What To Do if My Child is Too Sick for Daycare or Daycare is Closed?

Did you know that the U.S. Department of Defense has the best regulated child care program in the country? We heard they are developing a 5-level “daycare sick child warning system” called “DEFCOUGH” based on the “DEFCON” system they developed during the cold war.

It goes something like this:

  • DEFCOUGH 5: All quiet on the health front. Your child is eating normally and you try your best to build up their immune system with a balanced diet.
  • DEFCOUGH 4: Early warning signs encountered, typically a cough or a runny nose. Take preemptive action such as an extra Vitamin C.
  • DEFCOUGH 3: Daycare is no longer an option. Medic! Request a fly-by from a relative, babysitters, or neighbor to care for your child, because they’re too sick for daycare.
  • DEFCOUGH 2: Request for fly-by negative. One or both parents need to request time off work to care for your child.
  • DEFCOUGH 1: Request(s) for time off negative. Crisis imminent!

OK, DEFCOUGH is a joke, but the crisis scenario is all too real for working parents with children in daycare.

It can be a huge problem when your child is too sick for daycare, especially for infants or toddlers enrolled in child care centers, which tend to have stricter rules than home daycares. (For more differences between daycare centers and home daycares, read this article.) The same goes for any situation where your child cannot attend daycare for any reason, really, that does not match your schedule. It could be, for example, that the daycare center takes a snow day and your office does not.

So, what can you do when your child is too sick for daycare (or daycare is closed)?

First, you can try to plan ahead by reading the fine print in your child care center or preschool enrollment agreement. There are a number of things to look for and questions to ask during a daycare or preschool tour, and daycare sick policy is definitely among them. Same goes for daycare vacation policy, by the way.

Unfortunately there are no definitive rules when it comes to child care and preschool sick policy and you simply have to figure them out. Daycare centers are obliged to follow state law when it comes to admitting or refusing sick children but otherwise it depends on what makes sense to the child care center director and management.

Should they give some kind of a refund for vacation days or sick days? Probably yes. Should they offer some kind of a backup plan for sick children? We wish.

Are they obliged to?

Nope! The best you can do is make sure you keep these criteria in mind when choosing a daycare or preschool.

Last but not least, you can come up with your personal “DEFCOUGH daycare sick day” readiness plan, for when your kid is too sick for daycare. That may mean creating a network of on-demand babysitters before you need them, or working something out with your boss. Unfortunately, you’re going to have get creative on that one.

Don’t give up, soldier! Find a way! Don’t parents always do? 😉

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