Tales of a Child Care Provider: Paper Record Keeping

Since I posted the previous “Tales of a Child Care Provider” entry, I’ve gotten numerous emails asking for tips and suggestions for all sorts of organization issues. The first one I’ve decided to weigh in on is paper record keeping. 

Licensed providers (both home based and centers) need to keep paper records required by the state you are licensed in. There is no way around it and if you do not have your records straight, it could lead to big trouble down the line. 

I’m licensed in Connecticut, so our requirements of what we need to have paperwork wise may be slightly different than your state or country but the basic principles of how to organize them should be the same. I refer to inspections in my post and when I do so, I’m referring to an inspection of a licensed family day care home in Connecticut. 

The first thing I made sure to do in order to keep my paperwork neat was a file box specifically to daycare records. Nothing else is in that box. Not a spare piece of paper with your old grocery list on it, no tax records, nothing. Why nothing additional? Well, if you keep your records in a large file cabinet in your office and you have other miscellaneous items mixed in, licensing has the authority to view anything in your cabinet, including personal documents that have nothing to do with your license. My recommendation is to always keep your records seperate. I have a portable filebox that I can carry to a table for the yearly inspections that the CT Office of Early Childhood is now doing. What is nice about having a portable box system is that if it’s organized how I suggest, you can leave your auditor to look through the box and you are free to continue your regular scheduled programming with your children. 

So you’ve got a seperate file box, great! You’ll also need hanging file folders, file folders to fit inside them, and of course, labels and a marker. Let’s get those crazy papers organized. 

First, I’m going to talk about “Family Folders”. I create a “Family Folder” anytime a new family enrolls in my care. Each family folder is a hanging file folder has the families last name written on one of those plastic labels. Create one for every current family that uses your care. 

Inside the hanging “Family Folder” is a regular folder for each child in that family. On the folders tab, I write the child’s last then first names (Example: Smith, Susan) and on the front of the folder I write their birth date and starting date of care. I also write when their medical form was signed (because in CT we need a new medical form yearly for children that are not yet school age) . 

Connecticut seems to require that providers hold onto a hefty amount of paperwork from each enrolled child. I’m not sure how we compare to other states but in each child’s folder I have the following:

  • Ct Medical Form
  • Ct Enrollment Form
  • Salt Meadow Academy Contract
  • CT Incident Log
  • CT Emergency Medical Form
  • CT Permission for Application of Non-Prescription Topical Medications

If Salt Meadow Academy distributed prescription medication, we would have a plethora of other other forms. 

Okay, so each current family has a “Family Folder” which you should place right in the front of your file box in alphabetical order by family last name.  Excellent, but you’re not done (especially in CT where we need to keep records of past clients as well).   Do the same thing for your past families except on the hanging folder label mark PAST in bright red. Also mark PAST on each child’s folder. I keep those files in the far back of my file box. When a current family discontinues care, simply relabel their hanging folder with PAST and move it on back. 

Phew, tired yet? If so take a break and come back to this blog post later.

The next hanging folder that is in my file box is “Licensing Requirements”. Sounds pretty vague doesn’t it? Well, in this hanging folder is a few regular folders each holding one piece of paper (or perhaps a couple). I have regular folders tabbed with the following items your inspector (in CT at least) will ask to see:

  • First Aid Certificate (on the front of this folder I mark the expiration date for easy access and I set a calendar remind two months before expiration so that there is enough time to register for a class)
  • Adult Medical Statement (I also mark when this was signed because we need to renew it yearly, and schedule a calendar reminder two months in advance to remind to renew)
  • Pet Rabies Certificates (Write on the front of the folder the expiration date of each pets Rabies vaccine. Only keep the certificates in this folder to eliminate clutter.)
  • Past Inspection Forms (all of them, in chronological order with the most recent in the front)

Aren’t you feeling so much more organized? Make sure to check your states requirements for paperwork that your inspector will want to view. 

The next hanging folder is “Enrollment Forms”. At Salt Meadow Academy when a family enrolls with us they are required to fill out a good amount of state mandated paperwork as well as some forms that we require. I keep copies of blank forms at all times in the file box. You’ll never know when a parent wants to enroll quickly, has a change in emergency medical information that they need to make or their child has a doctor appoiment that afternoon and the parent would like to bring a copy of the required form. Having copies on hand makes it simple to keep everyone organized. Have you ever had a family call in the middle of the day looking for childcare to start ASAP? While it’s exciting that you are gaining a new client, it’s also panic-at-the-disco if you realize they will be stopping for forms in a half hour and you’ve got a classroom of kids and no spare time to make copies. I have folders labeled:

  • Salt Meadow Academy Contract
  • Salt Meadow Academy Handbook
  • CT Enrollment Form
  • CT Medical Form
  • CT Incident Log
  • CT Emergency Medical Form
  • CT Permission for Application of Non-Prescription Topical Medications

No panic-at-the-disco for this provider. I can open up the file box and pull a form from each folder to create an instant enrollment package for a new family. 

Onward! The folder in my file box is labeled “Town Of Clinton”. Ahhh, many providers don’t realize that they most likely have to notify their town and get zoning permission to operate a licensed daycare home. For myself, it was a painless process, perhaps because I am bit of a stickler for the details. In my “Town of Clinton” folder I have the following subfolders:

  • Zoning Permit Application & Approval
  • Certificate of Trade Name 

Lastly, I have a file labeled “Certificates”. Other than the items listed in the  Licensing Requirements section above, I am not required to hold any other special endorsements or certifications. However, because I’m me, of course I do. I have folders for each of the many additional certificates that hang next to our license:

  • Eco Healthy Child Care
  • CT Charts-A-Course
  • CT Head Teacher Designation 
  • Natural Teachers Network
  • CPR Certification (not required for home providers in CT, insanity right?!)

In this section, I also keep a three-ring binder with any continuing education courses or certificates that I’ve earned. I keep each certificate in a plastic page protector. The spine of the binder is labeled “Education”.

So that’s that for paper record keeping in the daycare file box. Of course, it’s not the only papers I need to organize, but they are the only ones that  I don’t mind my licensing agency thumbing through. I have folders of tax information (yup, I do ALL of my taxes myself and I actually enjoy it!) ,receipts, parent payment schedules etc in a whole different location for my use only. I also keep a pretty fabulous planner with childrens schedules clearly written (in pencil, because we all know schedules can change).

Do you have any record keeping tricks or tips that you’d like to share? What’s  the next “Tales of a Child Care Provider” topic you’d like to know more about? Leave a comment below!


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