Americans are getting back to work, boosting the demand for child care services and prompting child care administrators to reopen their centers and comply with new infection prevention guidelines.
Attendance trend data from child care centers using Procare Solutions tells us that center enrollment and attendance figures in many states are beginning to rebound – but none have yet reached pre-pandemic levels.
This leaves child care facilities in difficult position, and we’ve heard stories from around the country detailing the challenges that child care center administrators are facing as they navigate the process of reopening their centers during a global pandemic:
- If child care centers don’t see enough families returning to their centers, they may not have enough money to stay in business.
- If families do come back, many child care centers are dealing with staffing shortages and facing the challenge of hiring during a pandemic.
- Reopening child care centers will have additional costs, including hygiene stations, cleaning supplies and lots of personal protective equipment (PPE).
If you’re struggling to reopen your child care center during coronavirus, the missing ingredient in your strategy could be parent engagement.
Communicating more openly and frequently with parents can help you keep tabs on who is returning to your center, generate much-needed referrals, set new expectations for infection prevention policies and procedures, and a whole lot more.
To help you get started, we’ve put together this list of communication strategies that you can use to power your child care reopening with parent engagement.
Eight Ways to Power Your Child Care Reopening with Parent Engagement
Express Your Concerns and Convictions
The nationwide move to reopen child care centers during the coronavirus pandemic leaves parents in a difficult position.
Parents recognize the need to return to work so they can earn money and provide for their families, and the corresponding need for child care services that enable them to work during the day.
At the same time, parents recognize the threat presented by COVID-19 and are rightfully concerned about infection risks at your facility. What if their child gets sick at your child care center? What if they bring the coronavirus home and infect at-risk family members?
Child care centers can proactively address these concerns in two ways:
- Expressing their genuine concerns about the safety of the community and the anxieties of parents. Concerned parents are begging to be engaged – they want to know that you’re listening to them, that you understand them and that you want to help.
- Express their convictions about following infection prevention procedures to protect kids, their families, and the community. Let parents know you’re on their side and you’re determined to provide the best outcome possible for their kids.
Communicate New Policies and Procedures
Child care centers are implementing a range of new policies and procedures to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 in their facilities.
In addition to the extensive guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many state public health departments and other agencies are publishing their own advice and recommendations for child care centers reopening during coronavirus.
While child care centers should be keeping up with these developments in child care best practices, parents may not be receiving those updates on how child care centers are changing to help protect their families – that’s why it’s important to engage parents and communicate new policies and procedures that encourage them to feel safe returning their kids to your center.
Emphasize the Need for Cooperation between Parents and Providers
Reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission within your child care community requires cooperation between parents and child care providers.
Child care centers will be implementing new policies and procedures to reduce the spread of infection within their facilities, including extra cleaning and disinfection, limiting foot traffic, health screenings, and wearing PPE.
Parents can contribute by limiting their foot traffic around the center, wearing face coverings when appropriate, physical distancing, and encouraging their kids to practice healthy hand hygiene.
Centers and parents can also collaborate by using child care billing software to enable digital tuition payments or leveraging contactless check-in methods like QR codes & GPS curbside check-in. These changes reduce the need for close contact between parents and providers, further limiting the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Communicate with parents to let them know that you appreciate their cooperation and remind them of your shared goal: to keep everyone healthy and get back to normal as soon as possible.
Use Multimedia to Boost Compliance
One of the biggest challenges child care centers face when reopening during coronavirus is compliance with new policies and procedures.
Parents are going to be dealing with lots of new changes, from not being allowed inside the building, to contactless pick-up and drop-off, staggered drop-off times and new screening requirements for kids.
To help parents deal with these changes, child care centers should consider creating image- or video-based tutorials that parents can view to quickly see the new procedures in action.
A 45-second video explaining how your staff members will screen kids for signs of illness upon their arrival to the center goes a long way toward letting parents know what to expect. They can also show the video to their kids and talk to them about why the new policies are important in preparation for their return to your child care center. And it is important to note that the video doesn’t need to be super-professional. A decent iPhone or video camera, plus some inexpensive software will usually work.
Create Avenues to Address Questions and Concerns
Effective parent engagement requires open, two-way communication between parents and child care providers.
Your child care center should be consistently releasing information to parents, but it’s equally important to create avenues where you can address questions and concerns from parents who may need a little more information before they can feel safe sending their kid back to your child care center.
Follow our simple, three-step formula for addressing questions from concerned parents:
- If a parent sends you a question about a new policy or procedure, respond as quickly as you can – it builds trust and makes them feel like you’re attentive to their needs.
- If you don’t have an answer right away, let them know that you’ll get back to them in the future – and always follow through.
- If you receive the same question from multiple parents, go a step further: send a mass communication to all parents addressing the question. If you heard the same question from two or three people, it’s most likely that others are looking for the answer as well.
- Use technology to establish two-way communication between parents and your center. Most parent engagement apps for child care centers support this feature and you’ll be able to manage all communication with parents from a single interface – no more call lists or overflowing email inboxes.
Provide Feedback and Follow up
Once you have resumed operations at your child care center, parent engagement becomes a valuable tool for following up with parents and giving them feedback on their compliance with infection prevention policies and procedures.
Taking the time to thank parents and their kids for following physical distancing policies during their pick-up that day or highlighting the fact that 15 out of 15 families used contactless drop-off methods on their way into your center that day has a huge impact. It lets parents know that you’re serious about working together and keeping everyone safe.
Procare Engage: The Key to Successful Reopening During Coronavirus
Procare Engage is our parent engagement solution and your competitive advantage when it comes to reopening your child care center during coronavirus.
Procare Engage gives you three powerful ways of engaging parents and securing their support as you reopen during coronavirus:
- Use personal messaging to communicate one-to-one with parents, answer questions, address concerns and receive feedback.
- Use mass communication to send group messages to all parents, share images or video, or deliver notifications about new policies or procedures.
- Create newsletters to deliver news, announcements and policy updates in an interactive and personalized format.
Procare Engage also empower centers to incorporate contactless attendance tracking with two cutting-edge capabilities:
- QR Codes enable parents to scan a QR code at your check-in kiosk and complete the check-in process on their own mobile device.
- Curbside GPS Contactless Sign-In/Out uses geofencing technology, enabling parents to complete the check-in process using their own mobile device once they’re within the range set by your center.
Are You Ready to Reopen Your Child Care Center with Procare Engage?