Monday, February 27, 2012

Being an Employer…..I’m Liable for WHAT?

If you have a part-time helper, just one assistant or an entire staff of teachers you are an employer.  Being an employer can involve more risks than we generally realize in childcare.  While we may have a great grasp of all of the licensing regulations, most of us don’t have enough experience in Human Resources (HR).  Sometimes it feels like we need an advanced degree in HR just to get through a hiring process, not to mention, goodness forbid, a termination process.

My company has been an employer for about 11 years and it has always come with a certain amount of drama.    We have learned that no good deed goes unpunished.  Even your best intentions can come with ruinous results.   With that said, it is critical to have solid policies and procedures in place and to use them consistently and without fail as an employer.  Another safety measure is to have some type of legal counsel to call upon when (not if) a question arises.  Another layer of protection for your business is to secure Employment Practices Liability (EPL) insurance.

A few years ago we secured EPL insurance and since then, I have been sleeping more soundly.  Although we have always tried to do what we believed to be right, we are still at risk for an employee to file a lawsuit or other claim.  The employee doesn’t have to be right or accurate to file a claim – but it will cost you money to defend yourself.  An EPL policy can help protect you from claims, whether they are true or false.  

Complaints can come from employees, former employees or employment applicants.  EPL is designed to protect your business against damages for events relating to the workforce, including but not limited to allegations of: wrongful termination, retaliation, harassment, discrimination, defamation and unfair hiring/firing lawsuits.  Complaints filed in relation to these types of lawsuits have been on a steady and rapid rise.  Current court cases are making it easier for employees to be successful in retaliation cases.  

You will want to at least look into EPL policies to evaluate if it will be cost effective for your business (even if you have only 1 employee).  Your insurance broker can most likely point you in the right direction, or click the link below to contact our provider, Slater and Associates, for quotes and guidance.

Monday, February 20, 2012


I live near Oakland, and recently had to find a creative way to get myself and my son home after his hockey game, carefully avoiding the roads that were closed due to protestors from the Occupy movement clashing with local police officers.  While I "get" the basic concept of the occupiers (I think), I would like to see some attention given to research on early childhood education as a remedy for many of the social ills that the occupiers are protesting.

When I was teaching Kindergarten, I had an editorial cartoon hanging on the side of a file cabinet in my classroom.  It showed people picketing on the front steps of the state capitol, with signs protesting that they didn't need to increase funding for education, just build more prisons.  Unfortunately, 25 years later, that still seems to be the unspoken sentiment.  Later, when I worked for Big Brothers and Big Sisters, I heard a bureaucratic speech describing how prison planning is simple when you just take the number of at-risk second graders and age them out 10 years.  

My business partner and I started KidCentric 12 years ago with the hopes of showing companies how child care can be a great social equalizer; provide the custodian's child with the same access to high-quality early education that the CEO's child has.  I still think it's a great concept that could right many of the wrongs in our society.  (Unfortunately, the economic downturn has not done wonders for employer-sponsored child care programs.)  

Research has shown repeatedly that high-quality child care can increase high school graduation rates, decrease incarcerations, and decrease receipt of government financial assistance.  Overall, high-quality child care programs return $7 for every $1 invested.  Certainly seems worthwhile.

At some point, we , as a society, need to recognize that, yes, high-quality preschool is not cheap, but the return on investment shows that it is money well-spent.  Perhaps it's time to Occupy Daycare. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Don't Forget Dr. Seuss

"Roses are red, violets are blue...."  I'm pretty sure we all know that little poem.  (Happy Valentine's Day, by the way!)  But somewhere along the line, it seems like many of our children have forgotten how to rhyme.

In my life other than as the "paperwork person", I am a reading specialist.  It seems that, more often than not, the students who come to me for extra reading support do not know how to rhyme.  So, why is this important?  Understanding onset (the initial consonant or consonant blend of a word) and rime (the vowel and the consonants that follow it) is a critical skill in developing phonological awareness, one of the foundations of reading.  Children do not learn to read words until they first learn to pull apart the individual sounds in a word.  Pull them apart first to get the concept, then learn how to put them back together.

So, what has happened to rhyming?  I have a theory that is, in no way, research-based; just based upon my own observations.  It seems to me that perhaps we are such a "sophisticated" society these days, that we don't need to worry about things like reading Dr. Seuss to our children.  Hop on Pop is cliche; we've all read it a million times.  But have our children?  Books like that are perfect for early readers...or even pre-readers.  Children love books that are predictable and repetitive.  They can learn to "read" them, or at least parts of the books, by themselves.  In doing so, they begin to understand our alphabetic system.  Even more importantly, they learn to play with words by changing the beginning sounds.  Change the /h/ in "hop" to /p/ and you have "pop".  Thus we have the beginnings of onset and rime.

As the child eagerly fills in the words that you leave out when you are reading and come up with other rhyming words that could fit in that same spot, they learn how much fun they can have with reading.  A love for reading will lead to a desire to read more, which will ultimately lead to fluent reading.  In the words of Dr. Seuss, from I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Child Care Program Budgeting

How is your program's financial health?  When was the last time you analyzed your budget to see where your money is really going?  Are you using your money in the most effective way?

A well-written budget can help you carefully assess your program.  It can help you determine if:
  • your parent fees are where they need to be
  • your staff is paid well enough to keep them from jumping to a better-paying job
  • your food expenses are appropriate
  • you are paying yourself fairly
  • you are spending the right amount on program supplies
If you don't already have a solid budget or if you want to assess your current budget and compare it to industry norms for budget expenditures, our "Budget Worksheet" can help.  We have one for Child Care Centers and one for Family Child Care Programs.  Each worksheet includes:
  • budget line item for revenue from parent fees (including a simple revenue calculator)
  • budget line item for revenue from a food program (including a simple revenue calculator)
  • budget line items for care and services expenditures such as food, field trips, and subscriptions
  • budget line items for staffing expenditures, including unemployment and Worker's Comp
  • budget line items for facility expenditures such as rent/mortgage, repair, janitorial, etc.
  • a simple calculator for food program expenses
  • a simple time-space calculator for Family Child Care provider tax purposes
  • industry norms for budget percentages to help you compare your expenditures to other programs
Especially when money is tight, making sure that your budget is correct is critical.  It can be the "make it" or "break it" for your program.  Be sure that you are giving it the time it needs, and deserves.