Releasing a Child from a Child Care Program

One of our most important responsibilities as child care providers is keeping the children in our care safe. This includes releasing the children from the program.

The ideal situation would be that one person always drops the child off into our care and that same person picks the child up every day. But, since life is generally not ideal, we have to make sure that our staff know what to do in tricky circumstances. We do this by having a policy in place and training all of our staff members on that policy. What happens if someone other than the parent picks up the child? How do you determine if that person is authorized to remove the child from the facility? How do you ensure that the person is actually who they say they are? And, how do you do all of this without upsetting the person?

You have to have a form that the parent completes at enrollment that lists those individuals who are authorized to pick up the child. When someone unfamiliar comes to pick up a child, your staff member must check the form to ensure that person is authorized and check the person's photo identification to make sure that they are who they are claiming to be.

In my experience, the only times people have become upset when I ask them for identification are when they left it in the car and it's an inconvenience to go back out to get it. Generally speaking, when I gently explain to them how critically important it is for us to protect the child by ensuring that we are releasing him or her to the correct person, they understand completely and usually appreciate our caution.

Regardless, we have to be willing to have someone who is slightly upset with us rather than risking releasing a child to the wrong person. Your staff may also come up against the issue of one parent not wanting the child released to the other parent. The only way you can respect that wish is if there is a court order in place that confirms that request. (If you have questions about this issue, we have a detailed Custody Orders Policy.)

The other question that may come up is what to do if a seemingly intoxicated parent comes to pick up a child. Again, we cannot legally withhold a child from their parent without a court order. However, what we can do is to recommend that the parent not take the child in their car and help the parent find alternative transportation.If the parent still insists on taking the child, we can advise them that we will be calling 911 and informing the police that we believe that they are driving impaired with a child in the car.Regardless of the situation, you must have a policy in place to ensure that your staff know the appropriate way to release a child from your child care program. If you don't already have a policy, you can find ours here.

Misty