Tuesday, May 28, 2013

National Child Care Standards

Earlier this month, I attended a meeting and was seated next to a couple of child care providers who are from Australia, but recently opened a program in the Bay Area.  They were expressing their amazement (and disappointment) in our child care system as compared with the system in Australia.  In Australia, there is a nationwide set of standards for child care.  Here, not only does each state have its own requirements, but certain issues like use permits, zoning, parking, etc. varies from county-to-county and even city-to-city.  I hadn’t really thought about our system in this respect before, but this lack of uniformity does make it very difficult to start a new child care program.

One place where I have had grave concerns about our lack of consistency is in the overall quality of care.  When my husband was leaving the military, I was researching possibly starting a child care program in the state to which we would be moving.  As an employee of the military child care system (which is excellent), I was shocked by the lack of requirements for child care in the state that was about to become my new home.  They were practically non-existent.  However, I saw that other states had pretty stringent requirements.

I am encouraged by the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) new initiative to establish some national child care standards.  (Without getting into the political discussion of whether they are the proper agency to make such a move.)  Unfortunately, these national standards will only apply to subsidized child care programs; but it’s a start.  While I do believe that local agencies should retain the right to determine some standards, I think there are some things that must be absolute minimums.  Requiring basic health and safety standards, background checks of all who care for children, and basic pre-service training (like our New EmployeeOrientation) are “must’s”.  

You can find the HHS initiative here.  They are seeking public input on their recommendations.  You have until August 5 to give them your opinion.  I’m sure they would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

When to Update with the R&R

Are you a child care provider with a goal to run a high quality and FULL program?  Have you been wondering why parents are not knocking down your door?  What are some of the complaints that you have heard about your program?

These are all very important questions to consider when you are trying to run a business with a good reputation in the community.  How do potential families find out about you?

One of the ways that potential families will learn about you is through your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency.  These vary widely throughout the US, but in many locations the R&R can be your best source of marketing for your program.

Most R&R’s try to keep a dynamic data base that is up to date at all times.  Their attempt to do this however, might not always be entirely effective.  Did you know that you can and should call your R&R any time your program changes.  When are some of those times?

  1. Obviously, when you have an opening – and even better, if you have a parent who gives you the standard two-week notice.  This gives you a great opportunity to call (or log into) your R&R and update your information.
  2. When you start a waiting list – a waiting list is actually one of the things that smart prospective parents look for in a provider.  If other parents are clamoring to get in, maybe I should too…..  Be sure the R&R is current on if you keep or have a waiting list.
  3. If you change or add the ages that you will care for. 
  4. If you change your hours of operation – especially a great marketing opportunity for those of you who provide non-traditional hours of care.
  5. If a family pet has passed away and you no longer will have an animal in your home.  This can be a BIG issue for many parents.

There are other times you should get in the habit of updating your profile with the R&R as well, but these are some of the majors.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Allergies Rising

The Centers for Disease Control recently released a report on “Trends in Allergic Conditions Among Children”.  This report analyzes data gathered on children in the US from 1997–2011.  Their key findings are:
Food and skin allergies increased in children throughout the 14-year period.
  • Food allergies increased 1.7% from 3.4% to 5.1%.
  • Skin allergies increased 5.1% from 7.4% to 12.5%.
  • The incidence of respiratory allergies did not change significantly.   However, respiratory allergy, found in 17% of children, is still the most common type of allergy in children. 

Skin allergies decreased with age while respiratory allergies increased with age.

  • Food allergies did not change with the age of the children.
  • Skin allergies decreased with age; 14.2% in the youngest children and 10.9% in the older children.
  • Respiratory allergies increased with age; 10.8% in the younger children and 20.8% in the older children.

Implications of race (identified as Hispanic, non-Hispanic black, and non-Hispanic white):

  • Hispanic children had lower rates of food (3.6%), skin (10.1%) and respiratory allergies (13.0%).
  • Black children were 5.4% more likely to have skin allergies than white children (17.4% vs 12.0%).
  • White children were 3.5% more likely to have respiratory allergies than black children (19.1% vs 15.6%). 

Implications of family income level (identified as less than 100% of the poverty level, between 100% and 200% of the poverty level, and above 200% of the poverty level):

  • The incidence of skin allergies did not change significantly as family income level changed.
  • The incidence of food and respiratory allergies increased as family income level increased.

Food Allergies
Respiratory Allergies
less than 100% of the poverty level
between 100% and 200% of the poverty level
above 200% of the poverty level

Increasing allergy rates equate to increasing risk for child care providers.  For our children and our programs, we must make sure that we have policies and procedures in place to identify children with known allergies, detail how to respond to an allergic emergency with these children, and to handle situations in which a child has their first allergic response while in our care.  If you don’t already have a plan that covers allergies, check out our Food Service Policy.


Jackson KD, Howie LD, Akinbami LJ. Trends in allergic conditions among children: United States, 1997–2011. NCHS data brief, no 121. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2013.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Marketing Your Program Through Kindergarten Teachers

Marketing for child care can be simple in some ways and tricky in others.  Driving around town (I live in a very small town on the border between Washington and Idaho) I see various child care signs.  Some of them are simple….ABC Childcare 123…..or a cute name with a picture on the sign.

When I was looking for child care for my children I knew all of the resources to use.  I was well versed with the local child care resource and referral agency (R&R) – not only because I understand R&R’s and know what they do….but also because the local phone directory accidentally listed my business as an R&R…that took a few months to fix!  Yikes! The number of calls I received was huge.

But, beyond calling the R&R and asking the typical things, like ages served, hours of operation, etc.,  I wanted to know which programs had good local reputations.   I asked my friends, I read the signs (and crossed those with misspellings in their signs off my list) and called the providers so I could take a tour and meet them.  I also asked for their references (former parents from their program who would be willing to talk to me).

Another thing I did was contact our local elementary school.  I spoke to the Kindergarten teacher and asked her which preschool/child care program were the most Kindergarten-ready children coming from.  She told me that she had never been asked that question, but she readily had an answer.  Since Kindergarten-readiness was my top criteria, I enrolled my children in that program.

If you don’t know the local Kindergarten teachers, you might just want to go introduce yourself and find out if they think your students are Kindergarten ready!