If you already own a Daycare or are considering starting one soon, you'd find this post by Lisette Martins, author of 'Starting a Home based Daycare' quite useful. Answering questions from parents who would like to see their little one settled in a safe and healthy day care can be unsettling, here, Lisette provides tips that can make the process a walk in the park!
One of the more challenging parts about starting a daycare is the interview process. Many new providers (myself included) feel like their whole life and family are on display for judgment and assessment by people who are essentially strangers. This makes them nervous and sometimes it can feel like you can’t be yourself even though this is your home, your business, and basically your everyday life that the will be part of.
Interviewing Daycare Clients from Home Daycare Providers
When you have an interview you may feel like your turning into a completely different person. Not that you are giving a fake version of yourself but you want to put your best self forward and be seen as a professional. Most providers don’t wear even what could be considered business casual, many are t-shirt and jeans kind of people because working with kids is a messy job. But when you have an interview you want to look professional and that generally mean that you should look presentable. Dress up a bit, try a pair of slacks and a logo free shirt even if you are a jeans and t-shirt/sweatshirt kind of provider. We get dirty and messy, some days after the kids leave I catch a glimpse of my self in the mirror and think “oh crap…parents saw this? Yikes!” as I dust chalk off my clothes or clean paint (or baby food) out of my hair. Don’t get me wrong most days I look presentable, every morning I get up early take a shower, do my hair, and dress in appropriate clean/non ripped clothing but as any provider knows by the end of the day you may be just as messy as the kids! Is this what you want to showcase yourself to potential parents? Of course not, so don’t feel like you are giving a false image by dressing up. You’re just showing parents that you take this seriously and that you are a professional.
You also want to make sure that your house is clutter free and as clean as possible. My home doesn’t sparkle everyday (even though I feel like I spend 24/7 picking up and cleaning) as much as it does on interview day. I’m not saying there’s food all over and dirty dishes piling up but some days we’ll do a cooking project or an extra messy art project and depending on when we do it and how messy it is not everything gets put back in the cupboard or wiped down right away. Plus now in the summer my patio usually is a mosaic of chalk, paint, and sand most of the time, all of which I do my best to hose off during interview day because I’ve found a lot of parents consider that “clutter” or think that makes a program “dirty.” I think a big misconception is that you need to have a huge play area full of noisy electronic and educational toys. Honestly I think parents could care less what toys you have as long as your house is clean, organized, and smells good.
The hardest thing for new providers to remember when doing those first couple of interview is that it’s not just them interviewing you, you are interviewing them as well. This is your business and even though you are trying to selling yourself and program to these potential clients you also have to pay attention to what they need and expect from you. Talk with them about what they need and figure out if they will fit with the program that you are offering. Unfortunately not all children or families will fit with your program. Pay close attention to how the child interacts with the parents and how they interact with you or your children if they are present. Ask questions about the child’s current habits, daycare experience, and needs.
You need to evaluate the parents as well. Make sure they are people that you can feel comfortable dealing with. You will have a lot of interactions with them and inevitably you will have to address an issue of some sort (from behaviors to payments) and if you don’t feel comfortable you can easily get walked on. Honestly sometimes the hardest part of this job is the parents. In my own experience and in networking with other providers, it seems to be that the biggest problems come from the parents rather than the children. Things like not picking up/dropping off when scheduled, payment issues, and lack of respect are issues that providers will often terminate clients for so it’s important that you ask questions about what a parent is looking for and are clear on your policies.
In your interviews it you should go over your contract and/or handbook with parents, even if you give them copies to take home. Many times parents will not read all of your contract if you just hand it to them without going over it and that can lead to issues later. Even if they take the time to read it after your interview they may have questions or not fully understand something and you could end up with several confused emails or phone calls you have to answer so it’s best to just go over it with them during the interview. That way down the line there will be no issues when something comes up, they can’t say you didn’t go over it with them because you did. I ALWAYS go over hours, prices, schedules, sickness, holidays, payment and late fees, and any other questions parents have.
Never do interviews during daycare hours or let parents observe. It’s not that you have anything to hide but rather you have other children to protect. Plus you can’t give the interview or the children your full attention. I don’t allow for interviews during daycare hours for three main reasons: the privacy and safety of my current daycare kids, the fact that I can’t give the interview my full attention, and also just because it creates and adds extra stress to the day. The kids get all riled up (and in some cases uncomfortable and scared) when someone new is around, which makes them act up in ways that require more supervision not less.
In all my years of having my after hours interview policy has only been an issue one time. I had a mother that wanted to observe all morning with her child and then stay for nap time to do the interview. No way was that happening because in addition to not doing interviews during daycare hours I also do not allow parents or potential parents to stay and observe their child for extended periods and I don’t allow nap time disruptions. I’ve found that letting a parent stay in the daycare with their child actually does the opposite of helping them adjust. Kids do not act the same when their parents are present and it’s even harder for them to adjust if mom or dad linger because give them a false hope of mom staying all day. I just told her it wouldn’t be a good fit and we both moved on and found better situations for both of us.Interviewing Daycare Clients
Clean your house
Go over contract/handbook
Ask about child (eating/sleeping habits, schedules, temperament, daycare experiences…)
Pay attention to child/parent behaviors
Discuss hours worked by parents and how pick up/drop off will be handled
Be upfront and firm with what you expect, this is your business and is run how you want not how the parent expects or wants.
Don’t negotiate prices or hours; stay firm!
If either parent makes me feel intimidated or uncomfortable. It’s so much harder to stand up for yourself and enforce policies if you are intimidated by a parent. If something just feels off then trust you gut and pass.
If parents are already asking for extended hours, even if they say it’s just occasionally. I’ve found parents that ask in interviews about working around my posted hours, even if they say it’s not all the time, usually end up asking this frequently and get upset if you don’t make allowances for them.
Infants with very part time or inconsistent schedules. In my experience and from connecting with other providers this seems to be a consistent issue. It’s very hard for an infant to adjust, especially if coming from an attachment parenting home, when they are part time. Many cry all day and have feeding/sleeping issues. I’m not saying that all infants will be this way (or that attachment parenting is bad because I don’t think it is) but you should be aware it’s a possibility. This is why its important to ask about sleeping and eating habits. If a baby has to be held to sleep and you have five other children to care for then your program may not work, especially when the child is part time because they aren’t with you enough to get used to your routine.
Remember this is your business and livelihood. More than that it is your everyday life, do you want to put up with a parent you can’t stand? a child for 12 hours? Work a full day for half day price? NO! You are worth more than that!
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