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Why Some Child Care Providers Thrive

Why do some family child care providers in the same area seem to stay full and others seem to always have openings or can't keep clients? There could be a variety of reasons why one provider has a thriving child care and another one struggles.

The need

First, does your area have a high or low need for family child care providers? Or is your area overly populated with other child care providers and centers? Too much competition in the area can reduce your chances of finding new clients. Or you may live in a community that has little need for child care. Location is everything. I suggest to anyone wanting to open a child care business in their neighborhood to do some marketing research first and see if there is a need in that area. Also it is good to see if the area is saturated with providers and centers. If you live in a small community with little population, this can be a downfall too. There are many things to consider.

Fees

Are the fees higher then the average rates for the area? Although we wish parents would consider the quality of the program over the fee, it is a proven fact that fees are the number one factor in a parents decision. If your fees are higher then everyone one else around you, the parent will find quality care with a reasonable rate to go with it. Providers need to do a market analysis of their area and charge a comparable fee...not be the cheapest but certainly not the highest either.

Experience

If you're new with no prior experience, some parents are less comfortable with new providers (for good reason). A lot of providers go into this business for whatever reason and soon quit this business for whatever reason. Parents do not want to worry about the security of their child care. Moving kids from provider to provider is not good for the child.

Neighborhood

Parents will check out a neighborhood as much as they will a provider. Location is another key issue. If the provider lives in a neighborhood with a bad reputation, the parents will not go there. Even if they live their themselves they will often prefer child care to be outside the area with high crime rates and trouble spots.

If you are located in a neighborhood that takes a hired guide to find you, parents will find someone that is easier to find. All those turns, and loops off the main street areas can be confusing and time consuming to get to.

If you live too far away from everyone, or too far from freeways and main streets, parents will find someone more convenient to save time and driving. You can have the best child care in the world, but if it takes too long or they have too go to far to get there, parents will have second thoughts. Again, we would like to think that parents pick quality over convenience, but with the traffic and schedules, parents want less stress, less driving, and closer to home or work. This will be the priority.

Reputation

How is your reputation? Do you have complaints or citations on your licensing record? Parents are becoming more savvy about checking out a provider's licensing record. Parents can be understanding about some indiscretions, but if the provider is not honest with them when they first speak to the parent, it can influence the parents' decision. It looks bad if a parent calls licensing and finds out there are prior issues that you did mention to them first.

Work hard to keep your licensing record in good standing. Everyone has certain regulations to abide by, no matter what state they live in. There is no excuse, as far as licensing is concerned, not to follow the regulations and maintain your family child care according to your regulations. Unfortunate things can happen that are beyond your control. However, it's the things within your control that you must maintain.

Complaints can't be controlled, but always keep a letter of explanation in your file, as an explanation to a prospective parent is your best solution.

Personality on the phone

It is important to realize that your very first interview and first impression is on the phone. How do you answer the phone? Are you answering in a professional manner? Are you quick to get off the phone? Are you helpful to the parent and answer questions with a friendly tone? Remember, they are going to ask questions and it's not out of disrespect to ask anything... so answer them to the best of your knowledge and stay courteous. One of the complaints I hear a lot is that the provider was rude over the phone, or they did not return their calls when they left a message...or the message machine played 3 minutes of silly stuff before they could even leave a message. Remember, these parents are on schedules and they will just to the next provider on their list to call. Sometimes they won't even leave a message because they want to hear a human answer the phone. We know we can't always answer due to the kids, but when you can and kids aren't crying in the background - answer your phone. Those phone calls are extremely important. This is your link to the outside world to get clients. All the advertising in the world won't help if you don't answer the phone, or return phone calls, or are less than professional over the phone.

Your Inside Environment

It doesn't matter what the size of your child care is. It doesn't matter if you have all the expensive fancy new things vs. someone with just regular toys. How your child care is set up and the cleanliness of your home are important things to take into consideration. Parents have chosen homes that were more homey-looking over child cares that looked like mini-centers. Parents choose a particular provider because it fit their needs, philosophy, and it was clean. Walking into a house that is cluttered, unorganized, and smelly will turn away clients. The same goes with the yard. Keep it tidy and free of hazards.

The front of your house needs to look neat and tidy, clean with No trash around the yard, or hazards. You don't have to have a brand new house; any house is fine as long as you take care of it and keep the property looking tidy and clean. I hear from parents all the time about walking into a child care and they could smell the cat box, or urine from the children. They complain about dirty dishes that have been sitting for days.

The Yard

If you have pets or dogs, keep the yard clean. No one wants their child playing a yard mixed with dog feces. It's not only filthy but a health hazard. You can have your dog and child care too, but keeping the yard cleaned up and washed down is a must.

Pets

Some parents don't want their children around dogs or other pets, either for health reasons or fears. This could be a potential problem with getting clients, so take it all into consideration.

Smoking

Most states have made it against the law for providers to smoke on premises during child care hours. If you are a smoker, parents can still smell it on you, and this can be a turn off. If you smoke on the premises, your house will smell of smoke and this is a turn off.

Other people in the home

We all have families but if clients come and it's the local hang out for 10 teenagers, they might not consider this a good environment for their young child. There is nothing wrong with having your child bring friends over, but remember it could affect your business. Don't have your own friends in your home while caring for children. How can you socialize and care for the kids? This is not professional. Nor is it professional if your husband is carrying in the family room with a bunch of buddies watching football. The fact is that you have chosen to do a business from your home and care for kids. We have to maintain a professional reputation and appearance at all time during our business hours.

Transportation

Some providers offer school-age transportation as an extra service, but many parents with younger children will continue their search because they do not want their child someone else's car. You might have to take into consideration what age groups you really want to care for. If you have helpers and you can do transportation without taking the babies and preschoolers along, you have a better chance to get more enrollments. If you offer transportation, but you aren't getting enrollments for younger children, then consider caring for all school age.

Also some providers are doing a lot more running around in the car beyond school transportation. Providers are doing grocery shopping and other errands during their business hours. If you were working an outside job with an employer, you could not be doing your personal errands during your working hours. Don't do these things during your business hours when you are being paid to care for other's children.

Evaluate yourself

If you are struggling with your child care business, evaluate yourself and your environment. Ask yourself questions that parent would ask. Look at your environment the way a parent would look at it. Ask other providers to come visit your child care for some feedback and suggestions. Sometimes a different set of eyes sees things differently. Just remember it is constructive criticism if you do this. There could be a number of other factors not even listed in this article. Hopefully this gave you some insight as to the Why...

By Pat Alexander,
NAFCC accredited provider - Elk Grove, CA
Licensed since 1971