| November 10, 2023

Signing a Daycare Contract

Mother signing a daycare contract
Mother signing a daycare contract

If you are a busy parent of a small child, you know how essential daycare can be to make your family’s life easier! As you drop your little one off for the day, you want to rest easy knowing they are in good hands. A daycare contract is critically important for you and your childcare provider to understand set daycare policies, daycare costs, responsibilities of each party, and consequences of possible mishaps. No matter if you use a home daycare or a daycare center—you must ensure the correct paperwork is signed!


What are daycare contracts?

A daycare contract is just like any other contract in that it is a legally binding document signed by both parties involved. Your daycare provider should lay out the services they offer, such as the schedule, security, first-aid options, and other benefits. You can also make sure that they give you proof of their background and character, such as previous work experience and personal references. Overall, your daycare contract can protect the parties involved from legal complications should something go wrong.


Mother holding a baby while she's looking at a daycare contract and talking on the phone.

What should you look for when you are about to sign a legal contract?

Some contracts are very complex while others are straightforward. It’s best to have a lawyer review your contract to identify problematic terms that you may not catch or identify crucial missing terms.

Service agreement

The service agreement is the overall contract that contains a set of terms and conditions. Look for clear articulation of the terms of the childcare services that you expect your daycare to provide. This is called a service agreement and is a critical part of your contract. It’s also important that the contract includes the name and contact information of the daycare center or provider. You will also include your own name and contact info so the daycare can reach you when they need you.

Finances and expectations

Check for financial details such as tuition costs and late fees. Ensure the contract is clear on issues like holiday hours and late pickup. How does the daycare handle absences when you cannot drop your child off? What are the specific hours of operation each day? This part of your daycare contract should be long and extremely detailed, so make sure both you and your daycare provider read over it carefully.

Cancellation policy

What happens if you want to withdraw your child from daycare? Or what if the daycare contacts you asking you to withdraw your child permanently from their center? The cancellation or termination policy defines circumstances that legally allow you and the daycare to make these decisions. While you certainly hope everything goes smoothly, it is wise to know this information ahead of time.

Medical information

Does your child take any medications or have any emergency needs that may arise while at daycare? Ensure that you include this information in the contract. Write your emergency contact details, your child’s allergy info, and other essential medical details so the daycare center knows what to do. Update this section as often as your child’s medical needs change, so your daycare provider is as informed and ready as possible. Your daycare provider should also clearly state their procedures if emergencies do happen.


Childcare worker surrounded by babies while sitting on daycare facility floor.

Do you need to know daycare policies?

Absolutely! As you consider your daycare options, it is essential for you to know in advance how they plan to treat your child. The more information you know about your daycare provider’s policies, the more prepared you can be for any eventuality.

Questions to ask daycare providers

As you consider what your contract should include, it’s a great idea for you to ask your potential daycare provider these questions about legal issues:

Are you licensed?

Ask the daycare provider to show you their licensing information. If they don’t have this info on hand, that may be a red flag that you need to look somewhere else.

How many staff members do you have per child?

This is called the “staff-child ratio.” Every state has a specific staff-child ratio that a daycare provider must abide by. Even if your potential provider adheres to these rules, you still may not be comfortable with the ratio and may choose to look elsewhere.

How do you care for the children in your home/center?

Of course you want your daycare provider to give your child the best care possible and to respect children’s rights. It is preferable for the childcare provider to have clear care philosophies; if they are written down, even better! The more details you have on paper, the more protected you and your daycare provider may be if legal issues pop up later.

What am I expected to provide?

You may be expected to drop off your own drinks, snacks, diapers, wipes, etc. Without clear understanding about these expectations ahead of time, you could run into legal problems down the road.

How does your daycare handle discipline?

This is an extremely important issue to understand before you choose a daycare. If the home or center punishes your child in ways you do not approve of, this could escalate into a legal matter in the blink of an eye. Get your potential daycare’s misbehavior policy in writing, if possible.

What are your health and safety guidelines?

Make sure all the staff members at this daycare have had background checks conducted recently.

  • Is the daycare babyproofed?
  • How does the daycare clean their facilities, dishes, toys, etc.?
  • Are there on-site cameras that record every minute of every day?


How to look up daycare violations

Worried about the possible legal problems you could run into down the road, even with a great daycare provider? Prepare ahead of time by knowing if your daycare has violated any policies or laws in place. You can easily rule out daycare options if you find out they have violated rules, by using these resources:

  • Daycare directories: The internet is your friend in this case. You can visit daycare directories to read reviews from parents and employees about a potential daycare option.
  • Yelp or Google reviews: Daycare facilities are businesses too—this means you can probably find some reviews about them on the internet.
  • Government databases: If you have the daycare’s name and contact info on hand, you can search state and federal databases, which track daycare violations.
  • Local referral agencies: Many states have agencies in place to give you information about your daycare options.


Parents of baby reviewing a daycare contract.

How do you break up with a daycare?

Some daycare providers simply are not the right fit, or you may need to withdraw your child because you are moving or for other personal reasons. You must give your daycare a valid explanation for why you and your child are leaving; and you must know the rules that allow you to leave. Privately discuss this with the daycare director, keeping the conversation positive and polite. If any specific daycare practices have been the catalyst for you to leave, be honest about that.

Just like you need everything else in writing, it is recommended for you to put your reasons for leaving into writing as well with a withdrawal letter for documentation purposes. Consult with a lawyer about what details you should include for your jurisdiction. Your lawyer may suggest things like the date you plan to leave, a timeline for how long your child was in their care, and a brief explanation for why you are withdrawing.


How can LegalShield help with your daycare contract?

Reviewing a contract can be a daunting task since they are usually full of confusing terms and details that are hard to navigate. It’s important for your peace of mind that you understand what you are signing. Are the terms fair? Are your rights protected? Is this contract enforceable in court?

An experienced LegalShield provider law firm can assess the situation and provide advice on how to proceed. Your provider law firm can review a personal legal document of 15 pages or less for you, can send a letter, or conduct a phone call, and do more to assist you with those complex daycare contracts.

To learn how LegalShield can protect you and your eligible family members during big life moments reach out to an independent associate.


Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. (“PPLSI”) provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to PPLSI members through membership-based participation. Neither PPLSI nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation, or advice. The information available in this blog is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations. The blog post is not a substitute for competent legal counsel from a licensed professional lawyer in the state or province where your legal issues exist, and the reader is strongly encouraged to seek legal counsel for your specific legal matter. Information contained in the blog may be provided by authors who could be a third-party paid contributor. All information by authors is accepted in good faith, however, PPLSI makes no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability, or completeness of such information.

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