When you think of liability risks in a daycare, what comes to mind? Hazardous chemicals? Heating devices and electrical cords? Faulty play structures? These are some of the most obvious dangers, and most providers do a good job of eliminating these risks in their daycares. However, did you know that there are many other, less apparent factors that can greatly increase your liability exposure and put you at a higher risk for lawsuits and fines? Below we’ve listed three common occurrences that could be putting you at risk.
- Hosting eventsThrowing parties for graduations, birthdays, and other special occasions can be a great way for providers to connect with their daycare families and their communities. However, you should know that holding these types of events does pose a risk. As a child care provider, you are responsible for any children in your care. But when parents and other family members of the children are present, the lines become a bit blurred. If parents are at the event, who is responsible for the children’s safety? You or the parents? It may seem that the parents should be held responsible, but that is not necessarily the case. If you have children at an event, especially if that event is in your home, you are acting in your role as a child care provider. You may be held responsible, not only for your enrolled children, but also for any other children present at the event. Also, be aware that injuries to parents and to children who aren’t enrolled in your program may not be covered by your insurance company.The next time you plan to put on an event, be sure to take some safety precautions to protect yourself in case there are any accidents. Always call your licensing analyst and tell them about the event. Be sure you know all of the rules and that your event is fully in compliance. It is also very important to call all of your insurance companies to ask if you will be completely covered if something happens to either a child or an adult. Finally, be clear with your parents about what you expect from them. Let them know that, while you are hosting the event, they are responsible for looking after the safety of their own children while they are there. If you follow all of these guidelines, you can relax and enjoy your party knowing that you’ve done everything possible to protect your assets.
- Accepting a child with a disability you aren’t sure you can handleThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that child care providers cannot discriminate against children with disabilities and must make reasonable accommodations to care for such children. Many providers take this to mean that they must accept all children with disabilities. This is a mistake that can drastically increase a provider’s liability risk. If one child is taking too much of your attention or resources, the rest of the children in your care are affected. Accidental injuries to these children become much more likely. If you are unable to properly care for a child with a disability, then that child is at an increased risk for injury or accident.It is true that you must make accommodations for a disabled child when possible. You cannot refuse to accept a child into your program simply because that child is disabled. However, you are not required to take on children you aren’t equipped to handle. The ADA clearly states that you do not have to make accommodations that would pose an “undue burden,” which they define as a “significant difficulty or expense.” This means that if taking on a child would require you to purchase equipment that you cannot afford or to hire a specialist that you cannot afford to hire, you are not required to care for this child.You are also not required to make accommodations that would fundamentally alter the nature of your program. For instance, if the selling point of your program is that you do nature walks, you may not be able to care for a child who is unable to participate in those walks.
While we certainly aren’t discouraging you from accepting children with disabilities, we strongly suggest that you be completely honest with yourself when interviewing families. Be sure you truly are capable of caring for a child before accepting that child into your program. In the end you will be protecting the child, yourself, and the other children in your care.
- Not carrying workers’ compensation insuranceWe speak with a lot of providers who choose not to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Unfortunately, we have also seen many providers get into a lot of trouble for that decision. This is a topic we cover extensively in another article, but just know that if you have even one employee, you need to be carrying workers’ comp. In fact, even if you only hire independent contractors or volunteers, there’s a good chance that you are still required to carry workers’ comp for them. If you are unsure, you should call your state’s workers’ compensation division and get clarification.If you are running your own business, this is a topic that you should absolutely familiarize yourself with. The repercussions for not carrying workers’ compensation insurance can be devastating. In California, for instance, the penalties for being illegally uninsured can include fines of up to $10,000, a year in jail, or both. These are consequences that most providers simply cannot afford to pay. Be sure you know the laws about workers’ compensation insurance, and purchase it if you are required to do so.