Advertising, Cost of Participating, and Conflict of Interest
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What does it cost to participate with the questionnaire and information service?  FamilyLightsm  accepts no paid advertising or referral incentives from schools and programs. This project is intended to be as free of conflict of interest and appearance of conflict of interest as possible.  (At a future date we might accept advertising for business not related to any service provider in our range of interest).  But we want to be as free as possible from actual or perceived conflict of interest involving the services we describe, assess, and potentially refer to. 

A one time Voluntary $50 processing fee is the only possible charge if you follow our preferred instructions.  As a courtesy, we will provide assistance in getting the responses into our preferred format at a fee that reflects our costs and a nominal mark-up.  At this writing those fees are based  upon $25 per hour.  For emphasis, we repeat that you may avoid all required fees by submitting information in the preferred format.  We prefer that you do submit in the preferred form and avoid the $25 per hour charge. In general, it should be less costly for you to do that yourselves.  We do not want any perception that payments to us influence our assessments of programs.  We do not seek to develop assistance in completing the questionnaires into a significant revenue source.

We expect to disclose who pays us what for processing. 

If you want to revise or add to your submission at a separate time, we might invite (not require) an additional processing fee -- not more than $50 and probably less.

Because of these fees, we have begun to remove from the  website statements to the effect that "The only revenue at FamilyLightsm comes from client fees."  We continue to not accept referral fees or commissions or advertising revenue.   But the processing fees are a source of revenue from service providers and we need to update our statement. We do not believe these fees compromise our independence or create a conflict of interest situation. 

If a service provides a response to the questionnaire but not in preferred form and does not wish to pay us to put it in proper form, we will decide what to do with it, and whether or not to put all or part of it or none of it on the web. In such a case we will not regard the submitting service to have responded in full to our questionnaire for purposes of the priority described below.

We say the $50 processing fee is voluntary. Providers that submit it will get priority on processing their responses to the questionnaire onto the web.  There will be no other advantage. In particular we will not favor or disfavor those that do or do not pay the $50 in making referrals or commenting on quality of service.

We will, in some cases, reduce the voluntary processing fee, especially for very small organizations and some (not all) not-for-profits.  The fee is automatically reduced to $25 for stand alone escort / transport teams which function as an independent business, not affiliated with any other organization.  

 FamilyLightsm will generally give priority to service providers that respond to the questionnaire in complete form and keep their submission current.  This means that we are more likely to visit, assess, write about and refer to those service providers who do so. 

Remaining detail regarding our policies on conflict of interest include the following:  FamilyLightsm will accept dollar for dollar reimbursement for travel to visit a school or program to assess it as a possible referral point or for writing a review on the web.  We do not solicit that but we do not refuse it.  We insist that such travel and program visits not include entertainment not relevant to the legitimate purpose of the travel.  We might adjust the timing due to an offer of reimbursement, but we will not refuse to visit a school or program because they have not offered to contribute to travel expense, if that program has placed current complete questionnaire response in our possession.

In a very few instances, FamilyLightsm has provided paid consultation to a school or program we review and/or refer to.  When that occurs, we disclose it if it is in our memory and in all cases if it the paid consultation has occured within the past five years.  Of course, we comply with the IECA "Principles of Good Practice" requirement to disclose any current relationships with schools or programs. 

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Last updated February 22, 2009; minor edit March 26, 2009

 

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