Policies | Late Pick-Up

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Things happen – cars break down, meetings go long, parents oversleep. Your late-pick up policy needs to balance the realities of modern life with an understanding of the inconvenience placed on a classroom that has to stay open late. Parents shouldn’t be punished for things outside of their control but should be made aware of the strain that consistent late pick-ups can place on your center or program.

Many programs and centers ask that caregivers give as much advance notice as they can when they’re going to be late – ensure that whatever method you give them to communicate with you is one that you check regularly.

It’s not uncommon to see a charge for late pick-ups: that is, an extra amount of money owed. Some centers or programs charge a flat fee for any amount of time; some charge by time increments. Some handbooks specify that this charge will only be incurred upon the second late pick-up, and some have this policy written, but only enforce it on a case-by-case basis.

After a certain amount of time with no communication from a parent – this sometimes is dictated by a local licensing agency, and sometimes up to the program to decide –  it is the program’s responsibility to begin calling other authorized pick-up persons from the student’s file in order to find someone to assume care of the child. (Ensure that families are reviewing their authorized pick-up list throughout the year to make sure that all contact information is up to date.)

As with many, many, many other policies, it’s very much up to you to decide what makes sense for your community. Any late pick-up policy must be part of a broader effort to form relationships with the families that attend your center or program: instead of only charging them each time they’re late, try and learn why they’re late, and see if there’s anything that your program can do to assist them with arriving on time.

Where To Include

At Playvolution HQ, we recommend programs have three handbooks–a Parent Handbook, a Staff Handbook, and an Operating Handbook. Consider adding this policy to your Operating Handbook.


  • Some programs and centers have late fee forms that individuals picking up late are required to sign, thus creating a physical record of the time of pick-up and the charge incurred.
  • Many local licensing agencies have specific laws pertaining to children that are left at a center past a certain amount of time; a child that hasn’t been picked up might necessitate a call to local authorities. Ensure that your families have access to this policy and understand it is a legal matter.
  • Ensure that all staff – not just those that generally stay at the center until closing – understand what the late pick-up policies are – that way, even those that work late every now and then are still familiar with the process.
  • There’s research that seems to indicate late charges actually increase the frequency of late pickups. In A Fine Is A Price, Uri Gneezy and Aldo Rustichini find that a late charge becomes the price for being late. The guilt parents feel for inconveniencing the staff may be a more effective deterrent for lateness than a late charge. Download a PDF of A Fine Is A Price below.

Sample Policies

Disclaimer: These are sample policies intended for use as a guide in policy development. Your program’s policies should be unique to your program and reflect the program’s culture, practices, and the regulations in your area.

Sample One

There is a $1/minute charge for late pick ups starting at 3:40pm. When an adult picks up a child anytime after 3:40pm,he/she must complete the Late Pick Up form, indicating the name(s) of the child(ren) who were picked up late, the time of pick up, the late fee amount, and whether or not the amount was paid at pick up. The parent/guardian and teacher who stayed late must both sign the form. If parents/guardians are not picking up and signing the form for whatever reasons, they are still responsible for the late fee. Fees are charged per parent/guardian picking up, and not per child. If the parent/guardian does not pay at the time of pick up, the late pick up fee will be added to the following month’s tuition payment.
When parents/guardians are late, teachers will call them starting at 3:45pm. They will call each parent/guardian listed on the registration form. If neither parent/guardian can be reached, the teacher will call the person listed as the emergency contact. Every family must provide at least two ways of being reached (phone or email) and must list an emergency contact.
Please note that teachers are prohibited by Roots School policies to drive students anywhere except to the hospital or police station. Therefore, if teachers have been unable to contact parents/guardians or emergency contacts for two and a half hours after the students have been dismissed, the teacher is required to take the student to the Maui Police Department in Wailuku, and may remain there until the parents/guardians arrive. In this extreme situation, parents will be charged a late fee assessed from the time of dismissal until the time the teacher has arrived home.
The Roots School, Hawaii, USA

Sample Two

Late Pick-Up Policy
The Center closes promptly at 6:00 pm. If a child has not been picked up by this time, parent will incur the following fees:
·         1 to 5 minutes – $10
·         5 to 10 minutes – $20
·         10+ minutes – $20 plus $2 per minute over 10 minutes
A “late pick up” form will be completed for all children who are picked up after 6:00 pm. Your arrival time and the total charge will be noted on this form. This form will be placed on your parent board hook and a copy will be kept in a Late Charge Log in the office. Late fees are due within 48 hours after receipt of notice. Late pick-ups exceeding three times in a given contracted period may result in other penalties or actions, including suspension or termination of services. Closing staff members have their own schedules to adhere to, so your cooperation is appreciated. If a child has not been picked up by 6:10pm, the child’s parents/guardians will be called. If the parents/guardians cannot be reached, the emergency contact listed on the child’s DC Registration Record will be called.
American University Child Development Center, Washington DC, USA

Sample Three

It’s about time…
It is extremely important that children are picked up from school on time. It is upsetting to a child when her parent is not there when the other parents are picking up their children.
Teachers usually meet, plan, and set up classrooms for the next class during the time between morning and afternoon classes. This is also teacher break and lunch time. After afternoon classes, teachers often have planning meetings, and some have their own children to pick up. Please consider this when making appointments, or when thinking about what time you must get into a check-out line, etc. These can often take longer than expected. If you anticipate a situation like this, we suggest you make advance contingency arrangements for another parent in your child’s class to watch your child if you are late. (Be sure to have a pre-signed transportation authorization if you anticipate being in this situation.)
We understand that due to the occasional traffic snarl, or a last-minute sick sibling, parents are sometimes unavoidably a few minutes late. Allowing a few extra minutes for transportation time is a good idea, especially if you are coming from more than a few miles away.
It is always okay to be a little early. In fact, some parents like to arrive early enough (about 10 minutes) to spend story time with their child. Other parents enjoy chatting with each other in the hallway or parking lot a few minutes before classes are dismissed.
We would prefer to avoid charging a punitive fee for late parents. Other centers do this routinely. Please help us by paying attention to time and valuing our schedules as much as your own.
School for Young Children, Ohio, USA

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