GUIDELINES FOR RELEASING CHILDREN
As a childcare provider, you are contracted by parents and guardians to care for their children. They expect that your first obligation will be to keep their children safe. In order to do that, you must have open and honest communication with the parents or guardian who enrolls the child. This is especially true when it comes to releasing their child from childcare. Let’s look at the following scenario:
Sara enrolls her 3 year old son, Nathan, in your program. She fills out your parent information sheet with her contact information and signs contract. You assume she is a single parent and don’t ask for any other information. She drops off and picks up her child every day on time and her child settles into your program with no problems. After a few months, a man comes to your door and claims to be the Nathan’s father and he has come to pick him up. He shows you his ID. Nathan looks up and sees the man. He runs to him and yells, “Daddy!” You quickly call Sara, and she tells you NOT to let the child go as she and the father are going through a custody battle and she does not want him to take the child. The father is putting his son’s coat on and preparing to leave. What do you do? Legally what rights does the father have? What is your legal responsibility? This fact sheet will discuss the guidelines regarding the release of children in your care.
WHO CAN YOU RELEASE A CHILD TO:
• The person or persons who have legal right to the child (For example: parents and guardians)
• Anyone who the legal parent or guardian has authorized in writing
• Civil authorities – Upon receiving proper written identification and/or documents authorizing you to release the child.
For example: police, paramedics, child welfare workers
Look at our scenario, so far you, as the provider, have done the right thing, you:
• Did not immediately turn over the child
• Asked for the person’s name and ID
• Let the person know that her procedure is to release the child only to authorized persons.
• Immediately called Sara to let her know what was happening.
It is important to note that if the person is the child’s legal parent and you have no court order or custody documents on file you must release the child.
When enrolling a child and only one parent is present giving you information, ALWAYS ask about the other parent.
Ask if there are any legal custody issues you need to be aware of.
Determine the relationship of each parent. Is the child a stepchild?
Has the stepparent adopted the child?
Is there another legal parent who has legal right to the child?
Make sure you explain to the parent, that you are legally bound to release the child to the other legal parent if you do not have any court documents in your file stating otherwise.
Put this policy in writing in your contract or policy handbook, make sure it is signed and dated.
What if the person demands release of the child and takes the child by force and leaves?
Immediately call the police, write down a description with as much detail as you can of the person, the car, and which direction they went. Try to get the license plate number and write it down immediately. Notify parent.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IT AN UNAUTHORIZED PERSON COMES TO PICK UP THE CHILD AND THEY SEEM TO BE INTOXICATED OR UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF DRUGS?
Try to delay the parent.
Call another authorized person, explain the situation and ask them to come to pick up the child.
If the person becomes unruly or threatening, you may have to call the police. The safety of the child is most important.
To protect yourself put a written statement in your contract or Policies and Procedures Manual stating what your policy and procedure is if authorized person comes to pick up the child and is in anyway impaired, causing concern for the safety of child. Make sure this is explained to the parent and is signed and dated.
WHAT DO YOU DO IF AN UNAUTHORIZED PERSON COMES TO PICK UP A SMALL CHILD WITHOUT A PROPER CAR SEAT?
Discuss with the parent the importance of a car seat and the laws pertaining to children being in car seats.
Let them know that they must correct the situation immediately.
You could also stress that you are a mandated provider and if someone continues to pick up the child without a car seat, you may be required to make a report to child protective services.
This is another issue you should put in your contract or Policies and Procedure Manual. Think about how you want to handle this situation and what steps you want to take. Write out your policy and the procedure you will take.
For example: Your policy is to terminate any child who is picked up by an authorized person with no car seat.
Acknowledging and discussing situations surrounding the release of their child should be discussed before you start the child in your program. Open and honest discussion and communication lets the parent know ahead of time what to expect if any of these issues arise. If the parent objects to any of your policies, they can choose to go to a different program. It also shows how important the safety of their child is to you.