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Buyer's Guideby Justin Guinn,
Market Research Associate
It’s not easy running a child care center. Even after administrators have met licensing requirements, determined a legal structure, found the perfect location and hired staff, they still have to handle a variety of daily tasks to keep kids (and their parents) happy.
Child care software helps users manage the day-to-day aspects of running a daycare center or preschool. Among other things, these systems can automate administrative tasks, keep attendance records, store parents’ contact information, track children’s health data and help users schedule classes and appointments.
This guide can help potential buyers find the best solution for their needs. Here’s what we’ll cover:
What Is Child Care Software?
Child care professionals are busy, and it can be difficult for them to not only keep up with their young charges, but stay on top of administrative, scheduling and financial duties, as well. That’s where child care management software comes in: It helps child care workers simplify and streamline the manual processes they do every day, including recordkeeping, billing, attendance and immunization tracking.
Child care management software is also known as “child care administrative software” or “daycare management software.” The technology is useful for all kinds of child care centers, including:
- Day-care centers
- Licensed family child care homes
- Early childhood education programs/preschools
- After-school programs
- Drop-in programs
Once an organization is ready to open its doors to potential clients, it’s never too early to invest in a software system. Doing so can ensure they’re organized from the start and set up for success.
For example, some center administrators think a single-application software, such as an accounting program from an industry-agnostic vendor, will be enough to fulfill their needs. However, that isn’t ideal for long-term growth. It’s usually better to get a dedicated child care management solution because it lets you streamline every aspect of the business, eliminating the need to buy different applications from multiple vendors that don’t interface with one another.
Common Functionality of Child Care Management Software
Most child care management systems will come with some or all of the following capabilities:
|Admissions and scheduling||Provides widgets and calendars for scheduling classes as well as enrollment and registration.|
|Billing and payments||Allows users to perform billing and invoicing, track account balances and past-due payments, create and print payment reports and statements and post payment in batches. Offers support for multiple online and in-person payment methods, including cash, check, money order and credit cards.|
|Immunization tracking||Tracks and stores children’s immunization records, including past, current and completed vaccinations and immunization due dates.|
|Reporting||Generates reports of and provides alerts for children’s birthdays. Also creates reports on revenue summaries, class statistics (e.g., class type and size), attendance and financial transactions.|
|Employee management/time and attendance||Facilitates staff check-in and check-out; manages employee hours; stores pay rates and other staffing information at organization-wide and location-specific levels.|
|Communication||Allows users to keep parents informed about their child’s activities via mobile application alerts, emails or text messages.|
|Meal management||Some systems offer menu planning, meal tracking and nutrition analysis functionality.|
|Activity planning||Enables staff to create lesson plans or activity plans in advance.|
Benefits of Child Care Management Software
Daycare and preschool facilities can realize many benefits as a result of adopting child care management software, including:
Less administrative work. Generally, staff in a daycare or preschool facility handles both administrative and physical child care duties. This software automates administrative tasks, such as online registration, so employees can focus their energy on the children themselves.
Improved communication with parents. Working parents don’t need to worry or inquire about their children. With child care management software, your facility can send parents notifications about their child throughout the day via native mobile apps or text messaging.
Advanced meal and nutrition planning. Some vendors offer tools for tracking the number of provided meals, as well as for planning breakfast, lunch and snacks based on the nutritional requirements of each child. With this functionality, child care centers can give growing kids the nourishment they need.
Greater staff coordination. As opposed to paper-based records, digital systems are accessible to multiple users in separate locations. This makes it easier for employees to update any necessary documentation and for the business to scale.
Pricing: Cloud-Based vs. On-Premise
There are two main pricing models prevalent in this market. Select the one that best fits your budget and business model:
Cloud-based software. These solutions are typically priced on a monthly or an annual subscription basis. They require low or no upfront investment, and vendors handle system maintenance and updates. This option is often best for small and midsize businesses that may not have the resources to invest in and manage an on-premise system.
On-premise software. These systems typically require purchasing a perpetual license for a substantial upfront fee. There are no recurring license fees, but extra fees may apply for implementation assistance, maintenance, support and updates.
No matter which system you choose, over a period of time, pricing for these two models tends to converge. You can check out our total cost of ownership calculator to learn more.
Mobile device integration. Systems are starting to introduce native apps for mobile devices that can be used for administrative purposes or to connect with parents. For example, some apps may allow you to track child arrivals and departures by asking parents to check in and out of your center with a tablet placed near the entrance. On the other hand, some apps are meant to be downloaded by parents and can be used as a platform to exchange pictures and messages about their children with your staff.
Staff training and development. If you want to attract and retain great employees, you may want to consider offering them professional development opportunities, such as enrolling them in online child care courses. Software can help you keep track of which staff members have completed training programs and received certifications.
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