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The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 4

The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 4
 

When considering the role of the Staff Assistant in your home it is important to think through the relationship you would like your worker to have with your day care clients. Some providers I know have an informal and relaxed environment that promotes a strong bond between their employee and their day care parents.

Some child care owners encourage their staff to develop “outside of work” relationships and even assist in helping clients with their child care needs outside of business hours by offering their willing staff assistant to baby sit in their clients home in the evening or weekends. Some providers have their staff assistant stay with the children when they are on vacation or out of the home during the working day. The parents work directly with the assistant as a primary caregiver to their child during times the owner is absent.

I have also heard of staff assistants being able to bring business into the child care by referring their friends and family. This can increase your enrollment but you must consider before taking the family and friends on if their child will stay should the assistant leave, be laid off, or even worse, be fired.

I have counseled many providers who have tried this business model (daily parental contact and an outside of work relationship) but had difficulty with it resulting in a profound disruption in their client relationship and their own financial security.

I know a provider who decided to hire a “co-provider”, which in my State means a partner or qualified assistant who is allowed to be alone with the children within capacity regulations. It also means the business can have considerably more children over the age of two than she could legally have alone.

She divided up the money by taking a third of the tuition for her salary, a third for the co-providers salary, and a third for the business expenses. She had a long history of working on her own, had Child Net Certification, and attained our State’s highest level on the Quality Rating Scale. She had experience with part time assistants but decided she wanted to expand by having someone full time and increasing her registration and capacity.

Their relationship worked for a while but fell apart over money. The co-provider didn’t like her salary being dependent upon enrollment and didn’t feel the division of the money and labor was fair.

After a little over a year she received a two week notice from the assistant AND a two week notice from two of her families that had four children enrolled in her child care. Both families were with her before she hired the assistant.

She found out the day she received notice that her assistant had decided to go out on her own by starting a home based child care and had secured her first four slots by offering a discounted rate to two of her clients.

In one day her business fell apart. She was able to manage the remaining kids without her assistant but she lost out on her portion of the income on four kids. She also had to reapply for a lower capacity registration with the State because it takes a significant amount of time to find another co-provider who met the qualifications to continue on with her current registration.

I counseled another provider who was in business for less than two years. She had an issue with a day care parent trying to get her staff assistant to come work for him privately in his home. The client was told it wasn’t appropriate to ask this of her staff assistant with two verbal warnings. She explained that she wanted to keep her staff assistant, had invested a lot in training the person, and did not want to loose his two children. Even with two full explanations and specific requests of the client to quit pursing her assistant, he persisted. The third time was the final blow. She ended up having to terminate the family without notice to get him to stop.

In my eighteen years of doing home care with helpers I have had an instances where one of my day care parents became infatuated with my employee and one where my employee became infatuated with one of my clients. Both situations ended with me loosing the children of these clients.

When an attraction is happening it can be very insidious and difficult to quell. By the time it gets to the point where either the parent or staff make a move to begin a relationship the damage is done and it’s often not reparable. This can happen with both married and unmarried staff and parents. In my situations both the day care parents and both the staff assistants were married. The sum total for me was just loosing daycare kids because of something that had nothing to do with my business.

My policy with assistants and parents is that I don’t offer a particular staff assistant to my clients. I let the parents know when they interview that I have a helper but at any time the helper can move on and will be replaced. I don’t want anyone hiring me or continuing their day care relationship based on an individual staff assistant.

I tell the parents the helpers name, age, and length of service to the business, and experience the assistant brings to the position.  I explain how I train the staff assistant to perform her duties within our system.  I also assure them that she has been approved by the DHS and has met the minimum qualifications for a staff assistant in my home.  I also explain that she doesn’t make any decisions regarding the care of the children.  I make all the care, schedule, discipline, and activitiy decisions for their child.

When I interview potential clients I have them meet my helper but I don’t have my helper sit in on the interview unless it is someone I have had for a very long time and I’m actually training her how to do interviews. This would be for someone who has expressed an interest in one day owning their own child care and wants to learn the art of the interview Nannyde style.

I explain to the parents what the role of the assistant is and am very clear when the helper will care for the children without me present. If the assistant is new to the child care business they will never be left alone with the children. If the helper is experienced and approved by the State then she will only care for the children when I have a medical appointment and when the children go out for a walk. I do not have my staff cover the business when I’m on vacation or when I am ill. Whenever I’m unable to operate the business we are closed.

I have had a few parents who have wanted a separate and private interview with my helper without me present. Their reasoning was very sound and I completely understood. They knew the assistant would have daily contact with their child and wanted to “get to know” her before enrolling.

My decision has been to decline this request. I have found it works better for my business to keep all parent contact between me and the clients. The assistants I hire aren’t trained to interview and I want to be very clear with the parents on every count that if they should decide to place their child here it is to place them with me. I don’t want them getting attached to a staff assistant because she could leave tomorrow.

On a day to day basis, I don’t have my assistant have contact with my clients other than when she brings the children to the door at departure time every day. I don’t have her give parents information about the children or discuss their day. I do all the arrivals, departures, and parent contacts.

I don’t allow any personal relationships with my clients. The staff assistant agrees to this when they are hired. I don’t take referrals from the assistant and don’t interview any of her friends or family members. I don’t allow her to have contact information on the clients or communicate with them outside of the work setting.

I don’t allow any off hours babysitting, play dates, or socializing. I don’t allow exchange of phone numbers or participation with each other in social networking. If my assistant would become friends with any of my clients it would be a deal breaker for their employment.

I have heard from many providers that having an open and informal relationship with the assistants and parents has worked very well and been a blessing to them and their families. My preference is to limit the assistants role to being JUST an assistant to me and to the business. I have seen too many situations where mixing the two has caused serious financial harm to the business. Even with diligence and firm boundaries you can still have situations like I have had with parents or staff blurring the lines of professional conduct with personal relationships. My business model is to eliminate the probability of that occurring by defining the role of the assistant from the very beginning when I interview both potential client and assistant.

If you do allow a more involved and personal relationship between your assistant and parents, I encourage you to have assistants sign a non-competition agreement. This would be an agreement that the assistant signs stating that she will not seek or take employment with any of the clients of your business for at least one calendar year post employment. It is a good idea to build in a financial penalty the employee agrees to pay should they decide to break this agreement. The Centers I work for have this included in their employee handbook with a penalty of $1000.

The fifth and final part of this series will be devoted to advice on specific policies for your staff assistant and an example of things to include in your advertisements when hiring a helper.

The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 1
The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 2
The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 3
The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 4
The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 5

  1. Dominique09-15-11

    My daycare parents have no say in who I hire for an assistant nor are they asked for input when someone is fired or any other situation arises. The assistant is not here during pickup or dropoff. The parents do know my assistant and her qualifications but do not regularly have contact with her. That eliminates about 90% of the issues you mentioned.

  2. clarece04-05-12

    I would actually LOVE some help I plan on opening my daycare but being apart of the daycare.com forum and reading your posts i’m like wow I need ALL the help I can get!!!

    • torifees04-06-12

      We would be happy to help. I have a consulting site if you need specific counselling at http://www.daycarewhisper.com and we are working on setting up an Ask Nannyde section on this blog. Stay tuned.

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