Whether you are an entrepreneur who has a passion for childcare that strives to gain the necessary expertise, or a trained professional with years of experience already under your belt, opening a daycare center will present challenges.
Child care is a demanding profession. Before going down the path of opening your own business, caregivers should reflect to make sure they are prepared for any obstacles ahead, and that they are choosing this field for the right reasons. Considering questions about the logistics of your operation, financial goals, and your motivations are a helpful way to do this. At Procare, we strive to provide aspiring child care professionals with the necessary tools they will need to build a stable environment for their students to thrive.
5 Questions to Consider Before Opening a Daycare
Before opening a child care center, you need to identify what your mission is. To help with that, we have outlined a collection of five questions for you to consider before opening a daycare.
1. Do You Enjoy Being Around Children?
This question requires more than just a yes or no answer. There is a “why” portion that will help you decide if opening a daycare is right for you. Young children are developing, and they require structure and attention to continue on the right path. If you are impatient or rigid in your routine, opening a daycare might not be for you.
Not only do you need to enjoy being around children, but you should be passionate about their learning and development for opening a daycare to be a wise business decision.
2. What Role Will You Be Playing in the Daycare?
How you plan on structuring your daycare and how involved you anticipate yourself being in the day-to-day operations must be a factor in determining if opening a daycare center is right for you. To provide the children in your care with positive experiences and a healthy environment, you will need to perform in your role, whatever it may be, to the best of your ability. Similarly, surrounding yourself with qualified and able individuals who share your passion for child care will drive the success of your daycare.
3. Are You Ready to Provide What Children Need From Their Daycare?
Answering this question goes hand in hand with the previous one we outlined. Knowing what children need from their daycare, and more importantly, what parents expect from a daycare, will help you identify the optimal role for yourself at the center, as well as who you will want to work with and hire. Providing for children is a demanding job that requires particular expertise and patience that isn’t exactly common.
Structuring your daycare from top to bottom will help reach those expectations. This includes curriculums for the children, development for staff, and a business plan to keep it all running.
4. What Are Your Financial Goals?
Opening any business can be a financial burden at first. There are a slew of costs that come with opening a daycare, including property renovations, staffing, and licensing, among others.
The reality of opening a center is that you need to get it off the ground and keep it running to create the impact on young lives that you strive toward. For that reason, this question has multiple layers to it. Basing your financial goals on the market and creating a business plan is essential. Consider what the demand is for another daycare within your community, and how you will separate yourself from the local competition.
5. How Will You Differentiate Your Daycare?
Opening a daycare is a worthwhile venture if done correctly, but just like any business, your competition will drive demand and expectations. If nearby daycares have lengthy waitlists, your daycare can fill that void. From there, your daycare will need to distinguish itself from the competition. It could be your facilities that stand out, your educational requirements for staff, or your hours of operation. Whatever it might be, your new daycare will come up short if it promises to deliver on something as important as early childhood development and flops.
There is a laundry list of questions that you should consider answering while kicking around the idea of opening a daycare center. Ask yourself if the passion for helping children during their early developmental stages is at the top of that list.
Learn how Procare helps child care providers run successful daycare centers.
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Daycare centers are nothing without the caring staff that run them. A committed staff of instructors ensures your child care business can thrive, as staffing is of critical importance to daycare owners, parents, and children.
As a business owner, you need these qualified professionals to provide high quality care to the students that attend your center every day, as well as to ensure your center is meeting state licensing requirements for student-teacher ratios.
Staffing is also critical to enrollment, as parents will be assessing the level of care their child can receive, ensuring that staff is qualified and available to provide their child individual attention. Also, children build a trust and relationship with the caregivers they interact with each day, meaning a level of consistency is important.
How to Optimize Your Daycare Schedule
There are a variety of reasons why keeping an organized, informed daycare schedule is integral to the long-term success of a childcare center. As daycare centers plan out staffing schedules to ensure consistent care and sustainable hours for staff, while maintaining a reasonable budget, here are essential tips to consider:
Track Daily Attendance
To ensure your daycare is not spending money unnecessarily, it is important that only the required number of staff is scheduled each day to meet student-teacher ratio requirements. This means that staff will need to have some flexibility, as there may not always be the same number of children in attendance each day.
For the most part, your center will be able to establish its peak hours and schedule staff accordingly. To do this, centers need to keep accurate attendance logs. Each day at check in and check out, have parents record the exact time their child arrived and left. From there, you will be able to determine when you will need to schedule more staff. Make sure to do this for each enrollment cycle, as peak and off hours may shift.
Once these hours are established, try maintain consistency with the day’s and hours you assign to each caregiver. This will help them plan their week, and will ensure they are available when needed. It is also a good idea to have a staff member on standby, in case there is unexpectedly and greater number of students.
Track Employee Hours & Off Time
Of course, there will be time when your staff needs to take time off or is sick. It is important to try to track planned vacations and other employee off time so that schedules can be altered in advance. This will save you from scrambling to find a substitute at the last minute.
Keeping employee records for hours and off time will also help you to accurately calculate payroll.
If hours change, someone calls in sick, or more children are dropped off than usual, your center should have a central hub for communication so that all staff remain updated and on the same page. When leaving coverage up to individual staff members, centers risk being understaffed or having too many employees arrive for the shift, which is inconvenient for them and you. Having a central email or central document can ensure this does not happen.
In addition to providing a more manageable week for your staff, it is important that there is a level of consistency in your scheduling for the children at your center. It is important for children to develop a relationship and comfort with their caregiver. Therefore, centers should try to ensure that the same instructors are paired with the same children each day when able.
Having a consistent organized daycare staff schedule is integral to running your business as well as to the happiness of your staff, parents, and children. Following these tips will ensure your center is always properly staffed, meets ratio requirements, and remains within budget.
Learn how Procare can how you track staffing and daycare schedules.
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Sign in and sign out time, when parents drop their children off in the morning and pick them up at night, is a standard, but critical daily aspect of a childcare provider’s day. It is one of the first things they do in the morning, and one of the last things they do at night. Though it may become routine and second nature, morning and evening sign in/ sign out provides insight into daily operations, while ensuring the safety and security of each child.
Tracking attendance on sign in sheets gives childcare providers a record that helps calculate full-time equivalency, manage staff scheduling, and keep track of the number days a student has attended, as well as late pickups, to assist in accurate billing.
In addition to administrative records, attendance tracking with sign in sheets can also help ensure the safety of each child, giving caregivers visibility into where each child is, and when they arrived.
At Procare, we want to provide all of the tools necessary for childcare centers to be as successful as possible. To this end, we have created a number of free downloadable childcare sign in sheets and templates to assist in both administrative functions and child safety.
Download Blank Childcare Sign In Sheets
Below are links to downloadable daily, weekly, and monthly sign in sheets, as well as daily, weekly, and monthly roll call sheets.
In addition to sign in sheets and attendance forms, Procare also offers free childcare registration forms, meal tracking forms, and bus run sheets to childcare providers.
Childcare sign in sheets have a place for the parent, or authorized pickup person, to sign or initial the drop-off/pickup time.
Daily Sign In Sheets
This sheet provides a space for each child’s name, the time they were checked in and checked out, as well as a space for their parent or authorized guardian to sign, including room for additional comments.
This sheet provides the same standard sign in sheet format, with extra columns for centers that may need to check children in and out twice per day (such as before and after school programs).
This sign in sheet allows for two sign ins/ outs a day, with a space for the child’s name, when they checked in, and their guardian’s signature.
Weekly Sign In Sheets
This standard sign in sheet provides a space for guardians to sign each child in and out with an additional space for comments, in a Monday – Friday weekly format.
This sheet provides the same features as the standard weekly sign in sheet, but in a landscape view that allows extra space for guardian signatures.
This weekly sheet allows each child to be signed in and out twice per day on a Monday-Friday weekly basis.
This weekly sheet allows each child to be signed in and out twice per day on a Monday-Sunday weekly basis.
Monthly Sign In Sheets
This monthly sign in sheet provides a space for each child to be checked in and out on a monthly (31-day) basis, with an additional space for guardian signatures.
Download Blank Childcare Roll Call Sheets
Roll call sheets are for a teacher or staff member to mark which children are in attendance each day.
Weekly Roll Call Sheets
This weekly roll call sheet allows daycare instructors to track the attendance of each student on a 5-day weekly basis.
(Separate AM & PM)
This weekly roll call sheet allows daycare instructors to track the attendance of each student, with separate sections to take attendance in the morning and afternoon, on a 5-day weekly basis.
This sheet allows daycare instructors to track the attendance of each student on a 7-day weekly basis.
(Separate AM & PM)
This weekly roll call sheet allows daycare instructors to track the attendance of each student, with separate sections to take attendance in the morning and afternoon, on a Monday-Sunday (7-day) weekly basis.
Monthly Roll Call Sheets
(5 Day Weeks)
This monthly sheet helps childcare instructors to track attendance on a monthly basis. This sheet includes space for five 5-day weeks.
(7 Day Weeks)
This sheet helps childcare instructors to track attendance on a monthly basis. This sheet includes space for five 7-day weeks.
Attendance tracking is a necessary part of running a successful and safe childcare center. However, it can be difficult to stay organized while communicating with parents during pickup and drop-off and engaging with the children. With these daily, weekly, and monthly sign in sheets from Procare, childcare centers have everything they need to track attendance in a consistent, easy to manage format.
Get all of the childcare forms your center needs from Procare.
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The child care billing process at your daycare, preschool, or after school program can be a complicated and time-consuming operation. With staff looking after kids and planning lessons, and busy parents running out the door, it is easy to lose track of billable care hours for each student and any additional fees that may be accrued.
It can even be a challenge to track down parents and guardians to collect their checks or payments. However, having a consistent cash flow is key to running a successful business, which means that no matter what, time has to be made to organize and collect payments from parents.
There are a lot of considerations that go into the child care billing process aside from collection. Child care providers have to thoughtfully choose their billing rates and structure based upon a multitude of factors, as well as come up with a system to track payments, fees, and credits.
How to Manage Child Care Billing
To simplify this process for child care providers, here are some top considerations and tips for child care center owners as they build out their billing protocol.
Setting a Child Care Rate
Setting the price for care at your daycare center can be tricky. Center owners must find the right balance of what is reasonable for parents, and what is required to keep the center running and providing high-quality care.
It is important to remember that many parents will plan their child care budget out far in advance. Therefore, increasing your billing rate, though sometimes necessary, can be a major inconvenience for parents. That said, it is important that providers be as thorough as possible when pricing their services, to avoid unforeseen price hikes in the future.
First, when mapping out your child care billing rate, factor in how much your space and materials cost. To earn a profit, the payments from each family have to cover the cost of your space, utilities, and supplies such as snacks, games, and crafts for the kids. When assessing these costs, keep in mind seasonal expenses such as the cost of heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer.
Of course, this money will also have to cover payroll for your staff. The number of instructors centers have to employ will depend on the number of children, and the required student to teacher ratio. As such, center owners will have to keep a record of enrollment numbers as well as tracking enrollment projections to ensure they are not overstaffing, resulting in greater expenses.
Finally, owners must also factor in the prices charged by other care providers in their community to ensure their prices are competitive, as well as the average income in the community to ensure they are not be pricing their child care out of range.
Determining Billing Frequency
When it comes to payment structure and how often parents will have to pay, child care centers have many viable options. Among the most popular are weekly, monthly or tiered, which is based on attendance. This might mean paying a flat monthly or weekly rate, or paying on a weekly or monthly basis for the hours of care accrued. A daily tiered, or stepped up rate, means different flat rates for up to a certain number of hours, after which the rate increases.
When deciding how often to bill parents, it’s important that it aligns with how often you pay bills and staff; to ensure your payment structure will support your business on a monthly basis. For example, if you plan to pay staff twice a month, but collect from parents at the end of each month, this could present some issues. To ensure a stable billing structure, you will have to align your enrollment, how often you pay staff and bills, and how often you want to collect from parents.
Tracking Child Care Billing
Regardless of the billing structure chosen by individual child care centers, the most important aspect of billing is that the center is adequately compensated for work on a regular basis. This means keeping track of the number of hours each child attends the center, tracking fees for late pickups or additional costs such as field trips and class outings.
For child care centers to continue to run and be successful, it is necessary that these costs are accounted for, and paid in a timely way. Conversely, maybe your center offers discounts to families that have multiple children enrolled. When tracking costs, it is important that you are as accurate in billing as you want parents to be, so be sure to have a system in place account for these discounts.
Tracking payments manually can be time consuming, and leaves room for error. Child care management software can automatically track billing, while integrating with attendance tracking systems to ensure billed hours are accurate.
Furthermore, statements can automatically be emailed to families to help them track their own finances, while serving as a reminder that their payment is due. The software automatically tracks all transactions and instances of cash leaving and coming into the center, providing center owners with updated reports to ensure the financial needs of the center are being met.
With Procare, child care centers also incorporate automatic billing through Tuition Express. This allows families to pay from their computer or mobile device, or setup recurring payments. This is both convenient for families, and ensures your center is paid on time every time.
For child care providers, high quality child care is always the number one priority. However, neglecting the business and financial aspects of your child care business jeopardizes the ability to provide this car one a regular basis. With child care billing software, caregivers can be sure that their billing and accounting are taken care of, allowing them to spend more time with their kids.
Learn more about streamlining the child care billing process 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.