My apologies. I realized after last week’s article about children left in vehicles, that two weeks ago I promised an article on managing ratios in your child care program. Sorry, I got side-tracked by the ACT info and forgot about ratios for a bit.
So…..ratios. Child care programs live and die by our adherence to ratios. Understaff, and children are left in an unsafe environment which can lead to injuries, poor quality of care, and even closure of the program. Overstaff, and we go broke and have to close the program, no matter how high our quality may be.
Maintaining proper ratios sounds easy to someone who has never tried to write and manage a child care staffing schedule. While many children arrive and depart on a pretty consistent schedule, this does not always happen. Children’s schedules may vary by the day of the week. Staff schedules may need to vary by the day of the week as well; perhaps one of your staff members is taking a class and needs Tuesday mornings off. Dealing with the various contingencies can be quite a challenge.
In order to write an effective schedule that maximizes the staffing budget, a program manager must know how many children are in attendance
- at any given time
- on any given day
- in any given room
- and how many staff members are working with them.
We manage this through an “Hourly Ratio Tracking Sheet” (although it actually tracks every half hour). Every 30 minutes, a staff member in each classroom notes how many children are in attendance and how many staff are on duty in the room. For ease of reference, the sheet notes the ratio for the classroom. It also highlights those times that we may need to be overstaffed; lunch, snack time, diaper change time, etc. Our program manager then looks over these forms and highlights areas in which we are overstaffed. (Hopefully there is never an area in which we are understaffed.) If patterns of overstaffing are found (every Wednesday from 7:00 to 8:00, for example), the staff schedule is modified to use our staff and money more effectively.
If you don’t already have a ratio tracking sheet, check ours out here.