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Terminating the Childcare Relationship

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Giving References
At some point after ending your professional relationship with the child­care provider, another family that is considering hiring her to care for their children may contact you. Even if your parting with the nanny was on good terms, it is possible that you had complaints with her job performance that you never addressed with her, or that you did bring to her attention but she never corrected. This situation might make it uncomfortable for you to give a glowing recommendation of her to another potential employer, even though you do not wish to speak poorly of her.

There is nothing wrong with stating your opinion of her abilities as a nanny. In fact, consider the situation from the other family's point of view. They are in the same boat that you were in when you were deciding who should care for your children. If there was an issue with her childcare capabilities, surely a family thinking about offering her a job would appreciate hearing about it. It is not necessary to present a laundry list of faults that you believe your nanny has. Simply make a general statement of what her professional shortcomings were and note that this is simply your opinion. Of course, if there were actual instances of mis­conduct on her part, then it would be most helpful to the potential employer if you related the circumstances surrounding the event.

Termination by the Childcare Provider
Sometimes it will be the caregiver who will end the relationship with the family. A nanny may decide to leave for a more desirable position. A family day care home may close because the owner decides to pursue a different business. Day care centers typically have a procedure for terminating a child's enrollment if the family's account is overdue for more than a certain period of time, such as fifteen or thirty days. Typically, they also will be able to expel a child who chronically misbehaves, or who poses a danger to other children or staff. Most day care providers will ask you at the outset to sign an agreement that you will abide by their policies. Usually, the policies will give them a wide-ranging ability to end the business relationship with your family upon giving sufficient notice.

The real issue if the childcare provider terminates you, therefore, is not whether they can do it, but whether you have a remedy if they do. Legally, of course, you cannot force a nanny or au pair to continue working for you. As for a day care facility, you could try to argue a cause of action for breach of contract, but unless you have suffered some real financial damages from the termination, you are likely to be out of luck. Most families whose childcare arrangement is terminated suffer inconvenience, at the very most.

Your Child's Reaction
Whatever your own feelings about the ending of your business relationship with the childcare provider, do not ignore the effect the termination may have on your child. Even if you dislike the nanny or day care worker, be careful not to underestimate how much she means to your child. In some cases, such as with an au pair, the length of the caregiver relationship is determined before employment even begins. You can help your child, from the beginning of the childcare relationship, to adjust to the eventual end of the caregiver's tenure. In other cases, the association may end abruptly. Either way, you should prepare your child for the day when your family and the caregiver part ways.

Of course, if the reason you are terminating the childcare provider is that your child does not like her, he or she likely will be happy to see her go, and you will have no adjustment issues. However, a child can become fond of a caregiver fairly quickly, and if this is the case in your family, you need to be sensitive to your child's attitude toward the termination. Not only could your child be saddened to see the nanny leave (or to be removed from the outside day care setting, as the case may be), but he or she may actually come to feel insecure by the upheaval. He or she may believe that, since this person-a person he or she cared about-was taken from him or her so easily, other loved ones could be sent away as well.

Depending on your child's age and the circumstances of the caregiver's departure, you should try to explain to your child your reasons for ending the relationship. If your separation from the caregiver is friendly, see if she would be willing to keep up communication with your family. If she will remain in the area, perhaps you and your child can get together with her on occasion, at least until your child adapts to the new situation.

Set Up a Replacement
However you decide to end the caregiver relationship, make sure that you have a reliable replacement provider for your child ahead of time, if at all possible. Do not be surprised if your child is resistant to the idea of a new caregiver at first. If it took him or her some time to become comfortable with the former caregiver, expect it to take even longer to warm up to the new one. Even an infant can easily show displeasure with a new caregiver and routine. With older children, it is important to allow them to voice their feelings about the situation. This will give them some sense of control over their lives, which in turn will help them along in the process of readjustment.

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Copyright © 2005 by Linda H. Connell. Excerpted from The Childcare Answer Book with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon.com.


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