Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Going Paperless In Child Care

A few years ago I realized we were in a digital world and worked to make my child care as paperless as possible.  Here's how I eliminated as much paper as I could:

I ditched the paper copies of a monthly newsletter and started a blog.  I found parents didn't even read my newsletter most of the time and I would see unread copies in a diaper bag or tossed in my driveway.  The blog allows me to get the information to the parents  in a timely matter and integrate fun posts about the children in with the informational posts and announcements.  I use Blogger and set up my blog to email each parent directly each time I post, so I don't have to worry about if the parents are visiting the blog to read the posts.  Here are examples of the types of posts:

  • Reminders of holiday closings two weeks before, then a few days before
  • Photos of the children doing various activities
  • Announcements
  • Reminders of policies and why I had those policies
  • Welcoming new children & saying goodbye to those leaving
  • Anything news or noteworthy
Instead of having one publication monthly, I blog on a weekly or even daily basis.  I try for at least one post a week, but sometimes have up to five or six posts a week.  Sitting down to write a newsletter took a good day or two, but writing blog posts takes less than a half hour (usually 10 minutes!) and I can work that into nap time or during my day somewhere.  It seems easier to me and gets information to the parents in a timely manor.

I accept PayPal payments.  I set up payment buttons on my website for either one-time payments or automatic payments.  Most parents pay through automatic payments, making it carefree for both of us.  There is a fee with these types of payments, but they are 100% tax deductible, so I keep track and deduct them at tax time. To me it's worth absorbing the cost to not have to go to the bank or handle cash.  I have a PayPal debit card that I use to pay my bills with or withdraw cash.

Another payment service is ChildCarePay through Minute Menu Kids Pro.  Their charge is $1 per transaction and you can choose to have the parent pay the fee or you pay the fee.  I've used it before and it's a wonderful service!

Something else to look into is to have a parent set up an automatic deposit to your account if you have the same bank.  I know of providers who have successfully done this, but I never looked into it.

I send receipts through email only.  Using Minute Menu Kids Pro, I create a receipt that I save on my computer, then send as an email attachment.  The parent can print it out if they need a hard copy, or print and bring to me if they need it signed.  I tell parents they will get an end of they year receipt unless they ask for one.  Most just need the end of the year receipt.

Even if you don't have Minute Menu Kids, you can create a receipt on your computer and save it as a PDF, then attach it in an email.

I learned to text!  This may not fit into my "going paperless" theme, but it's a piece of technology that cannot be overlooked.  At first I didn't think I needed texting, but as I went along, I now realize how it's a very important piece of communication I was missing out on!  Many parents will text that they are running late or a piece of information they forgot to tell me at drop-off.  I would rarely get a phone call with any of that information before, but with texting I get a whole lot more of the information I need.

As a side note, I also get a lot of communication from our own children this way, as well as communicate with my mom and mother-in-law!  Yes, even my mom and my mother-in-law text!

I email digital photos weekly.  I take many photos of the children daily, and email them to each parent weekly.  We do not do worksheets or a lot of art work in my daycare.  The photos show that the children are doing things, there is just no tangible evidence of their daily work, except the photos.

For a running diary of menus, activities, medicine given, bumps & bruises, cute things the children say, etc., I keep a calendar at Google Calendar for each family.  You can make one calendar for each family that is private between you and the parent.  I made a sample you can view here.

I began this calendar when I had a parent call, text, and email me all day long wanting updates.  I set up a calendar, then started posting updates and told her the calendar is now the updates and not to call me all the time.  It worked great!   I like that parents can check the calendar on their smartphone or online.  I tell parents that I try to update by nap time if I don't get to it before.  It seems to work for everyone.

Even if parents do not check their calendars, I still update the calendars and use them as a record for myself.  I have exported them and put them on a disc for long-term records.  I always verbally update parents at pick-up, and the calendars serve as a written record of the updates.

I stopped giving out hard copies of my handbook and paperwork.  I have a page on my website parents can visit to download it all.  If a parent needs something in particular, I email that form to that parent.

When I have an interview, I give the link to the webpage, not any paperwork.  Most parents print out the paperwork at home, fill it out, then bring it to me.

About the only thing I insist on having a paper copy of are the Enrollment Forms.  I keep those in a file.  They have to be filled out and signed by the parents.

But other than the Enrollment Forms, I look for ways to do things electronically.  Not only does it seem easier for me to do things online and through my phone, but it's good for the environment, too.



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