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.

Tagged with:
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.

Tagged with:
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.

Tagged with:
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.

Tagged with:
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!

Tagged with:
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.

Tagged with:
Apr 26

Adapted from Small Business Articles – by Arthur Chong and Donna McGill – Apr 17, 2010

So your daycare business is finally on stable ground; the foundation is in place and things are running smoothly.  Now what?  It’s not quite time to take a step back and allow it to continue with its own momentum; in fact, a successful small daycare business means you’re constantly updating and tweaking your operations to ensure it remains competitive and that it meets the needs of your community.  Even if you opt to remain small and are quite comfortable in the “peaceful equilibrium”,  you still must define a strategy that allows for consistent improvement.  This will help ensure your business never stagnates, or worse, that you don’t lose customers.  After all, they want only the best daycare options for their children that their money can provide.

Continuous improvement is not a new concept; and in fact, it’s a model small businesses follow to keep them competitive and vibrant, even in down economic times.  The basic idea is to improve your customer’s experience through an ongoing process that encourages change and adaptation as the industry itself moves forward and changes.  Not only that, but your customer profile will likely shift along the way too, and you want to be in the best position to makes those shifts right along with your clientele’s needs.

As a small daycare business, continuous improvement and growth strategies can be approached  in a variety of ways. The key is selecting an approach that complements your strengths and even your weaknesses as a business owner. The strategies listed here focus on simple ways you can improve customer experience, and are “tried and true” approaches to small businesses in general.

Establish Best Practices

-          Consider what the praises (and complaints) parents heap on your services – remember to keep an open mind.

-          Mentally walk through your established procedures and write them down so these can be explained to others (see next suggestion)

Increase customers with existing resources

-          Compliment all-day care with after-school care, or even morning-only care customers

-          Hire a high-school intern who can follow your best practices – it’s a win-win for you, the intern, and the children.

-          Deploy automation to eliminate repetitive tasks (utilize task helpers such as Alpha Cares “auto-invoices” – which eliminate the need to generate weekly invoices manually, or by hand.

Remodel Your Services

-          Package your hours into flexible choices (include modest concessions with higher services, and higher prices)

-          Keep an open mind in your efforts and don’t be afraid to try new methods.

These are just a few best-practice methods that are easy to incorporate but when instituted properly, can mean not only a better position for your small daycare center, but a healthier bottom line, too.

Tagged with:
Feb 17

It can be difficult to practice good nutritional habits in a child care setting if for no other reason, most little ones come in with snacks from home that are sometimes not so healthy.  When Alpha Cares researched best practices for child care centers, we discovered that many chose not to undertake the various food programs due to the hassle of tedious and necessary reporting. However, owners and management never sacrificed food and nutrition value in their preparation of daily children meals. Our conclusion: nutrition was second only to safety in a child care provider setting.

There are many ways, however, that child care facilities can take it a step further and provide children an opportunity to learn those important healthy eating habits.  Not only that, but there is a significant amount of money, courtesy of the stimulus plan, that is earmarked for child care providers of all sizes and in every state.  These funds are being made available for community food projects, including the national “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative and even those child care providers who want to start a garden on site can qualify for these funds.  What better way to teach a child good nutrition while also giving them perhaps their first opportunity to play a role and nurture a garden that will yield fruits and veggies?  Depending on your region of the country, you could easily turn a small plot of land (along flower beds, fence lines in the play area, etc) into:

  • A tomato patch
  • An herb garden (also ideal for window sills)
  • A Strawberry patch
  • Even fruit trees (although they those children who plant them won’t reap the benefits, they will still marvel at how “their” tree is growing)

The possibilities really are endless.  These are the perfect ideas for getting the little ones out after a cold winter and once the summer months begin, they will be able to see what a little patience and tiny little green thumbs can produce.  It instills teamwork and provides an ideal opportunity to reiterate the importance of eating healthy.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the many grants and programs available, visit the Department of Agriculture’s Food, Nutrition & Health page.  It has many great tips and of course, information on qualifying  and applying for any of the stimulus funds.  Rest assured, the Alpha Cares team stands ready to show you how easy a seamless transition can be with any of the grants or government programs.  Contact us today!

Tagged with:
Dec 29

As any small business owner can tell you, the availability of grants can sometimes mean the difference between a successful business and one that fades away before it even has the chance to get off the ground.  For child care providers, it’s important to stay current in the latest technology and other advances to ensure you remain competitive in the daycare business sector.  You might be surprised to learn there are grants available that can play a significant role in your child care business.

Obtaining financial assistance doesn’t have to be a difficult process that keeps you from the day to day operations.  Knowing where to look is key.  The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is a great place to start.  With information on everything from an all-inclusive fundraising director to tutorials designed to help you write an effective grant proposal, this site has it all.  And the best part?  It doesn’t cost you a dime to explore the possibilities.  It even offers publications available for downloading or .pdf versions you can access online without having to download a copy.  Keep reading for some of the best information Alpha Cares found.

The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, or CFDA, is a one stop source for all things related to small business owners.  You’re provided information on agencies that stand ready to help smaller daycare centers, including those that operate in a home.

The government’s grants website is another source that’s chock full of information about grants and other funding opportunities many are simply not aware of.  An especially helpful frequently asked questions section sheds even more light on obtaining federal grants.

Looking for ideas for after-school programs?  Visit AfterSchool.gov for information on grants to tips for making your time count with those children you may not see every day until after school.

Finally, if you’ve not yet opened a child care center but are considering it, you owe it to yourself to check out the Starting a Child Care Center e-book.  It is geared towards those interested in opening a child care program in rural areas, but it’s useful for anyone who’s considering an in-home daycare setting.

These are just a few of the many resources available to those in the child care industry.  Check back often as we add to our list of helpful sites and information on grants and other financial sources.

Tagged with:
preload preload preload