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Archive for the ‘In the News’ Category

Waitlists Aren’t Just for Big Cities

When we started creating software to manage enrollment and waitlists, we suspected that the greatest need would be in the really big cities. Although common in New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, and other hot spots, waitlists can crop up in nearly any corner of the country (or the world).

Small Town Street, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/waferboard/3964017867/

A recent article on shortages in Tennessee underscores the point. Parents there are getting on waiting lists before conception. There were a couple of interesting take-aways from the article, including:

  • About 295,144 Tennessee children younger than age 6 need child care, with only 183,119 licensed spaces
  • “It’s not that there’s a lack of child care options; it’s that parents perceive there to be a lack of high-quality options.”
  •  One parent “had a Google spreadsheet to track all her options” for infant care.

Lessons for Childcare Directors

When we speak with Directors, we usually hear either “Yes! I have a huge waitlist, please help!” or “I wish I had that problem.” Building demand often depends on circumstance – the area you serve, the economy, etc. However, as the article points out, there are ways to get from openings to waitlists. Naturally, much of it has to do with the programs offered and the quality of care. First, infant care seems to be universally in demand. Second, investing in creating a great curriculum will pay dividends. Even in an area with an overall surplus of care, parents will seek out the best options for educating their young children.

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)

Sudden Childcare Center Closure Raises Waitlist Issues

Sudden Childcare Center Closure Raises Waitlist Issues

reflecting pool jefferson memorial washington monument

A childcare center on site in Washington, DC at the US Department of Agriculture is closing on relatively short notice due to a facility issue. It is causing nightmares for all involved, especially the parents. BumbleBee has talked to a number of early childhood education centers in the DC Metro area who a constrained and maintain lengthy waiting lists.

A few of these quotes from The Washington Post article from parents can make you feel the difficulty they face:

Most places have at least a two-year wait list. We live in Woodbridge, so putting our daughters in day care in that area isn’t possible.

I’m on waiting lists right now that are two to three years. To give parents three to four months is absurd.

Good luck to those families!

Tech Tip: The Childcare Grapevine

Tech Tip: The Childcare Grapevine

No need to set up a deep space antenna on your childcare facility, Google Alerts will do just fine

The director of a small childcare center asked, exasperated, “how was I supposed to address an unjustified review of my childcare center on Yelp when I did not even know what Yelp was…” My first tech tip: breathe. Deeply.

To say that childcare directors wear many hats is an understatement. Directors must manage their center’s reputation. Thankfully there are some easy (and free) tools to help you know when relevant content about your center appears online.

For this, we recommend Google Alerts. Google Alerts scours the web for keywords you want to watch and sends you a concise email daily, weekly or monthly with any developments in your area of interest.

Here is a suggestion for how to configure the five options on Google Alerts:

google alerts childcare directors online

Test keywords to make them not too broad and not too specific. In other words, just right.

Search Query: Choose keywords to keep your alert from being too broad. For example, “explorers childcare northern virginia”. The location information would cut down on the noise if you have a common name in your childcare centers title. (keywords are not case sensitive)

Result Type: Leave it as “Everything”. You can change this later if it sends too much information.

Frequency: We recommend “Once a week” or “Once a month.” It is pretty easy to get saturated with these emails.

How Many: Leave it at “only the best results”

Deliver to: Use your Google account if you have one.

Then click “Create Alert”. This will take you to a management screen where you can edit, test, or remove alerts. It’s easy to setup alerts and it is no cost to you, so experiment and see what works best. If you find yourself getting too many emails, simply go back and delete ones that are not relevant to you or your childcare center.

childcare alerts

Edit and Delete Your Alerts

One caveat, you will not see alerts for member-only sites like Angie’s List* so you will have to deal with those separately. Setting up alerts for your childcare center will help you get ahead of the grapevine to make sure there are no distortions or inaccuracies going unaddressed.

Give it a shot and you’ll be surprised how easy it is.

Are you using Google Alerts already? Can you think of other alerts you could set up for career development or other fun things? How about “awesome discounts teachers childcare directors preschool”? Or maybe you just want to track what is being said about your competitor across town. Let us know what you think!

* Angie’s List provides a free login for you to manage your childcare center’s reputation.

College Recognizes Childcare as Barrier to Higher Education

College Recognizes Childcare as Barrier to Higher Education

Graduation CeremonyA recent story on WAMU, a public radio station, brought attention to the fact that childcare is the factor that will make-or-break plans to achieve higher education. The story profiles Piedmont Community College in Virginia, which is planning to provide care on campus to remove barriers for parent-students.

This story underscores the point that childcare is an important part of our economy, as it enables (or limits) people to learn and work. While researching waiting lists, we have found that on-campus childcare centers are typically in-demand, and have a long waitlist.

Image attribution: The Graduates (Sakeeb Sabakka) / CC BY 2.0

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.

Highlights of NAEYC Annual Conference in Orlando

We had a great time last week at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Annual Conference in Orlando. The energy was intense, with thousands of early childhood education professionals from across the world.

We spoke with well over 200 educators from as far as New Zealand and Lithuania, as well as many who didn’t travel quite as far. Some photos and highlights are below. Enjoy!

Jeff Awaiting the Crowds

Jeff and Ben with buddy Fran in the middle

Jeff and Ben with buddy Fran in the middle

Crowd filing in for the keynote

Crowd filing in for the keynote

We learned new signs from the Time to Sign folks

We learned new signs from the Time to Sign folks

Tons of fun giveaways and prizes

Tons of fun giveaways and prizes

So much energy, even on Saturday morning

So much energy, even on Saturday morning

Would You Track Children with GPS?

Would You Track Children with GPS?

satelliteI recently came across an article about a Swedish childcare center that uses GPS to track children on field trips. Opinions must be all over the map on this one. I can picture some parents I know being horrified at the concept, and others comforted.

This is an interesting case to explore the use of technology to further childcare. At BumbleBee, we tend to focus on more the administrative side rather than direct care technologies, but some of the general questions raised still fit. Let’s explore a few…

Does technology take away from the ‘human touch’?

Direct human interaction is the primary “product” of childcare centers, along with a safe and stimulating physical environment. Some uses of technology may get in the way. However, perhaps staff can focus more on interacting with children if they do not have to constantly count heads.

Is this money well spent?

It is hard to put a price on safety of students. Still, such a system is presumably expensive and might be better spent toward staff. Would it be appropriate even if parents were to foot the bill for their own child?

What do YOU think?

Is this smart risk management or just plain crazy? What would parents, staff or management think about such a system in your center?

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

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