Feb 16

It’s a big decision to go into business for yourself, and when it’s a child care center you’re considering, it doesn’t take long to realize how much goes into setting up shop. Below, we’ve put together a few key considerations as you embark on what’s sure to become a very fulfilling venture.

Be sure you know your community’s needs! Too many times, child care providers move forward, unsure of what the needs are in their respective communities. For instance, do the school doors not open until 7:30 a.m., but many parents need to be at work by 7 a.m? If so, it’s crucial you provide a solution for these parents. Ask around – you’ll be surprised at what you can discover.

How about your fees? It’s important that you find that happy medium between charging too little and charging too much. You want families to be able to afford your services, but charge too little, and they may believe your low prices have something to do with what you’re lacking. Check around and then price appropriately. Also, every child care provider we’ve ever spoken to says to avoid the flat rate weekly fee. Infants require much more than older children; it’s absolutely appropriate to charge according to age.

Never underestimate the importance of documenting everything. We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: contracts, policy manuals, expectations, revisions, changes – put it all in ink. And then get it signed and ideally, notarized.

Another key issue many underestimate is the power of marketing. Rest assured, there are many ways you can easily and successfully market your business without blowing your budget. This previous post goes a bit more in-depth with some of the tried and true ideas.

Also, and this is a new tip for us, many day care providers will contact the local schools and will prepare a brief package that introduces the facility. In it, business owners might provide copies of all the appropriate licensing information, testimonials of satisfied parents, contact information and sometimes even a pricing sheet. This way, parents who approach the school’s office in search of suggestions for a reputable child care provider, the school need only provide your packet (if, of course, you made copies for the school to give out).

Finally, and this is perhaps the most important aspect of starting your new business. You must ensure the employees you hire are worthy of working with children on a daily basis. Do your homework and be sure appropriate background checks are conducted. This is one area you simply cannot afford to cut corners on.

Have anymore great ideas for new child care business owners? If so, drop us a line or leave us a comment – we’d love to hear from you!

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Jan 16

Many child care providers across the country ask themselves what they can do to make a better environment for the children in their care. They know they spend a significant amount of time with these children – at a time when their intellectual growth is thriving. After hearing many child care providers say they wish there were more opportunities that would a.) not take them away from their child care businesses and b.) provide accurate information so they can better do their jobs, we set out to see what was available.

The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies is one with which Alpha Cares is familiar with. It offers an affordable membership and with that membership comes tons of invaluable information (and access to much of it doesn’t even require membership). It’s a one stop shop for all things child care related. There is much research and data compilations to be found here, various publications, including a full report of The Economy’s Impact on Parents’ Choices and Perceptions About Child Care, state fact sheets and much more. The fact the agency focuses on both child care providers and families is significant.

There is also information for those wishing to provide more training to employees. Director training seminars are available as well as statistics for both providers and parents wishing to discover more information on their communities. Further, because each state has its owns compliance laws, it makes available those data as well. Clicking on any state will provide statistics compiled from a number of sources, including the Census Bureau, Centers for Disease Control and the state’s respective licensing offices. For instance, did you know Tennessee has 10,570 child care workers? These facts are easily found on the website.

Information on child development and what you, as a child care provider, can do to ensure the health and well being of those children left in your care is easily located on the site. It’s a powerful weapon to have in your arsenal as you seek to make life better for those you’re responsible for. Visit the site, look around and see if you agree. And as always, we welcome your thoughts, ideas and suggestions. Leave us a message through our contact us page.

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Nov 17

Anyone not in the daycare business can’t grasp the concept that child care providers can sometimes feel a bit isolated; after all, they’re surrounded by people all day, even if they are young children.  It can happen, though and in fact, it happens often.  This is why networking is so important.  Networking can do a lot more than allow providers the opportunity to chat with like-minded people.  Referral agencies, associations and local chapters of national branches of various groups can help you grow your business, provide information that you might otherwise never know and of course, provide a bit of sanity among adults who “get it” after a long day of a dozen four -year olds with head colds.

Perhaps the most important reason for joining your local referral agency is due to the fact many parents will consult these agencies in search of the right child care facility.  They know these agencies will not only be able to provide legitimate and safe facilities to bring their children, but they also know this is where they’ll discover those less than ideal businesses they should steer clear of.  This makes your community’s referral agency an invaluable tool in your marketing efforts.  There is a national agency, Child Care Resource and Referral, and you can visit the site at www.naccrra.org.

Inclusion on the roster is easy and you’ll want to provide at least the basic information, including:

o   Years in business

o   Hours of operation

o   Phone number, address, etc. and a website if possible

o   Your accounting methods – you can provide the Alpha Cares website address if you’re one of our customers and if not, you can visit the site and see for yourself the advantages we offer over other child care provider accounting software.

o   The ages you accommodate – for instance, 6 weeks to 12 years

o   Your child care provider’s licensing information

Of course, your local Better Business Bureau should be in your crosshairs, as well.  Join the BBB and you will have a powerful advocate who will verify your credentials and serve as an excellent source of networking and marketing efforts.

Even if you have a waiting list of eager parents, keeping up with your networking efforts will keep you – and your business – in the loop for all the latest legalities in this industry.  It can also provide countless opportunities to learn the latest “must haves” for playground equipment, new snacks on the market and all those other countless details that you work to ensure are perfect.  Don’t forget to visit Alpha Cares – we offer the latest and most inclusive software for daycare providers on the market.

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Oct 07

We all know the crucial role child care providers play in society.  We also know that it takes a special person capable of giving so much with so little in return.  This week, the country was made privy to just how much our daycare providers give to those left in their care.  Keep reading for some of the latest national statistics and a peek into what you, as a child care provider, can expect in the coming months.

According to the National Association of Child Care Resources & Referral Agencies, there are more than 11 million children under the age of 5 who spend the lion’s share of their waking hours with someone besides his or her mother.  That someone is most often the child care provider.  In fact, on average, each of those little ones Mom trusts you with spends approximately 36 hours with you.  Not only that, but there’s a good chance you’re not the only one Mom and Dad rely on to ensure the safety and well being of their children.  With so many industries that exist on an “around the clock” environment, some parents rely on others, including grandparents and neighbors, to help out when they’re working the late shift.

If you routinely care for children whose families are low income, it could be those meals and snacks you provide are the closest they get to a nutritious meal each day.  It’s not that parents don’t care or don’t pay attention to what their children are consuming; it’s more likely due to a combination of tough economic times and parents who might be working two or more jobs just to keep the bases covered with very little time left to shop for groceries.  Then, of course, there are still 14.5 million Americans who are out of work with another 7 million who are only working part time because those are the only available jobs.  Most child care providers know all too well losing a child they’ve grown to love because families can no longer afford to pay for your services.

This is why it’s so important to ensure your families are made aware of the many programs that will allow them to continue to leave their children with you versus other less safer options.  For instance, one woman, who worked in a mall, could no longer afford daycare for her young daughter.  She had no choice but to leave her in the car while she worked.  She was able to check on her every hour, but that’s an incredibly dangerous situation that could have easily resulted in tragedy.

If you’re wondering if new programs parents are able to take advantage of won’t be compatible with your Alpha Cares software, you’ll be surprised to learn the transition is a breeze as we’ve built in all of the requisite “must haves” these programs require.  Visit the AlphaCares.com site for more information and for a compilation of recent newspaper headlines and stories from across the country, visit the NACCRA Organization’s website here.  You’ll also discover links that will take you to the various programs in place to help families who are struggling, but need to ensure the safety of their children as they set out to look for new employment.

Do you have a story to tell?  Drop us a line – we’d love to hear from you and some of the hurdles you have overcome in your child care business.

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Sep 17

In a previous post, we mentioned how social networking can really benefit your small child care center.  Parents, generally speaking, like the idea of updates being posted from time to time during the day.  Most parents also like the idea of seeing photos uploaded to your day care center’s Facebook page during the course of a day or even just occasionally.  It’s just a great way for Mom and Dad to stay connected to some degree during their work days.

That said, we also mentioned the importance of never assuming every parent is OK with his or her child’s picture being posted online in any capacity.  That’s why it’s so important to have a waiver on file for each child (remember – each child; not each parent – there’s potentially a big distinction here).  But what exactly would you put on a waiver?  What kind of information should be included?  We here at Alpha Cares have been doing our homework and straight from the experts themselves, this is what we’ve discovered.  Below you’ll find an easy–to-create form that will protect you, your business and those precious little ones left in your care.  Remember that if any parent objects, it’s your responsibility to ensure no image – even if the child is in the background – is ever posted online.

Most forms have a title similar to:  Photo, Voice, Website, Video Permission Form

It’s important to memorialize this with a date


I/We hereby consent to allow the use of voice, video, image or likeness in photographs and/or video for my child(ren):  (Enter each child’s name)

1.       ______________________

2.       ______________________

3.       ______________________

by _______________________________________ (Your business name)

The permission for use of any of the media above is allowed for (Circle all that apply):

  • Newsletters
  • Business Flyers
  • Facebook
  • Company Website
  • Video by a third party (such as filming for a television commercial)
  • Outgoing messages on answering machines and/or voice mail

I understand this Waiver is in effect until I provide, in writing, a cease order.  I/We also agree to forego any right or entitlement I/We might have to any compensation or fees, except for a waiver fee of one dollar ($1.00).

Finally, I/We agree that I/We am/are the legal guardian(s) of the above named children.


Parent/Guardian Signature                Date

As you can see, it’s a relatively simple form to put together, but it’s crucial for those day care providers and child care centers to ensure they are not leaving any vulnerabilities.  Have any thoughts on this?  Drop us a line – we’d love to hear from you and how your daycare facility handles these matters.

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Sep 10

In our last article, we spoke of really affordable ways to market your small business, and specifically, your small child care facility.  Here at Alpha Cares, we’ve been doing our research and have come up with some great ideas for those who might have bigger budgets.  You’ll discover several tried and true methods that have served the needs of many who have successfully chased their dreams of becoming a business owner.  It’s not really feasible to provide dollar figures because there are so many variables such as the region of the country you’re in and of course, the economy itself can make providing these hard numbers a bit tricky. Still, you’ll be able to glean a lot of information here and figuring the costs shouldn’t prove difficult.

A promotional event is an effective way of introducing you and your business to others in your community.  It’s also a golden opportunity to take that block of time during the event itself and pass out business cards, flyers and even promotional give away items if you have them.  We all know promotional items, such as tees and ball caps with your company logo can be a bit costly, but it’s always worth the investment.  Alternatively, you can have a drawing where there’s one or two prizes to the lucky winner.  Some items that have worked well in the past include a software package geared for children – parents love these because they provide an educational opportunity as it also helps their young children become familiar with a computer.  Another good idea, says the Arthur Chong, founder of Alpha Cares, is a fuel card from a local gas station.  We all appreciate a tank of gas!

Of course, you want to dedicate a certain percentage of your budget to your advertising efforts.  A television commercial might not be in that budget right now, but you can do a lot with your local newspaper.  Consider a “Player of the Week” for your community’s high school football, baseball or basketball star.  This shows your support for your local teams and is a great opportunity for a photo op with a “Sponsored by” byline.  A photo with you next to this week’s star player is the perfect finishing touch.  You may even be able to negotiate a better price for the block ad if you commit to it for an entire season.  If it’s a bit out of your budget, consider teaming with another small business in the area; perhaps a pharmacy or local grocer.

Finally, and we can’t encourage this enough, be sure to build a solid online presence.  A nice website is actually quite affordable – especially if you design it yourself.  Social networking sites are a must.  A Facebook page allows you to update it a couple times a day with what’s going on in your daycare.   Mom and Dad will appreciate the sense of connection throughout their workdays and it’s superb advertising that costs nothing.  A word of caution: photos are excellent – especially if you’re able to post them as the finger painting session is happening – but don’t assume every parent wants photos of his or her little ones on the internet.  Be sure to have parents sign a permission form and honor those requests from parents who do not want to see their children online.

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Aug 21

We all know how marketing efforts can easily eat up a small business’s small budget.  In fact, it’s not uncommon for many who are considering going into the child care business to think twice once they realize the importance – and costs – associated with getting the word out.  It doesn’t have to be that way, though.  In fact, many small businesses have successfully marketed their companies with little cost.  Here are a few ideas that you might not have considered, but that will get you and your efforts noticed.

The first, and most important, marketing tool you should employ is yourself.  You are the “face” of your business and as such, you need ensure that face gets your message across.  Be ready to answer the necessary questions.  You’ll discover at some point, whether it’s a Wednesday afternoon at the supermarket or a Friday night cocktail party, you’re going to be asked specific questions about your daycare business.  Be ready to provide those answers minus any hesitation.  “Yes, I am a business owner.  I have a daycare center in the historic district and right now, we have close to twenty children enrolled”.    It’s going to sound far more confident than someone having to ask you a series of questions and then wait uncomfortably as you stumble for the right answers:

Interested party: “So I hear you own your own business?”

You: “Yeah, I do.”

Interested party:  “What do you do?”

You:  “I have a daycare”

Interested party: “Oh.  OK.  Well…uhm…yeah…I hear you have to really appreciate kids in order to care for them every day.”

If you’re generally reserved in social settings such as cocktail parties, there’s no reason why you can’t polish your conversational skills.  A confident business owner is a successful business owner.

Another important tip involves all things related to marketing  is design and computer savvy.  If you can’t design an impressive logo – consider hiring a free-lance designer. Then think ahead – for your letterhead, consider asking the neighborhood kid who’s a whiz on a computer to tackle the project.  You want an identifiable letterhead that seamlessly transitions to your business cards, your signs and even your fax cover sheets. These  marketing assets (in digital format) are to be used for both your print and online materials.

Getting involved in the community is another important tip.  Join the Chamber, attend meetings that involve children in the community, such as town hall meetings where new playground equipment is being considered for the neighborhood park.  This is where you’ll meet parents.

Offer to host the neighborhood Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts for a few of their meetings.  You can easily open up your daycare center one or two evenings a month so that they can have their meetings.  If possible, set up a table with punch or juice and perhaps pretzels and/or fresh fruit.

These are just a few of the many ways you can affordably market your child care facility.  In such an important sector, it’s crucial your community knows who you are if you expect them to trust you with their children.  These tips will ensure you meet that goal.

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May 26

Now that summer’s approaching, odds are, as a child care provider, you’re gearing up for three months of children who want nothing more than to be outdoors.  There’s just something about those warmer months that energizes all of us, but especially children who are breaking loose after the school year.  With that thought in mind, Alpha Cares has put together some safety tips that will keep your little ones safe as they revel under the warm sunshine.

  • If you haven’t already inspected your swings and other outdoor toys to ensure they’re in good repair, now’s a great time to do so.  Look for exposed bolts on swing sets, compromised cords or chains and inspect anything else that kids tend to make a beeline for outdoors.  Also, walk the grounds where kids will be playing and be sure there are no ant beds or bee hives.
  • With the outdoors comes the threat of bee stings, ant bites and allergy attacks.  Review your course of action with parents so that you take action right away.  Be sure each parent has a signed release in your files for anything you’re authorized to provide, including medications such as Benadryl or Tylenol.
  • Now’s the time to also be sure your first aid kit is well stocked with bandages, antibiotic ointment and other fixes for those skinned knees and bug bites.
  • Kids tend to run at full steam ahead, so be you’re on the lookout for loose shoe strings and other little hazards that can cause big problems.
  • You don’t want to have to deal with dehydration.  Make sure your little ones are getting plenty of liquids.
  • It’s always a good idea to have parents provide a change of clothes.  You never know when little Billy is going to slide into home base and end up with grass stains or covered from head to toe in mud.
  • Finally, don’t forget the SPF sunblock!  This is really important as it affects our health for the rest of our lives.  This is a great time to instill this habit in children, too.

For the kids, they have little patience for the preparations of spending time outdoors, but as adults, we have a responsibility to ensure they’re as protected as possible.  Have anymore great tips or ideas?  We’d love to hear them!  Drop us a line and we’ll be sure to get them posted. Have a great summer!

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May 19

In the past, we’ve told you about the many programs available for child care providers who wish to grow their businesses, make structural improvements or incorporate new technology and billing methods.  Today, Alpha Cares is going to provide a bit of insight you need to know as you prepare your grant proposal application.  As you might expect, organization is key to ensuring a streamlined process that will ensure you’re not losing time due to missing elements required in the package proposal.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind each grant has its own specifications that you will need to address; however, these guidelines below are universal and are required in every application, regardless of who is funding the grant.  Now’s an ideal time for child care providers to apply for these funds and here’s how, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Before an application can be reviewed by the Department of Health  & Human Services, which is the primary funding source, you will need to provide a DUNS number.  You can visit dunandbradstreet.com for more information on securing a DUNS.
  • Remember that those who are reviewing your application may not be familiar with the child care industry; therefore, the clearer your application, the less the odds become of it getting lost in translation.
  • Take notice of deadlines! This is important since many child care small business owners assume there are no deadlines, which is inaccurate.  Even if you are filing electronically, don’t assume you can wait until the last minute.  You’re only complicating matters for yourself if you frantically attempt to beat the deadlines.
  • Read the instructions in the grant application package.  That can’t be stressed enough – you must have a complete understanding of every aspect so that you can provide the specifics required.
  • Do your homework – that means you need to have an understanding of the industry.  A well researched and carefully planned grant application gets noticed.  Remember, you’re doing this to better the lives of those little ones you care for.  The better prepared you are, the better the experience for the children.

With so many new federal and state guidelines that regulate the child care industry, it’s important to stay focused and always ensure you’re in compliance.  Be sure to visit the AlphaCares.com website, too.  It’s chock full of solutions and ideas for keeping your billing accurate and organized.  Finally, for more information on filing your grant application electronically, visit the Grants.gov resources page found here.

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Apr 30

According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than tripled since 1970.  In fact, the prevalence for children between the ages of 6 and 11 has gone from 6.5% to 19.6% in 2008.  Those statistics are startling and provide a somber look at just how much we’ve come to rely upon refined sugars and convenience foods.

But there’s more to it than just a few extra pounds our children are carrying.  The physical and psychological tolls can be devastating and affect a child into his adulthood.  Everything from cardiovascular disease to diabetes to sleep apnea has been associated with childhood obesity.  So what can you, as a child care provider, do to offset these potential problems?  While it may seem as though any efforts on your part, in your capacity as a provider, would be offset by a child’s unhealthy lifestyle, you might be surprised to learn that those little things will actually stick with a child as he grows older.  This is one reason it’s so important to encourage physical activity and to stress the benefits of choosing an apple over a cookie.  Often, many children don’t have access at home to healthier food choices, such as fruit and veggies.  And too, kids will often dismiss fresh veggies not because they’ve tried them and really don’t like them, but because it’s just their first reaction.  Making it fun is key.

One way of doing this is by encouraging a child to participate in age appropriate ways.  Many child care centers are allowing little ones to plant small gardens.  Even if it’s just a few strawberry plants and even tomato plants or cucumbers, it gives them a sense of pride in knowing they’re responsible for those yummy strawberries they’re now washing and getting ready to share.  It’s fantastic for everyone, but most importantly, it allows these kids to take the knowledge with them into their adulthood when they’re not only making food decisions for themselves, but for their children too.

You might not be able to eradicate childhood obesity on your own, but you can certainly influence those children who are fortunate enough to have you as their child care providers.  A few small changes is all it takes for potential major changes later on.

Be sure to visit our site, too for more information on how to make your child care center more efficient.

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