Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Notes From A Daycare Provider: Check Your Insurance Policy And Know It

 A dozen years in the childcare business and I'm still learning new things. Whatever the kids throw at me is old hat at his point. Nothing surprises me much anymore on that front. However, I was thrown for a loop when a fellow daycare provider mentioned something that I had never once thought to check or ask about.

As with many people, I belong to Facebook groups, two of which are daycare provider groups. One is local and one is geared toward providers in North America. It's through the second group that I learned about Canada's childcare laws and have been made aware of the laws in neighboring states, federal early childhood education grants for daycares, and many other useful tips. It's been a fantastic resource and a more positive vibe than other groups I've come across.

Over the weekend I was in the weekly chat. I mostly enjoy reading rather than contributing. A provider in Texas was upset because of how long she's had to be closed due to the weather there. Someone asked her about reopening and she mentioned that her insurance won't allow her to be open if surrounding school districts are closed due to liability insurance. This sparked a plethora of questions on the topic. She schooled all of us in her insurance policy and why being open in severe weather is a liability. This got me thinking, do I have such a policy written into the liability portion of my policy? I had to pull up my records and look right then.

Sure enough, I DO!

Not one person, insurance agent or otherwise, had ever mentioned this portion of the liability insurance. I found this new bit of information a tad concerning with a side of many questions. We live in Iowa. We get severe weather threats year round. Am I supposed to close every time there's a chance of severe weather? Am I supposed to call for immediate pick ups any time there's impending weather? We've had thunderstorms that led to derechos suddenly come through. What do I do then? Is it only limited to when our school district is closed or is it all severe weather? I had many, many questions. I wanted to call right away to ask for clarification because as with most important documents, it was too vague.. I held back from calling due to my past actions.

I didn't want to raise red flags with my questions when I've been open in snowstorms before. Heck, I used to throw snow parties on days school was canceled and parents still had to work! Those are honestly some of my favorite memories from daycare. However, experience taught me that I actually should close when the weather is bad. I've had the pleasure of children getting stuck at daycare and bundling kids in blankets so their parents could walk them to their vehicles parked blocks away because they couldn't get through on the snow covered roads. That has liability written all over it (she says with wide eyes). Thinking back on it all, I'm really lucky nothing terrible happened and that my families are 1,000% amazing.

Thankfully I did change my policies in 2020 when Covid brought work from home and daycare had low attendance on bad weather days. I now close when our school district is closed due to any weather related incident. Going through my policies also made me note that there is a safety note in there as well; meaning that if our local school district is closed for a safety reason within a certain radius of daycare, I must close as well. I knew parts of that piece, but not the entire thing. It was a real, 'the more you know' scene.

The conversation in the Facebook group was a reminder of the importance of knowing your insurance policy and following it. Even if parents complain, it's better than a fine, losing your insurance, or worse yet, being told to close all because of not following your insurance policy. Not one person or insurance agent ever pointed out this section in my liability portion and I'm damn lucky nothing happened because of my negligence. Bottom line: daycare providers, know your stuff. It would be a wise decision to put a paragraph or two in your daycare contract and handbook. That way families know ahead of time what could happen. And parents, if your daycare has to close for a reason you don't understand, ask about it and show grace because it's likely just as inconvenient for your daycare provider to close as it is to call off of work or find drop in care.