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Archive for the ‘Parents’ Perspective’ Category

Good Gifts Ideas for Preschool Teachers & Directors

Good Gifts Ideas for Preschool Teachers & Directors
A Christmas Story Gift for Teacher

What would your childcare center teachers think if you gave them a lovely fruit basket like this?

I was trying to think of something really good and appreciated by child care teachers, administrators and directors. Here is a list of ideas I came up with.

  • A high quality box of tea – Nothing says comfort food more than tea.
  • Small gift card toward a restaurant – I had a boss that gave me Dunkin Donuts gift card every year and I loved it.
  • Fruit basket – Possibly expensive but a great thing to have around the house when on vacation.
  • Tickets – Lots of great holiday shows happening.
  • Bottle of wine – Not for everyone but easily shared or re-given.

What are your suggestions for good child care staff gifts?

Child Care “Waitlists Are All a Big Sham”

Child Care “Waitlists Are All a Big Sham”

The Background on the Child Care Waitlist Story

child care waitlists parent anxiety

Sometimes the uncertainty is the hardest part of day care waiting lists.

Like most stories involving children and early childhood education, this one has a happy ending. When a friend and new parent heard that we were working on child care enrollment software to help manage daycare waiting lists, she had so many lively insights from struggling to find childcare in Washington, DC, I asked her if I could publish this Q&A.

Our friends – let’s call them Lisa and Jeremy – are proud first-time parents of a beautiful baby who live in DC and work for the US Government. Since both are employed, they are luckier than a lot of people, but they are not exactly spending their weekends sailing their yacht down the Potomac River either. It also may come as a surprise to you, like it did to me, that some departments of the US Federal Government do not offer paid maternity leave. Therefore, when they could not find childcare for their baby, Lisa and Jeremy were faced with taking more unpaid leave than they had anticipated, which created difficult financial as well as career choices.

The Key Takeaways

  1. Keep up the Good Work!– Parents already appreciate your kindness and respect when calling to ask about waitlists.
  2. Keep it Transparent– The more clear the waiting list process is for parents, the more confident they are going to feel about your child care center and your services.
  3. Work Together– If you can help point parents to other possibilities for gap care while they are waiting for a spot at your center, assuming they do not already know of them, please do so.
  4. Connect Families with Local Resources– Please refer parents to resources like NAEYC or your local or state child care referral agencies if your waitlist has no hope.

I spoke with Lisa while she and Jeremy were balancing the joys of being first-time parents with the anxiety of waiting to hear if a spot was available for their four-month-old baby.

The Questions

Q. When did you start putting in applications with early childhood education centers?
A. We started putting in applications almost as soon as we found out we were pregnant. DC’s legendary waitlists are well known among moms. It’s funny because there is this large amount of wisdom shared by parents about daycare waiting list strategies.

Q. What has the process been like for you?
A. It has been very stressful. It’s been over a year since we applied for waitlists and we still have uncertainty about if and when we are going to find a spot.

Q. What is the best way to manage the waiting lists that you are on?
A. We call directors to let them know we are still interested and to find out what they expect about our chances of getting a spot. They are the best resource because they are most aware of when spots are going to open.

Q. How do childcare directors respond to you?
A. The directors and daycare staff have all been really nice. None of them ever make you feel like you are bothering them. Sometimes it is difficult though. Anecdotally, I know friends whose children got in before our baby. Sometimes it feels like the person who happens to call when a spot opens, gets it. That can make me feel like the waitlists are all a big sham. But I know there are mitigating factors like priority for siblings, so it is not always easy to predict.

Q. What more could stakeholders do to alleviate the tight supply of child care?
A. Employers should work with local governments to make sure good regulations are in place and to spur daycare owners to open more centers. The problem seems quite intractable.

Q. What other options do you and Jeremy have for child care if a spot does not come through?
A. We have limited options. Home child cares are very rare in Washington, DC. I have heard it is because of tight licensing requirements. We have looked at nanny shares, but finding a good nanny can be even more challenging than finding care at a preschool.

Q. What advice would you have for other parents who are in the same situation as you?
A. Get on waitlists early. Make sure you follow-up with centers for which you are on the waiting list. If you can find good in-home care through someone you can trust, definitely consider that.

The Happy Ending

Lisa and Jeremy found a spot at a great childcare center in downtown DC towards the beginning of their baby’s fifth month. Aside from the challenges of parent-child separation and restarting work, everything has worked out for the best.

Graduation!

Graduation!
2008-01-08 David Michael Morris via Flikr Mortar Board The Hat Toss 250px wide

“The Hat Toss” by David Michael Morris via Flikr 2008-01-08

This summer is a time of milestones and transitions. My daughter Elise is graduating from Pre-school, and starts Kindergarden in the fall. She has spent about four and a half years in the same childcare center, from when she was an infant who could not so much as crawl, growing up to a big beautiful girl who is starting to read and write.

I am grateful to have had a place for her to grow and learn. The experience has provided many wonderful enrichment opportunities: visiting the fire station, watching the circus animal parade, visiting museums, the zoo, the aquarium, and many many trips to the library. While the experience in school has been great, the experience of getting in was extremely stressful.

Elise was our first. Finding quality care is always important, but with the first child, you feel the full weight of it. We were new to the parenting thing. Having heard horror stories about long waiting lists, we got on a list as soon as my wife was pregnant. Once we sorted out the financial stress of planning 6 months maternity leave, got used to the daily stress of caring for a newborn, and learned how to assemble and disassemble a pack-n-play in under 18 seconds, we still were unsure about the availability of care.

At the 4 month mark, then 5 month mark, we still had no information on when a slot would open up. We called all the time, and stopped by some. As two new parents, we were worried about who we can entrust our child to, worried about impacts to our careers of parental leave, and worried about being able to afford possible alternative care or further extended leave. We had little information, but lots of hope.

Fortunately, our situation turned out great. We did have to find a month of gap care with a wonderful neighbor who was both temporarily out of work and had a childcare background. However, the stress of that time stuck with me, and led to the founding of BumbleBee. Later, I learned that the process can be challenging for overworked childcare administrators as well.

We want to give the tools to childcare centers to help them build better relationships with parents over the entire lifecycle of care, particularly when searching for care. We want to make sure that childcare centers can do a great job of managing family information, whether it is someone just interested in your center, an applicant on the waitlist, or an enrolled family.

When a stressed out parent calls your center, I want you to be able to have the information at your fingertips to provide a professional and accurate response to their crazy, frequent questions. That is what we hope that BumbleBee will do for you.

Avoid Childcare Waiting Lists; Deliver after New Years

Avoid Childcare Waiting Lists; Deliver after New Years
child birthday heatmap 1973-1999

Heatmap of birthday rankings 1-366 Source: NYTimes.com 2006, Harvard University

We were talking to a childcare director that has a 300+ child waiting list at one of their locations. That is a jaw droppingly large number for parents and administrators. Interestingly, they were moving from a rolling enrollment process to a fixed “school year”. It made me think that parents might start adjusting their family planning to maximize their chances on the waiting list.

I had some spare time this afternoon and decided to see if there is a seasonality to births (please, no comments about me needing to get a life). It turns out, there is! The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains extremely detailed data on births (natality). You can slice and dice it by all kinds of socioeconomic data that they collect. See for yourself.

Between 2003 and 2008, children were least likely to be born in February and most likely to be born in August, July and September. Keep in mind, there are 28 or 29 days in February, so naturally chances of being born in that month are reduced.

The CDC does not publish daily data, for privacy reasons, but the New York Times got some data from a researcher who does have access to the daily data. If you were born between 1973 and 1999, the most common birthday was September 16th and least common was January 1st (heatmap above).

In the chart below, I took the probability of being born in any given month as uniform (not a very good assumption given the number of days per month varies) and subtracted the percentage from the total percentage of total births for that month between 2003 and 2008. Not that parents have much choice in the matter, but if you want to be a contrarian, it’s better to be a Capricorn, Pisces, or Aquarius.

Let me know if this rings true for your new children!

Liklihood of Baby Being Born in a Month (US 2003-2008)Liklihood of Baby Being Born in a Month (US 2003-2008)

Children from the City Going to Suburban Schools

Children from the City Going to Suburban Schools

Doing the reverse commute to avoid high tuition and waitlists

This article appeared in The New York Times discussing the tough realities of child development and schooling in New York. In the article, parents discuss making the decision to have their children go from the city to suburban schools. This is increasingly common behavior driven by rising tuition, waiting lists, and fierce competition for spots. My favorite quote “You don’t even have your neighborhood school as a backup because of waiting lists.”

It is fun to think about how BumbleBee’s childcare software could help preschools and K-12 manage their waiting lists to remove some of the stress and pressure created for teaching professionals and administrators in New York.

Child Care Is Expensive, but Is It Expensive Enough?

It costs so much!

Child care is expensive. So very, very expensive.hand imprint art waitlist I should know, as I am paying tuition for two at the moment. What’s more: I am in the Washington, DC, area which is apparently the most expensive place in the country to pay for child care. Let me explain some of the things that I could pay for with that money:

  • Another mortgage (housing is also ridiculous in the DC area)
  • A luxury car, or two (high-end ones at that)
  • College tuition 
  • … anything else $1000+ per kid per month can buy

This is backed up by headlines around the world, some spurred by the new NACCRRA study update:

Yes, but should child care cost more?

Parents I know also acknowledge that childcare staff have an incredibly important, and often challenging job. My wife and I can be exhausted at the end of a Saturday after two of us chase two kids (a 1:1 ratio). Every day, teachers are engaging our kids and many others, with at least a 3:1 ratio of kids to teachers.

If I polish off my Econ minor, I also find the extensive waiting lists at many centers amazing. This is what economists would call “excess demand”, with more people wanting the service than what is available in the market. This would indicate that a rise in price is warranted. (Of course, there are larger issues at play, and affordable child care is critical to a quality workforce).

It is worth it.

Sure, I could in theory drive my Porsche to my vacation home every weekend. That doesn’t hold nearly the value to me as knowing that my kids are being cared for and challenged in a safe environment. Most parents I know feel the same way. Sometimes we have to watch our budget, but we never consider trimming childcare expense.

 What do you think? Is your childcare center charging too little?

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.

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