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Archive for September 2011

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Face of clock

New parents often have to wait out the clock until they hear about childcare availability

This month, my daughter turned 4 years old and my son turned 2. In my 6 years of parenting experience (and yes, I certainly double-count the overlapping years), being on a waiting list for childcare was one of the most stressful parts of that experience.

We are fortunate, with two healthy kids, two employed parents, and a quality childcare center in my wife’s office building. Still, sending your child to daycare rolls up many of life’s stresses into one:

  • Who can I trust to care for my child?
  • How will we make the substantial payments?
  • Will my wife be able to transition back to her career easily?
  • … All that added to a general anxiety about everything that seems to accompany being a first-time parent

Added to that list is the uncertainty of it all. We were on a waiting list as soon as we were expecting. Still, as the end of my wife’s planned maternity leave, with a new project starting at work, we still did not know when we would have a spot. It could be tomorrow, or months from now. Although childcare is expensive, so is not working. We needed a solution.

Ultimately, we lucked out in a couple of ways. We found a trusted neighbor who was out of work and had childcare experience. She provided our daughter with excellent care for about a month until we got word that a spot would be available.

Waiting = Stress!

As I have come to know other parents and the managers of my childcare center, I have come to learn that I am not alone. The process is stressful for everyone. This is especially true for childcare center managers who have to communicate daily with stressed-out parents, often 100 or more of them!

That is why we started BumbleBee. We can’t do much about actually providing care, but we can do something about stress. Many of the headaches for parents or caregivers come from managing information… parents want to know where they stand and managers want a handle on the whole picture. Doing so with paper, spreadsheets, phone calls and emails is tough on everyone.

We think there is a better way.

Top 10 Quotes about Childcare Waiting Lists

Daycare waiting lists are the norm for quality learning centers. It’s a fact. Teachers know it, parents know it and directors own it. There have been a lot of articles in the press highlighting the situation. Here is a collection of the most poignant quotes and articles about day care waiting lists:

  1. “The center won’t list couples who are just thinking about pregnancy.” Early Childhood Focus (2008) – Sheesh. Thank goodness that parents can draw the line somewhere about when they should get on a waiting list.
  2. Supplies to Organize a Daycare
  3. “After you are on the waiting lists, call each facility periodically to keep your registration current and update your contact information.” The Wall Street Journal (2010) — I can still hear the echo of the collective sigh of thousands of day care Directors when I read that nugget.
  4. Read more

Sizing-up Child Care Waiting Lists

Minimizing Waiting list Anxiety

We have been talking to parents, teachers and child care center managers about waitlistsBumbleBee Paper Cutout these past months. The top thing we learned is that waiting lists are stressful for parents, teachers and care center managers. Compounding the problem, managers and teachers have to juggle “age-outs”, transitions, and attrition. Multiply this by numbers of classes, time-slots, after school care, etc., and you have an equation that would make your high-school algebra teacher’s head spin.

Experienced daycare managers take wait-lists seriously. They keep logs, organize binders and build sophisticated spreadsheets to manage waitlists and age group transitions for potential and current students. It’s amazing how many of the directors we spoke with gracefully juggle the ages and maturity of dozens of students in multiple classes without picking up a pencil. Most can say precisely when they will have a spot available for a new child. (One director we talked to with over 20 years experience said she puzzles it out on the commute home, in her head!)

Nurturing Relationships Not Databases

Much of the software available today for assisting child care managers are very good at what they are designed to do: manage invoicing and billing of tuition. Today there is only token support for managing waiting lists in products that are focused on providing accounting databases. This is also why so many people resort to building their own mission-control-like, complex spreadsheets and wooly mammoth-size binders for managing wait-lists. “Houston we may have a problem…”

We think there needs to be more focus on helping teachers and directors manage and predict the operations side of their learning centers as demand for high quality child care continues, including waitlist management. We believe there is a large opportunity to assist day-care and education centers in providing quality child care.

Please comment freely with your thoughts on day-care waiting lists!

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