For childcare and daycare providers, managing a childcare waiting list is a necessary and time-consuming part of running your business—but it's also an area of opportunity.
Childcare forms such as waiting lists can help reduce internal stress over maintaining lists and fielding questions from parents. Childcare waiting lists also allow you to put your best foot forward for your business and establish the excellence of your program.
Waiting lists can be frustrating for parents, and being proactive about managing your waiting list will build your reputation as a program that puts the needs of parents first.
Continue reading for our childcare waiting list template and tips on managing your waitlist, including:
- Transparent policies
- Intelligent form design
- Parent communication strategies
Be transparent about your waiting list policy
Getting into a good childcare program can be a long process for families. Making your childcare waitlist procedures transparent is a great way to appeal to parents looking for child care.
Being clear about what happens to applicants on your waiting list makes life much easier for parents trying to make costly and time-sensitive decisions for their children. Transparency can also reduce the time you spend managing your waiting list internally, especially when responding to parent inquiries.
Clear waiting list policies will also help parents get a feel for your program. The way you treat your waiting list is an extension of your childcare or daycare center's philosophy. An honest and fair childcare waiting list policy sets a pleasant tone for parents searching for an opening for their child.
Address the possibility of being placed on a waiting list in the enrollment section of your website and program handbook. Here are some additional items we recommend including in your childcare or daycare waiting list policy:
- Fees: What are the fees associated with an application to your center? Are they refundable?
- Enrollment periods: When are your enrollment periods? Can families fill out an application at any time? What is the likelihood that you will accept a child in between enrollment periods?
- Waiting list order: Will families know where they are on the waiting list? Do you operate on a first-come, first-served basis to fill spots? What age groups typically have the longest/shortest waiting list? How long are children kept on the list?
- Communication: If families have questions, how should they contact you? Should families expect updates on the waiting list?
- Enrollment offers: Can families defer until the next school year if you offer a child a spot on the waiting list? Do you have a policy for sibling enrollment? On average, how many spots open up for each new enrollment period?
Once families fill out the enrollment paperwork, be proactive about managing parent expectations regarding your childcare waiting list policies. Parents should understand the process of getting on and off the waiting list before filling anything out. Again, using the right childcare waiting list template will set you up for success.
Make your waiting list forms work for you
Childcare waiting list templates differ from enrollment form templates in that you only need a limited amount of information from parents to put their child on a waiting list.
Your childcare waitlist forms should capture the necessary information:
- Parent's or guardian’s names
- Child’s name
- Child’s age
- Date of birth or due date
- Desired start date (month/year)
- Desired hours of attendance
- Any other status that would give the family priority (i.e., sibling status, child’s age or date of birth, etc.)
One of the easiest things you can do to streamline your waiting list process is to attach frequently asked questions (FAQs) with your childcare waiting list form or add them to your waiting list section on your website. Although you have outlined your waitlist policies, parents may wonder why another child got in before theirs, whether there is anything they can do to be moved up or off the waiting list, or whether or not they can come for another tour.
Anticipate these questions by including FAQs. A detailed list of FAQs about your childcare center's waiting list process can help lessen the number of queries you receive.
Common FAQs about the waiting list process
Creating a relevant and effective FAQ form will require you to first put yourself in the parent’s shoes and determine what information they would like to know. You can also draw from common questions parents frequently ask you. A few examples of common FAQs include:
- Can I visit the center before accepting the space?
- Is there a waitlist application fee?
- How much notice will I be given when a space becomes available?
- What happens if I turn down a space?
- What if I accept a space and decide I no longer want it?
Remember to update your FAQs regularly so parents can find relevant and accurate information.
Parent communication strategies
You need to periodically check in with families about their place on your childcare waiting list. First and foremost, this keeps your waitlist up to date and keeps parents in the loop. And even if you don't have a spot open, this communication helps strengthen your relationship with parents in your community.
Frequent updates also build trust. If someone is still waiting for a spot for their child, an update assures them they are still on your list and helps mitigate parent calls and inquiries. Parents are likely on multiple wait lists, and periodic check-ins tell them you haven't forgotten about them.
An easy way to check in is to send an email to all parents on your waiting list. If you use childcare waitlist software like brightwheel to keep track of your waiting list, it is easy to communicate with parents via email or text. Tell parents their child is still on your list, and ask them to respond if they want to be removed. Sharing how many waitlisted children have been offered a spot in the past enrollment period can also help manage expectations. However, resist trying to predict whether or not spots will open up.
When you check in, it's also a good idea to ask parents to update their contact information in case anything has changed. With a tool like brightwheel, parents can easily update their profiles after their children are enrolled, reducing your administrative load.
Make the waiting process as streamlined as possible
Getting children into child care can put enormous stress on families. Likewise, running a childcare waiting list can be time-consuming for staff who correspond with stressed-out parents on top of day-to-day tasks.
Make the waiting list process as streamlined as possible for yourself and your families by being upfront about your waitlist policies, making your forms a rich source of information for you and parents, and communicating regularly.