How to Make Parents Pay Child Care Tuition on Time

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Alexandria Guzman

I have to say that as a childcare director in Texas, I found this tip to be a good reminder…

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As an early childhood educator, you’re not only a teacher. You’re also a nurturer, a friend, and almost a loving surrogate parent to the children in your care.  Whether you run an intimate family child care program or a large preschool, you are probably one of the most important people in your students’ lives.  You care for these children a great deal and their parents matter to you, too.

However, you are also running a business.

That’s the bottom line.  You can’t continue to run your child care center (or home daycare) without parents who pay their child care tuition. Not only do they need to pay, but they need to pay on time. Every time.  Like any business, if you don’t get paid for your services on time, then you won’t be able to pay your bills on time.

The fancy business term for that is “cash flow.”

Getting your child care tuition on time can be tricky. Child care providers and preschool directors LOVE their students. For someone who feels a special emotional connection to their kids and families, it can be awkward to demand money.  I get it.

But remember this:

No matter how you feel or how the parents feel, business is business.  You need to collect payment. Period.  If you don’t, you’ll end up shutting down your child care business. That won’t help you, or your parents, or your students.

So with that in mind, here are 7 tips to ensure that parents pay their child care tuition on time:

  1. Be upfront with the parents from the start

Leave no gray areas and no room for interpretation.  Ensure that during your child care or preschool enrollment process, you thoroughly cover your tuition policy and how everything works.  Give them your tuition rate and tell them how they can pay (check, cash, credit card, all of the above?)

Also, make sure you tell parents when they must pay (weekly, biweekly, monthly). The clearer you are from the get go, the easier it will be to ensure prompt payment every time your tuition is due.

  1. Devise and enforce a late payment policy

It may be a simple policy that says if they are a day late, they owe a percentage of their tuition (in addition to their regular payment). It’s fairly standard to have a 5% penalty for late child care tuition payments (for instance, if your weekly child care cost is $300/week, then the penalty for late payment would be $300 x 5% = $15.)

Another option would be that you let your parents know that if they are more than one week late, you will ask that their child be disenrolled (you can make this 2 weeks if you’d like, but they key is that it’s a fixed number. It’s really up to you how your child care late policy works, but whatever you decide, you need to consistently enforce this policy.

Note: check your state child care regulations about late fees, as many states place limits on how much you can charge for a late fee.

  1. But… Be kind and fair with your late payment policy

OK, I know what you’re thinking. I just said you need to enforce your late payment policy and now I’m saying you should be kind. Which is it then?!

Well, while it’s true that you need to be strict to protect your child care business, you can also make exceptions in exceptional circumstances.  For example, if a parent always pays their child care tuition on time but happened to leave their wallet at home, then it would be okay to give them a break and let them bring in payment the next day. If their car broke down and had unexpected expenses, and their paycheck is coming in 2 days, you might decide that it’s fine if they pay in 2 days.

However, never let the behavior become habitual, and be clear that your leniency is one time thing. If they forget their wallet today but don’t bring the payment the next day, enforce the late fee. If they come up with a new excuse every month (the car broke down, the dishwasher broke, etc.), then you may not want to be so forgiving. In the end, do what you feel is right for the family, but also for your child care business.

  1. Be persistent in following up with late parents

If parents are late with their preschool tuition payment, call every single day and leave messages (polite and professional voicemails, of course). Leave notes in the child’s cubby, write e-mails, and talk to them in person at morning drop-off and evening pick-up.

Be persistent. You offer a valuable service and you deserve payment.

Parents who don’t value you enough to pay you are not people that you want to do with business with. Yes, that may sound harsh and you may be quite affectionate toward their child, or them, but you need to be clear that you are running a business and you need to be paid.  No matter what.

  1. Always be present

Some parents may think that they can skate by the front desk of your child care center without being noticed. Moreover, parents who don’t see you may not respect you.  If you want them to pay your preschool tuition, you need to be standing at the office door for the morning drop-offs and evening pick-ups.

If you run a home daycare, then be polite and cordial but stand your ground when speaking to parents as they come in and leave.  For example, “Susie had a great Monday!  I hope you did, as well. By the way, I did want to remind you that you missed a payment last Friday.  If Susie will be here this week, I will need payment by tomorrow, Tuesday.”

  1. If mom won’t pay, ask dad (and vice versa!)

Perhaps one parent will be more receptive and helpful than the other. It’s not unusual for one parent to handle the household finances and, perhaps, you are asking the wrong parent for the money.

If Dad usually drops off and picks up, you may assume that asking him and emailing is your best bet.  However, Mom may be the one with the family checkbook.  Try the other parent and see what happens.

  1. Use an online child care tuition payment system

One reason why some parents are regularly late is simple: they forget. I know, it sounds strange but parents are busy. Really busy, in fact. Your day is obviously full with your infants, toddlers and preschoolers. It’s the same for parents. They have to get everyone ready in the morning: get their preschooler dressed, prepare lunch for their toddler or milk for their infant. After drop-off at daycare, they rush to the office where their day is full, then the evening routine starts, and it’s all over again.

Think about it for a second:

They might just forget to bring in a check for you, and might forget to stop by the office to pay with their credit card (or maybe you don’t accept credit cards.) The best solution for everyone is an automatic online tuition payment system for your child care or preschool program. Parents can pay automatically every week or every month. That way they won’t forget, and you’ll get paid on time.

Oh, and you won’t need to run to the bank every week to deposit paper checks! How is that for a time saver? 🙂 If this is something you’re interested in, contact us at CareLuLu (email, we can help you get set-up with an online child care tuition payment system.

Look, we all know that it can be hard to ask people for money.  However, parents will almost certainly continue not to pay (or to pay late) if you don’t say anything.  If you set clear expectations from the beginning, then parents enrolled in your child care or preschool program should have no problem paying tuition on time. Be kind and fair, but also be persistent and enforce your late payment penalties.  You are caring for their child and that is a valuable service for which you deserve to be paid!


What is CareLuLu?

CareLuLu helps child care and preschool programs fill their openings while helping parents find the perfect early learning environment for their children. Founded by parents with experience in childcare marketing & technology, CareLuLu is an interactive platform that helped thousands of child care providers grow their business (from small homes, to large centers & preschools) .

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  • I have to say that as a childcare director in Texas, I found this tip to be a good reminder even if we implementing it in our center. We do need to hold our parents that attend our childcare accountable and make sure that we enforce our payment polices and late fees policies etc. I DID NOT care for the reply and vent of the one who owns a childcare in DC. I totally get where she is coming from, but what fault is it from the children in her care… They are not the ones to pay, it’s their parents. To sit and vent and call those in her program brats etc was uncalled for and I think unprofessional. NO matter what we may think or feel about the children in or care or center, that kind of attitude was uncalled for. I for one wouldn’t enroll my kids in her care or suggest her for care if that is her attitude about kids I can only guess what her staff may do or feel if she has staff. We all know that a leader and their attitude is what sets the mood in a childcare center. Kids are not to blame for their parents mistakes, behavior problems we all deal with them but to name call NOPE… I think they shouldn’t be in a daycare business!

  • Thanks, but what can we do for the parents that left a balance and do not want to pay? Is there a way to report them or let know other child care centers to be aware of those parents.

  • You know, I own a daycare in Washington, DC and I find that many of the tips listed here are very good. I know that some parents who are frequently delinquent try to run in and out without seeing you, as if this makes what they owe you disappear. I even find that you should be cordial, but not be too friendly with parents, as this seems to equate to them believing that the “friendship” is a privilege they can abuse to not pay or to not pay on time or not be subject to late fees. How about the parent that pays late, but then gives you a check to “hold” until a date when they choose to pay, as if they can pick and choose when you should be paid for services they use. I even have a family that gets charged a late fee on an invoice, but when they make payment, they only pay the tuition without the late fee, as if the late fee assessed to them is invisible. How about the parent who fails to pay or fails to pay on time, but gripes about every damn thing? I had some of those too. How about the parent who only pays some of the tuition and then when you call them on it, tells you that they don’t have all of it and when you ask they to communicate with you, they tell you they are too embarrassed to come talk with you about not having all the payment–yet, they dump their brats off on you anyway…

    The list goes on and on about deadbeat parents who are too chicken54*# to come and speak with you like an adult about their personal situation, but feel as if they deserve a pass and can keep using your services for their benefit without having to pay or say anything to you.

    The bottom line is that business is business and you should stick to your policies. Never allow people to run over you just because you are nice and friendly to them–this does not earn them the right to walk all over you and dump on your business because they have poor people skills. If they choose to go somewhere else, cut ’em and let them try to get over somewhere else. I even have a family that I have had to consistently charge late payment and late pickup fees to because they refused to adhere to the policies and actually had the nerve to get offended by the fact I charge late pickup fees and late fees. When the family did not pay after having their little terror enrolled for 3 weeks, I had to say something to the dad, who told me he had just started a new job. Yet, he felt as if he did not have to say anything to me at all–I had to initiate the conversation. They actually got mad when I charged late fees and had the audacity to get an attitude when I did not give them a “grace period” for late pickup. To them, the grace period would have exceeded a half an hour each time; my policies clearly state the fees and stipulations for late pickup and fees charged for late tuition. I guess my staff is not worth being paid for after hour services when the parents felt they could just slide their behinds in to my business at any time they felt like it to pick up their brat. Their kid is the most challenging we have had yet…

    Sorry to be on a soapbox, but I had to vent. It kills me when people feel entitled to take advantage of other people’s businesses or services without paying, after they full and well know the rules or they choose to turn stupid when it’s time to pay. There ought to be some kind of database or tracking system for all providers and schools that charge for services, to add the parents to on a national level, so that hard working business owners/providers can have access to the database to see the deadbeats before their businesses are abused and victimized by the deadbeats. This would prevent families from hopping from one provider to another and doing the same thing. This would stop them in their tracks and leave them hanging and maybe there would be more honesty and commitment within that part of the industry. If anyone knows of a national sharing system, please share 🙂

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