We conducted an analysis of all communications received from patients or their families by the director of a pediatric emergency department over a three-year period, during which approximately 150,000 visits occurred. Communications were characterized as complaint or compliment and subclassified by type: waiting time, staff attitude, quality of medical care, and billing. Chi 2 analysis was used to identify factors that predisposed to complaint or compliment and to identify the subtype. After quality-of-care issues, complaints stemmed most often from billing issues or waiting time for care for nonurgent disorders (especially medical problems), while complimentary letters most frequently addressed staff attitude and quality of care. The problems that we identified might be addressed by providing families improved access to non-emergency department care sources, education regarding the role of an emergency department, and better explanation of billing procedures during the registration process. Additionally, our findings serve as a reminder that many parents appreciate the care given to their children, particularly for life-threatening emergencies.