Possible New Policies in Childcare

Possible New Policies in Childcare

We’re experts at building software, not politics.  So, we can’t prognosticate about the likelihood that any of these changes is enacted or whether they should be.  But, if changes in government programs could happen, we thought it was worthwhile to understand what those changes could look like.  Here’s our analysis:

 

During the presidential election campaign, the Biden campaign included on its website several proposals for childcare.  The proposal builds on the proposed Child Care for Working Families Act sponsored by Senator Murray and Congressman Scott.

 

 

Universal Pre-Kindergarten

Both proposals include provisions to provide federal funding and state requirements to offer pre-kindergarten for all 3- and 4-years old children.  Importantly, the most recent proposal includes a provision that would allow existing preschool providers to participate in this program, meaning a private or non-profit provider could qualify for funding just like a school district, for this program.  What we think this means is that current providers of preschool and childcare for 3- and 4-year-old children will need to ensure that they’re compliant with the program – namely with respect to tracking and reporting attendance, incidents, and learning assessments – and will need the ability to invoice government agencies for reimbursement.  It likely also means that many parents who pay for care for children in those age ranges would switch from private paid to government paid, or some combination of the two because it’s likely the government funding will only cover a portion of the day.

 

Refundable Tax Credit

Both proposals include a provision that would provide a refundable tax credit to families in an amount equal to what the family paid for childcare in excess of 7% of the family’s income.  This would increase the need for childcare providers to give parents accurate and timely tax statements.  Perhaps more interestingly though, it also makes childcare more affordable for families without reducing tuition which suggest some families who do not have children in childcare today may be able to afford it and/or families may be able to expand the use of childcare with an existing provider.  This trend should be a big positive for the industry because it would increase utilization without reducing tuition.

 

Bonus Payments

Both proposals include provisions for bonus payments to childcare providers in certain circumstances.  The bonus payments would be in addition to subsidy payments or parent payments.  The circumstances envisioned include care during nontraditional working hours and care for children with special needs.  We think these bonus payments would make programs more financially viable.  For example, bonus payments for care during nontraditional working hours would allow a school to pay teachers more during those hours, attracting staff while maintaining profitability.

 

Extend CCDBG Funding to Afterschool

Both proposals include a provision that would allow Child Care Development Block Grant funding to be used for after school care for children up to the age of 13, rather than just for preschool age children.  This would likely allow for expanding enrollment in after school programs.  It would require those programs to track attendance and have the ability to invoice state agencies that distribute CCDBG funding which are likely capabilities most after school programs do not have today.

 

 

As we said at the beginning of this article, we’re not political experts, so we don’t what, if any of these changes will be enacted.  We hope that our summary of the most likely changes and the implications those changes would have for your childcare center or after school program is helpful.

 

 

The Ultimate Guide for Childcare Businesses: Accepting Electronic Payments

The Ultimate Guide for Childcare Businesses: Accepting Electronic Payments

It’s not uncommon for many childcare businesses to accept only checks and cash. With so many childcare-specific problems to solve on a daily basis, it’s incredibly easy to procrastinate on the bigger picture items. While some centers have progressed a bit and might have a credit card reader in their center, which is a great step toward convenience for the parents, that may not help the director much at all. Additionally, as the millennial generation becomes the majority of the “parent” demographic, they expect to pay for childcare as they do everything else: on their phone.

 

Having payment system that is integrated into your family data means that you spend less time doing administrative work and spend more time with your teachers and students.

 

It’s truly a win-win for everyone. It may seem overwhelming to analyze your options, decide on a solution and switch all of your existing families to a new process. Change can be difficult, especially when you have tens or hundreds of parents to get on board.

 

In this guide you’ll learn why in this day and age, electronic payments are not just a feature that’s nice to offer, but a must-have. Then, we will dig into how to find the best solution for you and how to implement the change for existing and new parents.

 

 

Why should I accept electronic payments?

 

 

Save Time

 

As a childcare director or owner, you spend a lot of time doing a variety of things in your center. We’ve found that the largest amount of time is usually spent staying on top of billing parents and accepting payments. Your business has to accept payment to run, so this is a top priority out of necessity.

 

There are childcare management solutions out there that allow parents to pay via a mobile app, update their payment method, view their bill and access their statement history. This amounts to hours each week that you can spend elsewhere, growing your business and making it run efficiently, instead of focusing on these day-to-day tasks that can weigh you down.

 

Ensure Accuracy

 

Eliminating a human hand from the mix means that you’ll be reducing the risk for human error.

 

Let’s face it: everyone makes mistakes and each mistake is time (and potentially money) directly out of your pocket.

 

Using a system that can generate a recurring invoice each period, automatically charge the parent’s card or bank account, and adjust the balance accordingly, means less math for you.

 

A great system should also allow you to credit or adjust bills as needed or even split bills between divorced parents or automatically adjust a bill for a child who receives a state subsidy. All you should need to do is run reports to check or view data when you need to see it; not spend hours daily checking your own work.

 

Parents Expect It

 

Millennials are now the main demographic having children and searching for childcare. This group has had technology for their entire adult life and spends hours each day on their mobile phone. According to Pew Research Center, 93% of Millennials own a smart phone. Gen Z, the generation behind them is the first generation who has grown up with social media.

 

These groups are used to convenience. Everything from groceries to furniture is purchased with the click of a button. Your business is no exception. If you don’t accept mobile payments, but your competition does, as long as the quality of your services is deemed equivalent, they will win that match up. Meet parents needs by adopting the technology and beat their expectations with amazing service and education for their children (which you’ll be able to focus on now, with all the time you’re saving!)

 

How do I start accepting electronic payments?

 

Find a Solution

 

There are quite a few software solutions out there to help you manage your center. Of course, at Smartcare, we are a bit bias about our technology, but you should find the one that meets your needs. All of the options out there should offer you a demo to begin.

 

A software demo is your chance to scrutinize the solution being offered to make sure it does what you need.

 

Make sure you ask the right questions during your demo, depending on your needs. Here are some ideas, based on needs we hear:

 

  • Does the technology support your billing frequency? (weekly, monthly, biweekly)
  • Does it accept both credit cards and ACH? Do you have to accept both if you don’t want to?
  • Can parents manage their own payment methods?
  • Can parents access their invoices on their own?
  • Can parents enroll in autopay?
  • Can you set up automatic late fees or other fees?
  • How long will it take you to get set up?
  • Are you under a contract?
  • Do they offer a free trial?
  • If you need to charge any fees, accept deposits, etc. make sure the software has a solution for that

 

If you center has any unique situations, make sure to walk through it with your sales consultant. You don’t want to purchase technology that doesn’t solve your problem or makes more work for you.

 

 

Email Existing Parents

 

Once you’ve set up your new software, start by moving existing parents over to the new process. Depending on the size of your center, you might start with a small group (like a class or two) and keep going from there.

 

Email is a nice way to communicate this change to your parents for a couple of reasons. First, you can outline the benefits of the new solution for them:

  • Access your invoices
  • Manage your own payment method
  • View your bill
  • Enroll in autopay

 

Secondly, you can also link to the app that they need to download. As most parents will be reading your email on a mobile device, this allows them to click through and download the app right from their phone.

 

Starting with your existing parents (and potentially a small group of them), is a perfect way to introduce this change as they will be more forgiving as you learn the new software than brand-new parents, who haven’t yet made a judgement call on your business.

 

Keep in mind that any new software will have a learning curve, so while it might be tempting to rip the Band-Aid off and move everyone at once, a tiered approach like this will allow you to make sure you’ve selected the right technology and work out any kinks until you’re running smoothly.

 

Enroll New Parents

 

Focusing on new parents should be your second goal, after you’ve gotten most existing parents using your new software. Here’s where we are going to be just a little self-indulgent. Smartcare offers an online enrollment tool that makes this process incredibly easy. Send a link to parents and they can:

 

  • Enter all of their child’s information
  • Add pick up and emergency contacts
  • Add medical information and allergies
  • Enter a payment method
  • Pay any deposits needed
  • Enroll in autopay

 

This means from the minute a parent knows they want to enroll; their billing is set up with zero effort on your part.

 

Making sure that you have a seamless solution for newly enrolled parents means that you aren’t just saving time with the daily billing and payment tasks, but also on the enrollment end as well.

 

Promote Autopay

 

Now that you’ve got most parents set up and have a process to capture payment method during enrollment, you should optimize the software you chose and make sure you are getting the most payments at the earliest time possible.

 

By promoting an autopay feature you will receive parent’s payments on time and have happier parents because the process is easy and will result in less risk for late fees on their end.

We’ve seen centers get creative here. Maybe you simply send out an email blast occasionally, reminding parents to enroll in autopay, or maybe you offer incentives for enrolling. For example, you might give a small discount to parents to are enrolled in autopay, or maybe the reverse works better: if not enrolled in autopay by a specific date, then there will be a small price increase.

 

Parents will understand that if they don’t enroll in autopay, that means more work for you so typically, this approach makes sense and makes everyone happy.

 

Adopting the plan above is a surefire way to implement electronic payments for your center and make sure you find a great program to work with. If you aren’t already accepting electronic payments or using a childcare management software, hopefully this guide has helped you determine what to look for and understand how to make the change. It might seem like a big adjustment, but once you’ve made the jump you and your families will be grateful for the change.

Request a demo below to learn more about the Smartcare solution.

 

Safety Checklist For Daycares

Safety Checklist For Daycares

Parents and guardians expect daycare providers to make child safety a top priority. It takes more than having a basic first aid kit for the occasional bump and bruise to keep an entire classroom of children safe during the day. 

Our child care health and safety checklist will help you assure parents their children will be safe throughout the day in your care.

 

Location Security

When families drop off their children at your daycare, they need to be confident your center is safe and secure. You don’t need prison-level security, but you do need to have safety measures and systems in place so your building is safe for you, your staff, and the children. 

    • Position security cameras around your daycare center. One camera should face your parking lot, one needs to be facing the front desk, and other cameras should monitor areas inside the center. 
    • Put exterior-locking childproof locks on all doors and windows. 
    • Schedule regular building health and cleanliness inspections.
    • Create a sign-in and sign-out system for visitors and non-family members.
    • Clearly post your federal, state, or local child care center accreditations or certificates where parents and potential customers can see.  

Physical Safety

Children can get into all sorts of trouble during playtime. Your daycare center and playground needs to be as child-friendly as possible to keep them from getting harmed during the day. These safety measures should mostly be put in place before you open your facility, but regular upkeep or maintenance may be necessary. 

    • Regularly check playground equipment for splinters, protruding nails, rusty areas, or other parts that may need repair. 
    • Keep all unused electrical outlets covered with tamper resistant safety covers.
    • Put foam padding on hard floors and put down shock-absorbing material under any playground equipment. 
    • Cover any sharp corners with foam or other soft materials.
    • Keep all electrical cords out of reach of children and away from walking areas. 
    • Keep a gate at the top and bottom of staircases if you’re caring for babies and toddlers.
    • Make sure toys, furniture, and playground equipment are in good condition.
    • Regularly check your center for water damage, cracks and holes in the walls, mold, and pets. 

Emergency Preparedness

Your center needs to be prepared for any natural disaster or emergency situation that may occur during operating hours. How you should handle a power outage, data breach, or active shooter is different than how you should handle a fire, hurricane, or earthquake. Create a plan for each situation so you can keep your staff, yourself, and the children in your care safe no matter what happens. 

    • Keep designated emergency exits clear from toys, furniture, or other objects at all times.
    • Regularly test and replace fire extinguishers smoke detectors.
    • Regularly test carbon monoxide detectors.
    • Schedule regular emergency situation tests and ensure staff are aware of their role in an emergency.
    • Have a strong data security plan in place to keep people from stealing sensitive and personal customer information.
    • Place posters with emergency procedure information around the center. Include phone numbers for Poison Control, Child Protective Services, your local fire and police centers, and a map of the building with emergency exit locations. 
    • Share your emergency plans with parents and let them know what they should do in case of an emergency and how to contact you. 

Health Precautions

The individual health of the children in your classroom is also your responsibility as their daycare provider. Aside from keeping band-aids close at hand, there are other things you should do to make your daycare a safe place for the kids’ physical health. 

    • Keep a well-stocked first aid kit in every room— they should be easily accessible for employees and out of reach of children. 
    • Any over-the-counter medications should be in their original containers.
    • Any prescription medication parents give you for their child should be stored in their original bottle and inside a childproof container. The bottle should be labeled with the childs’ name, pharmacy name, instructions, dosage, and warnings.
    • Have a thorough daycare cleaning plan in place to slow the spread of illnesses. 
    • Make sure staff are aware of any children’ food allergies, and have an emergency EpiPen in case of an allergic reaction. 

From the moment a child steps foot on your daycare premises until they get picked up at the end of the day, their safety is your responsibility. You should revisit this daycare safety checklist on a regular basis to ensure you’re not forgetting any important safety measures. It not only keeps kids safe, it also gives parents peace of mind throughout the day, knowing their children are safe in your hands while they’re away.  

 

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