Maryland EXCELS Toolkit  

Family Handbook, Written Agreement or Contract

Mrs. Armstrong was looking for child care for her 3-year-old son, Devon. She arrived for a tour of “Happy Days 4 Kids” and was greeted by Ms. Jackson. Mrs. Armstrong asked many questions.

  • "What is your policy for inclement weather?"
  • "How do you handle challenging behavior in your program?"
  • "Devon is very active, and I need to be sure that he is well taken care of while I’m at work. What are your policies for keeping children safe?"
  • "Devon has a severe allergy to milk. What accommodations can you make for him?"
  • "Devon’s speech is delayed, but with the help of a speech therapist, he seems to be making gains. Do you have experience working with special needs children?”
  • "Some programs I have visited charge a late pick-up fee if children are picked up after 6:00 in the evening. May I have a copy of your tuition rates and extra fees, please?”
open doorway with welcome mat
Welcome Families with Helpful Information

Ms. Jackson was well-prepared to answer Mrs. Armstrong’s questions and after the meeting, Mrs. Armstrong felt reassured that Devon would have a positive experience at Happy Days 4 Kids. Still, she was glad to receive a parent handbook that described Happy Days 4 Kids policies and answered many of her questions.

This section helps you meet the requirements for Administrative Policies and Practices: Information and Policies: ADM 1.2. It guides you through reviewing, revising, or creating a document that describes important policies for families to understand about your program. These policies can be described in a variety of documents including a family handbook, written agreement, or written contract.

Select the Requirements tab to learn about key information or policies to include in your document.

Requirements

Let's look at the requirements for Administrative Policies and Practices: Information and Policies: ADM 1.2. The following interactive shows you the requirements for each program type. Key requirements are marked by a bright dot. Select each dot for information about what to include in your documentation.

Select the option that applies to your program type:

 

  Child Care Center

  Family Child Care

  School-Age Only

 

Instructions

To meet the requirements for Administrative Policies and Practices: Information and Policies: ADM 1.2, your family handbook, written agreement or contract includes policies and practices for:

The Policy or Statement Builder interactives provide step-by-step guides for creating your policies.






Health

Encouraging children’s healthy growth and development can have lasting effects on the children and families in your program. Your program’s health policies communicate to families the importance you place on their child’s health. These policies describe the steps you take to maintain a healthy environment, ways you support children to develop healthy habits, and other practices you follow to ensure that children are healthy and strong.

 

What does the documentation look like?

Your documentation describes the health policies and practices you follow in your program. This list gives you an idea of different health topics.

  • Wellness / Illness
  • Medication
  • Allergy / Asthma
  • Sanitation
  • Personal Hygiene (examples: hand-washing, tooth brushing)
  • Immunizations
  • Sunscreen
  • Opportunities for physical activity and play
 

How can you tell if you're on the right track?

If you have a policy, try reading it as if you were a parent or family member visiting your program. Would families have a clear picture of the many steps you take to keep children in your program healthy and safe? Make any necessary changes to clearly describe your health and safety procedures.

If you need to create a policy, try using the Policy or Statement Builder and use the set of questions and prompts as a guide.






Safety

As a child care provider or teacher, you understand the great responsibility you have to ensure that children in your program are safe. This includes keeping children physically safe and providing an emotionally safe environment where children can develop and learn.

Your policies describe the many steps you take to keep children safe. These policies help ensure that everyone in your program knows and understands their role in maintaining a safe environment.

 

What does the documentation look like?

Your documentation clearly explains your program’s safety policies and practices. This list offers you an idea of different safety topics.

  • Fire Drills
  • Emergency Evacuation Plan
  • Medical Emergency Procedures
  • Drop Off / Pick Up Procedures
  • Transportation
  • First Aid / CPR Training or Certifications
  • Security Procedures
  • Inclement Weather
 

How can you tell if you're on the right track?

If you have a policy, ask someone unfamiliar with your program to review it. Ask them if they were a staff member in your program would they understand their role and responsibilities related to safety? If they were a parent of a child in your program, what specific safety policies or practices could they identify? Make any necessary changes to clearly describe your safety policies procedures.

If you need to create a policy, try using the Policy or Statement Builder and use the set of questions and prompts as a guide.

 

Where can you learn more?

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Early Childhood Development website includes information on regulations related to the child care community in Maryland. Visit their website to learn about the health and safe regulations for your program type.

Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR)

Regulations | Early Childhood Development

It is important to remember that the law and licensing requirements are subject to change. It is your responsibility to be aware of those changes by visiting the Division of Early Childhood Development website and by reviewing emails and newsletters from MSDE.

This Head Start website provides helpful information, resources, and tips for maintaining safe environments for children. You will also find a developmental checklist of safety tips based on the age of the children in your program.

Safety and Injury Prevention

Safety Practices | ECLKC

Early childhood programs keep children safe when their facilities, materials, and equipment are hazard-free and all staff use safety practices such as active supervision. Find resources to help staff and families reduce the number and severity of childhood injuries everywhere that children learn and grow.

Tips for Keeping Children Safe: A Developmental Guide

Tips for Keeping Children Safe: A Developmental Guide | ECLKC

This tool provides safety tips for early childhood staff working with young children in classroom environments. Each section includes a description of development and safety tips organized by daily routines. Some tips apply to all children. Others address the developmental needs of children in a specific age group.

This article includes links to specific health and safety practices for child care environments. You may find it helpful in describing your program’s policies or adding other practices to your policies.

Health and Safety in Child Care

Health and Safety in Child Care - eXtension

Keeping children of all ages safe and healthy is one of the most important tasks of child care providers. Whether children are in center- or home-based care, providers are responsible for ensuring safety both inside and outside their child care setting. Health and safety are major concerns for child care providers when transporting children.






Tuition / Enrollment

Your tuition policies help families understand the cost of your program and how you handle payment. While it is unnecessary to include actual tuition rates in your policy, you may include when and how you accept payment. Enrollment policies may include the number of children you accept to your program, when families can enroll their children, if you use a waiting list when your program is full, or other information you feel will be helpful for families.

 

What does the documentation look like?

Examples of tuition and enrollment topics include:

  • Enrollment requirements – ex. age groups, number of children per age group
  • Required forms
  • Fee Schedule
  • Late tuition fees
  • Late pick up fees
  • Transition practices for children entering or exiting your program
  • Siblings
 

How can you tell if you're on the right track?

If you have a Tuition / Enrollment policy, review it and think about the questions families are likely to ask. Do your documents clearly answer those questions? Make any changes that strengthen your policies and practices to minimize confusion or questions.

If you need to create a policy, try using the Policy or Statement Builder and use the set of questions and prompts as a guide.

 

Where can you learn more?

Take a look at the Tuition policy for The National Institute of Standards and Technology Child Care Center. You might find ideas to help you improve your tuition policies along with guidance for other important policies to include in your written agreement or handbook for families.

NIST Child Care Center: Tuition and Fees

Tuition and Fees

For a complete list of fees per child and their frequency, see Appendix A: Schedule of Fees. Tuition Tuition is payable in advance, every two weeks on the Monday preceding the official NIST payday. A chart indicating acceptable payment days is located on the Parent News Bulletin Board outside the director's office.






Inclusion

In an inclusive program, all children have access to and participate in the same routines, play, and learning experiences. This includes children with and without special health care needs or disabilities.

Inclusive practices benefit all children and families in many ways, and your Inclusive Policy communicates the steps you take to make sure all children are able to participate fully in your program. Including your program's inclusion policies and practices in your handbook, written agreement or contract helps families clearly understand the ways you work to welcome and include all children in your program.

 

What does the documentation look like?

Inclusion policies may describe:

  • What you do to welcome all children and families into your program, including children with special health care needs or disabilities and children who speak languages other than English
  • Methods you use to meet each child’s individual needs
  • Procedures you follow in working with professionals, such as speech therapists, physical therapists, and others
  • How you participate as a team member and work with an IFSP or IEP team to make modifications and accommodations for children with special health care needs or disabilities
  • Any specialized training you and your staff receive related to diverse populations of children in your program
  • Access to specialized equipment or resources to support children with special needs
 

How can you tell if you're on the right track?

Look at your inclusion policies through the eyes of parent whose child has special health care needs or a disability. What words sound welcoming and reassuring to a family of a child with special needs? Make any changes that will assure families that you will partner with them and work to meet their child’s individual needs.

 

Where can you learn more?

This video from the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council features child care providers and families speaking about the benefits of inclusive practices.

Side-by-Side: Brendan & Shaun

Side by Side: Brendan & Shaun

Providing child care for children with disabilities alongside typically-developing peers.

This article from childrensdefense.org describes the increased need for quality programs that include children with special needs.

Children with Disabilities and Other Special Needs: Opportunities to Participate in Quality Programs      Must Be Expanded

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Policy or Statement Builder

These interactives help you create policies that describe your program's practices and procedures. After typing responses to a set of prompts and questions, you have the option of emailing your responses to yourself and editing your final policies. You are encouraged to type your responses in full sentences to make it easier to edit your policies before adding them to your family handbook, written agreement, or contract.

 

Build-A-Policy: Health and Safety

Build-A-Policy: Tuition / Enrollment

Build-A-Policy: Inclusion

Final Touches

Check your policies as you prepare to upload them to the Maryland EXCELS System. Remember, your written policies may be a family handbook, written agreement or contract.

 

Check to be sure your documentation includes:

Your program’s policies and practices for:

 
 
 
 
 

Save your document:

  • Use a file name that you can find easily when you upload it to the system (example: family-handbook.docx)
  • Use any one of these formats:
    • Typed electronic version of your family handbook, written agreement or contract (examples: Microsoft Word, PDF)
    • Scanned versions of your family handbook, written agreement or contract (examples: PDF, PNG, JPG)
    • Digital image of your family handbook, written agreement or contract (examples: JPG, PNG, PDF)

Next Steps

Use the following steps to upload your documentation, look ahead, and think about plans for continued growth and improvement.

 

Step 1: Prepare to Upload Your Document

  • Locate your username and password for logging into your Maryland EXCELS account
  • Locate the document you saved on the computer
 

Step 2: Look Ahead and Plan for Improvement

Look Ahead

If your program has a mission or philosophy statement and a positive behavioral practices policy, you can upload them with your other policies. These documents are included in the requirements for ADM 1.3.

Plan for Improvement

Consider reviewing the requirements for ADM 1.3, ADM 1.4 and ADM 1.5 to see if other written information you provide to families helps you meet the requirements at higher quality ratings. Set a goal to update your written policies in the coming months and to upload any changes to the Maryland EXCELS System.

 

Step 3: Upload Your Documentation (ADM 1.2)

Log in to the Maryland EXCELS System to upload your family handbook, written agreement or contract.

screenshot of Maryland EXCELS upload screen with a comment box
Upload Documentation