.
Be clear about your payment policies. Parents must know how much to pay and when you expect payment. Discuss this policy with parents during their initial interview. Also, provide them with the information in writing. So many things are discussed during an interview that details are often lost. It can be included in your contract if you have one or in an accompanying brochure or handout.
Make it easy for parents to pay on time. There are many reasons why parents may not pay on time. Your payment schedule may not match their needs. Some parents may prefer to pay for two weeks at a time. It may be easier for parents to pay on their payday instead of some other time of the week. If you are having problems with a particular parent, find out if a different payment schedule would make things flow more smoothly. While this may be more work for you in terms of bookkeeping, it may be less problematic than being paid late every week.
If forgetting the check is the major problem, you might suggest that parents write all the checks for day care when they receive their paycheck. Suggest that they keep the checks for future weeks in their wallet or purse. That way, they do not have to make an effort to remember the check each week. You can simply remind them it is payday and they can pull out the appropriate check.
Use “I-messages” when talking with parents. When parents fail to pay, you do need to bring the subject up. When discussing the matter, remain calm and take a problem-solving approach. Begin by indicating that you understand their side. Then mention the behavior that is causing problems, how you feel about it, and why you feel that way. End by telling them what you would like done and offer your help in resolving the problem. For example, you might say, “I realize that my payment schedule may not match up with your payday. But when you don't pay on time, I feel frustrated because I count on the money to pay my bills. I would like to come up with a schedule that will allow me to be paid on time. Would it be easier for you to pay on a different day or to pay for several weeks at once?” Remember, the goal of the conversation is to come up with a more workable solution to the problem, not to make the parent feel guilty or become upset. Take a matter-of-fact approach and handle the matter with confidence.
Establish a consequence for late payment. Despite your best attempts, some parents may continue to pay late even after you have discussed the matter and explored various solutions to the problem. In such situations, charging a late fee may encourage parents to pay on time. For this to work, the late fee must be high enough for the parent to want to avoid it. Charging a late fee is most easily done if you have explained your late-fee policy to parents at the initial interview and written the policy into your contract or brochure.
Sometimes parents forget that you are running a business and have a right to be paid on time. Other times, there are specific situations that cause late payment. If you provide parents with a clear, written payment policy, take a problem-solving approach, and use effective communication techniques, you are more likely to avoid late payments.
National Network for Child Care – NNCC. Part of CYFERNET, the National Extension Service
Children Youth and Family Educational Research Network. Permission is granted to reproduce
these materials in whole or in part for educational purposes only (not for profit beyond the cost of
reproduction) provided that the author and Network receive acknowledgment and this notice is
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care – NNCC. Todd, C.M. (1992). When parents don't pay. In Todd, C.M. (Ed.), *Day care center connections*, 1(5), pp. 5p;6. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.
FORMAT AVAILABLE:: Internet
DOCUMENT REVIEW:: Level 3 – National Peer Review
DOCUMENT SIZE:: 35 K or 3 pages
ENTRY DATE:: February 1996