child care center
Professionals seeking to pursue a career in child care or daycare management are motivated by their passion to improve the lives of their students. In order to do this, it is important that these individuals have a strong understanding of the developmental needs of children, how to communicate with their families, and how to ensure kids’ health and safety while in their care. This understanding helps child care professionals establish an integral trust between themselves and the children they care for, which ultimately fosters stability in kids’ lives.
There are several qualifications that aspiring professionals in the child care field must meet. These requirements can vary based on state licensing regulations, or the requirements of the school or daycare center. In order to be successful in this field and reach the level of responsibility desired – whether a teacher, daycare director, or daycare owner – candidates must complete various courses and trainings that qualify them to provide and contribute to:
- A safe, healthy learning environment
- Quality curriculums that promote child development and parent involvement
- Business operations and administrative tasks.
Typically, to acquire accreditation in these areas, child care professionals will have completed degrees in early education or elementary education, or pursue continued education degrees in daycare management.
In addition to these classes and course work, daycare management professionals are often required to have their Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, or Child Care Professional (CCP) certification – these are two of the most commonly recognized and required daycare management certifications. These programs can be rigorous. The CDA requires prospective candidates to have completed 480 hours of experience working with children within the last five years, as well as 120 hours of formalized child care. CCP certification requires 720 hours of experience, and 180 hours of training in nine specific areas of care.
Successful Daycare Management: Training, Courses, & More
These certifications, as well as many daycare management education courses and programs, focus on providing enrolled care professionals with the following core competencies.
Create a Safe, Nurturing Learning Environment
It is essential that daycare providers have the skills to keep children safe and healthy, while still encouraging curiosity and exploration. While pursuing daycare management education, providers will learn how to create this environment.
Care providers should assess the space from a child’s perspective, looking for hazards or items that might cause accidents, such as sharp edges, or uncovered electrical outlets. Caregivers must also be careful with how they store food and medications. If children require medicine, caregivers should store it up high, behind a lock. If there are any allergies, food will have to be stored accordingly to ensure there is no cross contamination.
In addition to safety measures, daycare providers must create welcoming centers that encourage early childhood development with age appropriate games and toys, as well as child sized chairs and tables, natural light, and ideally an outdoor area.
Promote Development Through Curriculum
The primary goal of any child care provider is to educate their students. Courses in daycare management teach providers how to build out programs that promote development across all core functions such as cognitive, physical, emotional and social skills. This will include creating customized plans by age group, from infants, to toddlers, to preschoolers.
In addition to teaching daycare providers how to plan these nurturing curriculums, a strong daycare management program will also help to develop the skills needed to observe and evaluate each child’s developmental progress. This ensures the highest quality, individualized care, as instructors observe and alter plans based on the pace of each child’s growth. Furthermore, these trainings will help daycare instructors create plans for parent engagement, for how to best communicate and build relationships with families to align learning.
Business and Administrative Operations
In addition to preparing child care professionals for day-to-day child needs, daycare management training will also prepare professionals with the business and administrative knowledge to direct a daycare, or to open their own daycare. Individuals in these management positions are in charge of the administrative tasks that keep daycare centers running.
This means tracking employee training and licensing requirements, billing and payroll, scheduling, expenses, and more, to ensure that that center is profitable. Daycare management courses will often include sessions on how to automate these processes with daycare software, and how to choose the best child care software for your center.
To achieve a well-rounded daycare management education that informs high quality care, caregivers need training in three core areas of operating a successful child care business. When searching for the program to get this training, child care providers should maintain the three core areas listed above as a basis for their continued daycare education and training.
Learn about how Procare’s child care management software supports daycare administrative tasks.
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The first day of a new year or term at your child care center is both exciting and hectic. As a child care provider, chances are that as this day approaches you are busy getting the supplies you need, organizing daily daycare schedules for each class and age group, and coming up with activities that will engage and develop your students.
However, in addition to these child-focused preparations, there are a lot of logistical tasks that must be taken care of before the children arrive on their first day. When parents drop their children off on their first day at your child care center, they need to be assured that you and your staff are fully prepared to care for their child’s needs, and that they will be secure in your care.
As a result, they are required to fill out multiple child care forms for you and your staff to have on hand. In addition to child care forms, there are multiple personal items that parents should bring on the first day to ensure their child is healthy and comfortable while away from home.
The First Day of School: Child Care Forms & Other Items
Keeping track of all of the forms, information, and additional items that parents need to bring on the first day can be difficult. To make this easier, the Procare team has outlined a list of everything a daycare provider needs before the first day of the school year, including free child care forms and templates for child care providers to download and use.
This form should include personal and medical information for the child, as well their parent or guardian’s information. Child care providers should give parents plenty of time to fill this out, and arrange any doctor’s visits that might be necessary.
It’s important that the form includes information like the child’s birthday, medical information, and allergies. This ensures that arrangements can be made to accommodate each child’s health needs prior to the first day. For example, if a child has a peanut allergy, you might choose to make your care facility peanut free.
Following information on the student, this form should include the names and contact information, including home, mobile, and work numbers for primary and secondary guardians. Finally, this form will include the best person and number to contact in the event of an emergency, as well as any other people the guardian wants to authorize to pick up their child.
Child care providers have to know where each student is while in their care. That’s why attendance tracking sheets are necessary to manage each child from the moment they are dropped off in the morning until they are picked up at the end of the night. To account for this, child care providers will need daily sign-in sheets, roll call sheets, and bus run sheets.
Daily sign-in sheets can be filled in each morning by parents as kids are dropped off at school, while roll-call sheets can help you keep track of attendance between activities, such as if your care center has outdoor time during the day.
If your child care program uses a bus or another transportation system to pick up and drop off at the beginning and end of each day, daily bus run sheets can help you and your staff ensure each child is on the correct bus, gets on and off safely, and meets their guardian.
Child care meal tracking sheets are especially important if your child care center relies on the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) which requires centers to track how many meals are claimed at your centers. Aside from CACFP, tracking the meals each child eats during the day is an important part of reporting to parents at pick up. Tracking what they ate during the day will inform what they are served that night, while helping to notice strange eating patterns that might be indicative of health issues.
As these forms and the information stored on them need to be easily accessible at all times, and often on the go, a child care management software can provide value through offering accessibility and automation.
Other Items to Suggest for the First Day
In addition to having all of the necessary registration paperwork completed, there are a few other items you might want to suggest parents bring on the first to ensure their child is comfortable:
It is a good idea to have parents bring one or two sets extra clothes, as well as a smock for painting. Kids can be messy especially during crafts, outdoor play, and at meals. Having clean clothes will ensure your child is comfortable. Additionally, it is a good idea to have parents bring seasonal supplies, such as hats, mittens, and scarves in the colder months, and sunscreen when its warmer.
Depending on your child’s age, you may want to send them to their daycare center or after school program with a specific formula or snack. Make sure they also have their bottle or sippy cup.
Finally, have parents bring one or two comfort items that will help their kids feel more at home in their new environment. This might be a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or a picture of your family.
Make sure everything you send in with your child is labelled with their name, as they can easily lose track of their possessions.
As the first day of your child care program approaches, it is important to make sure you have everything you need to ensure each child is comfortable and safe. Following this checklist will give you the material you need to stay in touch with parents, track child check-in, check-out, and attendance throughout the day, and help your student to feel more at home while in your care.
Looking for even more child care forms? Access all of our free and printable templates here.
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Child care providers wear many hats. To children they are teachers, caregivers, entertainers, and confidants. To parents they are needed support, trusted helpers, and a resource that can report on their child’s development. To their business and colleagues, they are all of the above and more, as they tackle the day-to-day administrative tasks that go along with running a successful business. Filling all of these roles can be a challenge, which is why many child care providers turn to child care management software to help automate the administrative tasks that take time away from interacting with students and parents.
There are many distinct advantages to incorporating software solutions into your child care business for both staff and parents. Staff can rely on these tools to replace their time consuming, manual methods of bookkeeping, check-in, data collection, and scheduling, as well as to offer a greater level of organization to their hectic day. Parents appreciate the convenience that these tools provide to pay their child care centers easily from their mobile devices, and get daily reports from instructors about their child’s schedule and development.
Software solutions will be especially important as child care programs increasingly cater their services to millennial parents. Currently, 50 percent of millennials are mothers and 71 percent of them work outside the home. Millennial parents have been defined by their use of technology to run their lives and will certainly be looking for programs that can offer mobile-friendly solutions to manage their child’s lives as well. Offering a child care management software at your center is a distinct advantage.
While the benefits of child care management software are clear, what is more difficult to understand is which to select, and which will work best for your business. There are five key considerations that program directors should keep in mind when selecting the best child care management software for their business.
1.) What are your business goals and needs?
To identify which features your solution will need to have, you will have to start off by identifying the pain points at your center. A good way to do this is to talk to staff about which administrative tasks are taking up the most of their time, and where they think automation could most benefit the program. You might also consider speaking with some of the parents to see which features they think would be most helpful. From these conversations, make a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. This list will start to narrow down possible vendors, and will guide you moving forward.
You will also want to consider who needs to be able to use the software, and where. For example, if your staff needs to be able to update schedules or look up emergency contacts while on the go with students, a solution that does not offer a mobile application will be taken off your list.
2.) What is your budget?
Next to required features, the software price compared to your budget will be the greatest indicator of the solution you will ultimately choose. If you find a solution that satisfies everything on your must-have and nice-to-have list, but well exceeds your budget, it is not a real contender. This will assist in narrowing down your list of potential options. Make sure you request written documentation about any added or recurring costs that might be tacked on to the upfront cost of the software. For example, will there be an additional cost to have regular access to the support team, or to get your staff trained in how to use the software?
You will also want to ask about how their payment options are structured, and if there are any discounts or package deals available. For example, if the child care software provider bases their payment structure in terms of modules, you can purchase the module that addresses your most drastic needs, then add on the nice-to-have feature modules when your budget has grown.
3.) What is it like to use the software?
Once you have narrowed your software search down to a few vendors, you will want to request a demo of the product so you can see its interface and usability first hand. This is an important step to selecting the right product, because you have to make sure that the software you choose will actually be adopted by employees and parents. If the software has the features you need, but has no cohesive user interface, or is just generally confusing, you run the risk of purchasing and implementing a software that your staff does not actually want to use, reverting back to their previous manual methods. During the demo, make sure you can see yourself using the program, and that there is an obvious flow to how it works.
4.) What kind of support is available?
If your business relies on the services provided by your software solution, and something goes wrong, a feature isn’t working, or you have a question on an update, is there someone you can talk to who can resolve your issue in a timely manner? A strong support team is an important feature to look for from a software provider. When talking with the vendor, ask questions about the support available, ask to speak with a support representative, and ask if there is a support site or online resources you can consult.
In addition to learning about the support team, you should also ask about the history of the company. How long have they been providing this service, and where does their knowledge of the child care industry come from?
5.) Talk to existing customers
At this point, you have likely narrowed your list of possible child care management software providers to a few options. One final step before making your decision is to ask to speak with existing customers. Talking with current customers can give you an unbiased view of the providers strengths and weaknesses, and how they would rate their overall experience with the provider. Ask questions about how their implementation went, if any issues arose, or how the product has been received by staff and parents. This can give you a good idea of how the rollout will go at your child care center. Additionally, the customers you speak with might be using the solution in a way you had not thought to, giving you ideas of how to further optimize your investment.
Implementing a child care management software can offer distinct advantages in terms of maximizing your staff’s efficiency and engaging with parents. However, choosing the best software for your child care business can be overwhelming. Following these guidelines can help to streamline your approach to ensure you get the features and usability you need, at a price that fits your budget.
Learn more about comparing child care and daycare software with the software comparison checklist.
Starting your own daycare center can be both exciting and daunting. Many of those who choose to pursue this step in their career do so out of passion for helping children develop and reach their full potential.
While passion and child care experience are musts when opening a daycare, it cannot be overlooked that child care and daycare centers need a solid business plan. Therefore, the opening of your daycare center must be approached with a careful strategy in place to ensure success in the early make or break years. This combination of a clear mission and a carefully constructed business plan will greatly increase the success of your child care business.
At Procare, we want to encourage and enable child care professionals with all of the tools they need to enrich the lives of their students. That is why we have created this outline of important business needs to consider when starting a daycare center. The following information will provide aspiring daycare owners with direction throughout this challenging process.
The “Why” Behind Opening Your Daycare Center
Starting a business, especially one as demanding as child care, is a huge time and financial commitment. It’s a good idea to examine the reasons driving your decision to open a daycare center, or “your big why.” Make sure you have a clear understanding of the time you will be required to devote before and after opening.
You should also consider your previous child care experience. If you have been in this field for years and know it is what you want, then you can move on to the business planning stage. However, if you have relatively little experience in the field, it might be prudent to gain more experience at an independently owned center or even franchise. Think about why you want to open a daycare and the specific attributes that make you uniquely qualified for this filed.
Assessing Your Market
Once you are committed to opening your own daycare center, you will have to do research to determine how competitive a marketplace your community currently is, and how sustainable an environment it will be for your business in the future.
First, are there already daycare centers open in your community? If so, you will want to look at things like:
- What kind of center are they?
- What age groups do they accept?
- Where are they located?
Another good indicator of the need in your community is whether these child care centers have waiting lists. This information can help you determine if there is enough demand in your community to open you center there.
Another research strategy is to look at the current demographics in your neighborhood. If there are a lot of young families or newlyweds, this indicates that there will continue to be a need for your services in the future.
Differentiating Your Daycare Center
Once you are familiar with the current child care landscape in your community, you have to think about how you will differentiate your program to fill a need not currently being addressed.
Look at the hours of operations for the other centers in your community. Perhaps there is a timeframe early in the morning or late in the evening during which these centers are not open. Filling this need could make your center a valuable resource for parents.
Additionally, if there is an age group that is not being served, such as daycare for infants (newborns to a year) or after school programs, your center could establish a foothold by filling these needs.
Bonus Tip: Talk to parents in your community to find out what they need most from a daycare, and aim to address these needs at your center.
Once you have done this initial research into whether your daycare business will be viable in your community, you have to begin compiling a comprehensive business plan that maps out your objectives and the strategies by which you will bring them about.
Child Care Center Business Plan Checklist
Here’s a checklist recapping some essential steps of putting together your child care business plan:
- Competitor matrix
- Financial Planning: Funding and budgeting
- Location of your business
- Staffing needs
- Licensing requirements
- Materials, equipment, and program agenda
Bonus Tip: As you go through creating your business plan, it is a good idea to mark down important deadlines and milestones on a calendar. This will ensure you have an accurate timeline for how long planning and preparations will take, and a strong estimate for when your business will be able to open.
There are many legal regulations to consider when opening your center. License requirements are typically determined by states, and therefore will vary based upon where you live. You will have to make sure your business is in compliance with these regulations by acquiring the proper licenses. Child Care Aware offers a licensing resource that directs you to the proper licensing authorities by state.
It is important to note that child care licenses and business licenses are not the same. You will likely have to acquire separate business licenses and child care licenses to legally operate your business.
Starting a business is financially demanding. For your endeavor to be successful, it is essential that you accurately assess how much it will cost for you to open the center, determine where that money will come from, and then budget and plan to ensure your financial structure will sustain your business as it gets off the ground.
During this process, you should consider initial expenses, and how much it will cost to run your business on an annual and monthly basis. Consider how much you will pay your daycare staff, what your tuition structure will be for parents, how late fees will factor in, and how much property rent / cost is in your community.
Potential Costs of Opening a Daycare Center
A few examples of the costs associated with opening a daycare center are:
- Property renovations
It is important that you don’t begin the business process until you know how it will be paid for. This is money can be accrued from a variety of sources including your personal savings, loans from friends, loans from the bank, government programs, or grants.
It is important that you keep track of your expenses and cash flow for multiple reasons. First, it will help you to track and pay back any loans in accordance with the agreement you made with the lending party.
Second, tracking cash flow ensures that you don’t overspend, or create a payment structure that will jeopardize the financial stability of your business on a month-to-month basis.
To be aware of when money comes into and leaves your center monthly, you should be tracking: the number of tuition payments you get per month, how many times a month your center pays employees, how many enrolled children you are permitted to have, and how many of those slots will be filled.
Bonus Tip: Doing these calculations by hand leaves room for error, so we recommend a child care accounting solution that will track financial information for the center and the families you serve, as well as tracking bookkeeping, tuition payments, and cash flow.
Choosing a Location
The first thing to determine when choosing a location for your daycare center is if you want to run the center from your own home, or in a commercial space. This will affect your expenses and licensing requirements.
The location of your daycare center will be subject to many licensing regulations, including building safety, zoning, physical space requirements, emergency preparedness, and more. Many of these are to ensure that the environment in which you run you center is healthy and secure. This includes things like proper waste removal and having fire alarms.
Two important location licensing requirements to keep in mind are zoning and physical space requirements. Zoning refers to a permit from the proper authority that allows you to run a business, or be zoned for business. The physical space regulation refers to the requirement that child care centers must have 25 square feet available per student. Therefore, you have to keep in mind that the size of your space will determine how many students are allowed to enroll.
For parents to feel comfortable leaving their children at your center and confident that they will get the developmental stimulation they need, you staff has to be well trained and experienced. Additionally, you must have enough instructors to provide quality group and individual care, as well as meet ratio requirements.
When hiring staff for your center there are three key features to keep in mind:
- The student-to-teacher ratio
- Licensing requirements
The student-to-teacher ratio refers to the number of instructors that must be present based on the number of and age of the students. The National Association for the Education of Young Children provides recommended ratios based on age and group sizes.
Staff Licensing Requirements
Professional certification requirements and licenses vary by state; however, child care providers are often expected to have a high school degree or secondary degree. Common certification requirements are the Child Care Professional certification and the Child Development Associate certification. These require a certain number of hours of experience in different child care fields.
You should also make sure that your staff has training in safety courses such as CPR and first aid, as well as how to asses and document child development to report to parents. Child care instructors can provide important information to parents about where their children are developmentally, and where they may need individualized attention. That is why it is important to have reporting and parent engagement processes defined at your center, to simplify communication between caretakers and parents.
Bonus Tip: The interview and review process to find the perfect candidates for your center can be time consuming, so you will want to start the hiring process at least two months prior to the opening of your center.
With financing, licensing, location, and staffing researched and prepared, you are almost ready to open your child care center. Final steps will be getting the necessary equipment and supplies, and setting an agenda for your daycare programs. You will need kid sized tables, furniture, and cots, as well as toys, crafts, and games. You will also need cleaning and administrative supplies.
When setting the agenda for your program you will want to establish routine daycare schedules for each age group. These schedules should incorporate activities that promote early child care development in major areas such as cognitive, emotional, and physical development.
As you get to know your students better, you will be able to cater the activities and learning programs to their specific interests.
The processes and planning that go into starting a daycare center can be overwhelming. However, with a defined mission and strategic business plan in place, it can be a successful and worthwhile endeavor. Following the guidelines above will give you the structure you need to build a thriving daycare center with an environment that fosters healthy, happy kids.
Looking for ways to automate and organize administrative and business functions at your daycare center? Learn how Procare can help!
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How do I find the best child care and daycare software program for my needs?
Choosing child care management software is an important investment of your time and financial resources. It requires research and careful consideration of the following items:
- Define your Goals: Which administrative tasks do you want to tackle? What parts of your center need improvement and streamlining? How can software simplify the management of your business?
- Features: Based on your goals, ensure the software includes the most essential modules and can grow with your business… Family Data, Family Accounting, Attendance Tracking and Employee Data are basic essentials which should be included in any package.
- Pricing: Make an educated choice based on value not just price. The smart decision will be the one that meets your goals and yields a return on your investment. Does the software include functionality to save time, money and improve operational processes? Be sure to get a complete understanding of cost, fees and contract obligations.
- Consultation: Knowledgeable software consultants will help you determine how you’ll benefit from automation. Being experienced with daycare and child care management issues, including billing and accounting, your consultant should clearly understand your goals and needs.