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.
Hugging a teddy bear can help kids feel braver when it comes to getting a shot. And while they may have to endure a brief moment of pain in the name of good health, at least they don’t have to deal with the hassle of keeping track of immunization records and paperwork. Truth be told, neither should you.
As a child care professional, chances are you’re familiar with the recommended immunizations for young children and you’re careful to make sure every family brings in the child care immunization records for their children before they can attend. Next on your list is the question of how to efficiently keep track of all the immunization requirements, due dates and child history.
How to Track Child Care Immunizations
To help you simplify the paperwork, here are some essential features to look for in immunization tracking software to keep your immunization records up-to-date.
Flexible Immunization Schedule
In order to track when the next immunization is due, you’ll need a way to define the schedule of required vaccinations. Since each shot requires a different schedule, you’ll want the child care database you choose to be flexible. For example, one immunization may have multiple doses due at specific ages, another may be due every 12 months, and a third may be due so many months after the last one, rather than at a specific age—such as when children are on a make-up schedule.
Allow for Exemptions
Children may be exempt from certain vaccinations for a variety of reasons.
- If they’ve already had an illness, like chickenpox, the immunization (such as varicella) may no longer be necessary.
- A child might have an exemption due to family philosophical or religious reasons.
- Combo-vaccinations are another reason for exemptions. Families might choose (or their pediatrician might recommend) individual shots or a vaccine that combines multiple immunizations into one. Therefore, you’d need a way to exempt children from the “individual” shots or vice-versa.
- An age exemption is another possibility. For school-age children you may not be required to track immunizations that apply to younger children.
One final thought on exemptions: you’ll also want a way to indicate the reason why a child is exempt.
Alerts When Immunizations are Due
It’s good to know when an immunization or other requirement (physical, etc.) is due, but it’s even better to get advanced notice of when it’s coming due. In other words, you’d like the parents to know ahead of time, so they’re able to make sure they have the necessary doctor’s appointments arranged.
You may also want a way to:
- Easily see on your director’s screen when immunizations are due or coming due.
- Let parents see immunizations that will be needed soon, at the time they check their children in.
- Generate reports and lists showing immunization information.
Beyond knowing what’s coming due, you’ll also want an efficient way to track the history for each child. In other words, what dates did a child receive each vaccination in the sequence? Typically, this information should be available on an immunization history report.
Making sure the kids attending your child care center are up to date with their immunizations is necessary to ensure the health of every child in your care. However, when the year gets underway and your schedule fills up, it can be easy to lose track of the multitudes of paperwork that go along with immunizations records. To mitigate these challenges and manage health records, child care centers should employ immunization tracking software with a degree of flexibility and customization that allows them to account for each child’s needs.
Learn how Procare can help you better keep track of family health information at your child care center.
Interested in learning more about managing health information at your child care center? Check out these related articles.
- Immunization Tracking – Looking Forward
- Tracking Child Allergies – Part One
- Move Daycare Records to Your Smartphone, iPad, etc.
Recently an article was posted at Edutopia.org asking an important question. Where have the little red wagons gone? The story focuses on a first grader, Katy, who loves to twirl and wear her favorite rainbow poncho. The problem is she also has an IEP folder that is over an inch thick.
That’s all for today. Until next time, cheers!
If you have questions or comments about this article (or suggestions for another article) I’d be pleased to hear from you. Drop me at note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you manage multiple locations for your child care business, you may know that ProCare offers a Multi-Site version of its Child Care Management Software. Multi-Site allows corporate, or other centers with various locations, to manage them all from a central office or at each individual location as needed.
Sometimes you may need to look up a family, child, or employee, but you don’t know which site they belong to. For example if you receive a check from Mary Smith, but don’t know which location her child attends. Or, perhaps you have more than one Mary Smith and it’s not clear which one she is. Problem solved! ProCare has a utility (see image) you can run to look people up by searching across all Multi-Site locations. There are two ways to get this time saving utility. Continue reading
Another good question recently came into our ProCare Tech Support email:
When I do a “Count” of Active families, the number seems to include siblings who have previously withdrawn. Is there a way to exclude withdrawn siblings so the Active count displays only the number of children who are currently enrolled?
It turns out this is a fairly common question; one to which there are a couple of different solutions.