How to Manage Your Child Care Waiting List


This post is part of our series that covers all the basics you need to create or update your program's administrative paperwork. Read more at 7 Child Care Forms You Need To Run A Better Business.

For child care and daycare providers, managing a child care waiting list is a necessary and time-consuming part of running your business — but it's also an area of opportunity.

Child care forms such as waiting lists can help reduce internal stress over maintaining lists and fielding questions from parents. Child care 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 tips on managing your child care waiting list, including: transparent policies, intelligent form design, parent communication strategies, and more. 

Be up front about your waiting list policy

Getting into a good child care can be a long process for parents. Making your child care wait list procedures transparent is a great way to appeal to parents looking for child care. Being up front 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 child care wait list internally, especially 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 your child care or daycare center's philosophy. An honest and fair child care waiting list policy sets a pleasant tone with parents as they search for an opening for their child.

In the enrollment section of your website and in your program handbook, address the possibility of being placed on a waiting list. Here are some items we recommend including in your child care 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 parents fill out an application at any time? What is the likelihood that a child will be accepted in between enrollment periods?
  • Waiting list order: Will parents know where on the waiting list they are? Do you operate on a first-come, first-served basis or fill spots by other criteria? What age groups typically have the longest/shortest waiting list? How long are children kept on the list?
  • Communication: If parents have questions, how should they contact you? Should parents expect updates on the waiting list?
  • Enrollment offers: If a child on the waiting list is offered a spot, can the parent(s) defer until the next school year? Do you have a policy for sibling enrollment? How many spots open up, on average, for each new enrollment period?


Be proactive about managing parent expectations regarding your child care waiting list policies when enrollment paperwork is filled out. Parents should have a good understanding about the process of being on and getting off the waiting list before they fill anything out. 

Make your waiting list forms work for you

child-care-waiting-list-image-1Child care waiting list templates are different from enrollment templates in that you only need a limited amount of information from parents in order to put their child on a waiting list. For example, asking who is authorized to pick up a child doesn't need to be on a waiting list form.

But what can be helpful is crafting your child care wait list to not just capture the necessary information — like parent names, child's name and age, contact info — but also use them as an opportunity to help your child care or daycare business run more smoothly.

One of the easiest things you can do to streamline your waiting list is attach FAQs with your child care waiting list form or add them to your waiting list webpage. Although you have outlined your wait list 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, whether or not they can come for another tour, etc. Head off these questions based on what you actually experience as FAQs. A detailed list of FAQs about your child care center's waiting list process can help lessen the number of queries you receive.

Circle back with parents

Periodically, you need to check in with parents about their place on your child care waiting list. First and foremost, this keeps your wait list up to date and keeps parents in the loop on what is happening. Even if you don't have a spot open, this communication helps build your relationship with parents in your community. 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. Updates also build trust. Parents are likely on multiple wait lists, and periodic check-ins let them know you haven't taken their money and forgotten about them.

An easy way to check in is to send an email to all parents on your waiting list. If you use child care waitlist software to keep track of your waiting list, it is easy to communicate with parents via email or text. Tell parents that their child is still on your list, and ask them to respond if they would like to be taken off. Noting how many children on the wait list have been offered a spot in the past enrollment period can help manage expectations, but 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 contact information in case anything has changed. Taking a child off the wait list happens only if you can contact their parents, so keeping this up to date is critical. Make sure to ask parents to update their information once they get off the wait list as well.

With brightwheel, parents can update their own profiles after their children are enrolled, reducing your administrative load. Brightwheel can also help with everything from implementing your child care curriculum to managing your child care billing

Make the waiting process as painless as possible 

Getting children into child care can place an enormous amount of stress on parents. Running a child care waiting list can be time-consuming for staff who are corresponding with stressed-out parents on top of day-to-day tasks. Make the waiting list process as painless as possible for yourself and parents by being up front about your wait list policies, making your forms a rich source of information for you and parents, and communicating regularly.

Download our sample child care waiting list template here to get started today.

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