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.
Want more tips on how to run a successful child care business? Check out these related articles.
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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Creating and adhering to a consistent daycare schedule is essential to running a successful child care center. This is important for both staff and children for four key reasons. First, these schedules ensure the necessary staff is available to provide group supervision and individualized care. They also establish daily routines for young children, and help to build trust between each child and their caregiver. Finally, consistent daycare schedules make it easier to clearly monitor and encourage child development.
The Importance of a Consistent Daycare Schedule
From a staffing perspective, having a consistent daycare schedule in place ensures that each team member understands what resources will be required for the day. It’s essential to know which activities are planned for each age group, how much supervision is required, and if any children require individualized care. This will ensure there are enough staff members to meet required child-to-staff ratios, and provide quality care.
Aside from simplifying operations from an administrative perspective, following a daycare schedule is necessary to establish order in children’s lives. Parents and caregivers should establish this regularity as early on as possible. These routines remove unknowns from children’s daily lives that cause undue stress. A reliable daycare schedule helps to regulate behavior, as children know what to expect at each part of the day. This understanding and consistency makes kids more confident and bold in pursuing their interests. Schedules also help children build an understanding of patterns.
Furthermore, being provided for regularly will build an essential trust between the child and their caregiver. Following routines ensures that children know their caregiver will be there to address any needs that arise. This knowledge fosters stability and builds the comfort level the child feels toward their environment.
Finally, a regular daycare schedule makes it easier to encourage and monitor each child’s development in critical areas, namely: emotional, social, language, cognitive, physical, and motor skill development. A defined schedule helps instructors incorporate activities and exercises to foster this early development. Instructors can then coordinate with student’s parents for the best course of action based upon their developmental progress.
With these benefits in mind, we’ve built out some examples of daily daycare schedules for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, to help daycare owners build quality programs.
Infants are typically categorized as newborns to one year old. A little more flexibility is needed within infant daycare scheduling, as it will largely be based around their biological schedule of when they need to eat and sleep.
Toddler Daily Schedule
Toddlers typically range from ages one to three years old. As toddlers may be new to daycare environments, it is a good idea to encourage parents to incorporate some of this routine into their kid’s daily lives at home as well. This will establish normalcy and make sure their kids do not feel overwhelmed by the change in routine.
Preschool aged children typically range from three to five years old. As you get to know your preschoolers’ interests and personalities better, it is a good idea to plan some activities or projects that encourage and stimulate kid’s individual interests.
When it comes to running a daycare center, consistency is key. Having an established schedule that addresses major developmental goals, even if the specific activities vary day-to-day, allows for the highest quality care. Also, having a consistent routine allows instructors to monitor each child’s progress, and coordinate with parents on daily care plans.
Procare’s Family Data solution assists daycare providers on a daily basis, acting as a central hub for important student information, and student and teacher scheduling. Within Family Data, instructors can monitor each students schedule, ensure proper student-to teacher ratios, and account for any individualized attention a student requires within their day.
Additionally, by incorporating KidReports classroom management and parent engagement, parents and caregivers can communicate with each other directly every day to give daily reports on daycare activities and schedules, as well as to share pictures, and more.
Having a daily routine can foster comfort, trust, and confidence in young children, while developing their core physical and cognitive skills. By building out daily, age appropriate schedules, daycare providers not only simplify their administrative and staffing tasks, they also ensure happy, healthy children, and engaged parents.
Looking for more information on how to simplify your daily daycare schedules? See how Procare can help.
It is a common practice in many countries for parents to enroll their young children in early education programs. There are many factors that motivate parents to leave their children in the care of education professionals for a portion of the day outside of school hours. A common reason for this is scheduling. If both parents work, it can be hard to provide the stimulating, nurturing environment children require. This is one way after school programs can be a valuable resource to parents.
While it is, of course, important for parents to know their children are safe and being cared for while they are occupied, this is not the only reason they will enroll their kids an after school program. These programs offer active, social environments that can greatly benefit early child development.
Parents expect after school programs will offer a curriculum of activities that promote early child care development to keep their children on track, and developing at the right pace for their age. In order to create an after school program that incorporates all of these important elements, providers must understand what early child care development is, and why it is important.
In this post, we’ll clarify exactly what we mean by early child care development, explain why it’s important, and provide some ideas and activities for provider to more successfully promote it.
What Is Early Child Care Development?
Early child care development is the educational foundation children receive between birth and eight years old, which can have a lasting impact on their performance in school and professionally for years to come. These programs give children the opportunity to develop greater social and cognitive skills among other children and adults. Successful programs promote emotional, linguistic, cognitive, physical, and motor development.
Why Is Early Child Care Development Important?
Early development initiatives make for happier, healthier children who are better equipped to have success in their education, professions, and relationships.
Over one million neural connections are formed every second in the first few years of a child’s life. Social and emotional abilities developed through the activities and interactions experienced in early education assist in the formation and development of cognitive skills. This lays the groundwork for further brain development moving forward.
Early child development initiatives are also important because experienced childcare professionals are able to closely monitor their students to ensure they are developing at the proper pace. If it appears that a student is not learning or moving at the same rate as their classmates, instructors can coordinate with parents to give the student individualized attention in that specific area.
Seeing each child interact with their peers gives early educators a unique perspective for how to best monitor and enhance their development.
10 After School Program Activities to Promote Early Child Development
To ensure children get the most out of after school programs, the activities offered should facilitate their development in one or more of the fundamental areas previously mentioned (emotional, linguistic, cognitive, physical, and motor development).
We’ve outlined ten ideas and the specific developmental functions they augment to help busy childcare providers better manage after school programs. With this information, early educators can ensure the highest quality care, as well as happier, healthier kids.
Emotional and Social Development
These areas of child care development require children to learn impulse control, form positive relationships with kids and adults, and how to articulate and respond to their emotions and the emotions of others.
1. Mood Charades: This is a fun, active way to teach kids what different emotions are, and how they are often physically expressed. Write out different emotions so that each student gets the chance to act out one or more emotion. A few examples are hopeful, confident, nervous, etc. Have kids raise their hands when they have a guess as an additional way to incorporate impulse control.
2. Inside Out: The recent movie Inside Out is a valuable resource for educators to teach children about emotions, impulse control, and social cues. Watch the movie with your class and come up with discussion questions using the characters and their actions for examples to help kids understand how they should respond in similar situations.
Language Skills Development
These skills help kids understand how to communicate with others by recognizing what words mean, articulate thoughts, and understand communication and direction from others.
3. Perform Skits: Acting out everyday scenarios using descriptive language and talking through each action you are performing can help students learn normal conversation patterns and social cues in everyday situations. For example, have a “dinner” or go on a picnic. While sitting around the table or have the kids describe their favorite and least favorite things to eat.
4. Guessing Games: Being descriptive can help kids better understand the meaning behind speech. Put students in pairs and give them an object, scene, or person to describe and have the other students guess until they get it correct.
Cognitive Skills Development
Cognitive skills help kids to reason, focus their attention on a task, and remember past activities.
5. One of These Things is Not Like the Other: Dolphin, Whale, Crab, Cow. These kinds of games help kids discern patterns and understand how things associate. Bring in props, like stuffed animals to give visual examples. Then have students explain their reasoning behind their choice. Cows are not aquatic, so they are not like the other.
6. Hide and Seek, Simon Says: These games help kids develop their problem-solving skill, in addition to expanding their attention spans and focus, as they concentrate on the rule of the game and completing a specific task.
This refers to developing the large muscle groups that allow children to perform large physical movements, like walking down stairs, or running.
7. Races: Have students compete is small races doing different movements such as hopping, skipping, or jumping to a certain point. These different types of movements will improve their balance and coordination.
8. Freeze Dance: Put on a song for the students to dance to. When the music stops, they have to freeze and be perfectly still. This is a fun and active way to improve balance.
Motor Skill Development
Motor skill development refers to the smaller, more detail-oriented tasks done with your hands, such as writing, or tying a shoe.
9. Art Projects: Doing art projects like drawing with chalk, sculpting something out of Play-Doh, or cutting out shapes with scissors is a good way to strengthen kid’s hands and fingers, and make them more self-sufficient when performing smaller, more delicate tasks.
10. Building Blocks: Another way to facilitate the development of fine motor skills is building with smaller blocks or Legos. Give kids a specific design or shape to make and have them build it by piecing together each properly shaped block.
When parents enroll their children in after school programs, they trust that a professional staff is giving them the mental and physical stimulation they need. Because of the lasting impact early experiences have on children, it is important that the curriculum of these programs is designed to foster and monitor early development to ensure children are on the right track. By following these examples and targeting these areas of development, childcare providers ensure a fun curriculum that will make their students happy and healthy.
Looking to simplify your after school program operations? Learn how Procare can help with everything from enrollment and scheduling to payments, billing, and more.