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.
Providing parents and guardians with child care enrollment forms is a necessary part of running your business. But going beyond collecting basic information on your child care forms can help keep your day-to-day operations running smoothly. Attentive questions about a child and their well-being will build parents' confidence in your program.
Enrollment forms can provide rich information that will inform your staff and help you plan for your next group of children. This will give you and your staff time to plan before new children arrive.
What to ask on enrollment forms and how
Your child care enrollment forms should provide you with the information you need to finalize preparations for your next enrollment period. Craft your enrollment forms so they give you a picture of what to expect when children arrive. This means thinking carefully about what questions to ask parents in your enrollment forms.
Basic information to collect includes the child's name, the days they will be attending, and parent or guardian contact information. You also need to include child care emergency forms to gather emergency contacts and medical info. Be sure to check any regulations for your state on what must be included on enrollment forms –– for example, the state of Wisconsin outlines particulars for children under the age of two. The example forms provided by states are a good starting point when developing your own enrollment forms.
However, enrollment forms can ask for more than basic information. Consider including other factors that affect how you run your childcare center and prepare for your children. These might include:
- Questions about a child's emotions: How does the child express frustration? How do they feel about being away from their parent(s)? Does the child have any fears that might interrupt their time in childcare (e.g., dogs, sirens)? How do they calm down? Have there been any big changes recently that might cause a shift in behavior (e.g., a move, a new sibling, etc.)?
- Questions about a child's family background: What is the status of the child's parents: married, divorced, widowed, etc.? Do they have siblings?
- Questions about pick-up and drop-off: Will the child be walking home, picked up by a babysitter, family member, etc.?
- Acknowledgments for key dates and procedures: You can give parents and guardians key dates, like holiday closures, and key procedures, like pick-up on a half-day, in your enrollment packet. Asking them to sign an acknowledgment of this information can help ensure they read through it promptly.
- Acknowledgment of receipt: Parents and guardians can indicate on enrollment forms that they have received, signed, and/or returned important materials such as facility handbooks and legal forms or releases.
- Additional space: Provide blank space for parents to communicate additional information about their child without a specific prompt.
Decide what to include based on what makes the most sense for your staff and your child care center's needs and procedures. For example, if you have a mandatory parent meeting about key dates, you may not need to require a signature for key dates on your enrollment forms.
To make child care enrollment forms easy to fill out, consider using a multiple-choice format where possible. Additionally, allow parents of enrolled siblings to fill out just one set of forms to reduce redundancies, and ask for updates of previous forms if a child stays enrolled from one session to the next, rather than asking for parents to fill out an additional set of forms.
Prepare better with enrollment information
You've received the completed forms, and now it's time to dig into the information provided. Not only will the information on the child care enrollment forms clarify the challenges a new group of children may bring, but the information on the child care enrollment forms can also set you up for success with your next group of children.
Because the wisdom is (literally) in the details, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. An efficient way to use the data on the enrollment forms to better prepare for your next group of children is to preemptively organize that information, so it's easy for staff to reference and you have a full picture of the day-to-day ahead.
For example, an app like brightwheel can be a convenient way for staff to easily group and manage information that is likely to come up regularly. Which children have severe allergies or which children will sometimes be picked up by someone other than their parent or guardian can be managed from the app's home screen. If you need physical or digital copies of a list, you can easily run a report in brightwheel, say, to see which students have allergies or which students take medication.
Whether you use an administrative software or not, organizing the information on your enrollment forms so it's easy to find when you need it is quality preparation for your upcoming group of children.
Be proactive and follow up
In the course of going over your enrollment form data, you may find that there are questions that keep bubbling up beyond what you have asked. If you frequently want to follow up with several of the same sorts of questions, consider adding them to your enrollment form in the future.
But don't wait if you think you need the information sooner. Following up with parents within the first week or so of child care will emphasize that you want to set their child up for success and will help you to do so. If you need to ask the same question of multiple people, sending out a short email survey can be a quick and easy way to gather additional information. Or, easily request additional information from parents with an app like brightwheel, for example, with a digital drop-off form they fill out when bringing their child to childcare.
Keeping the information you receive in enrollment forms can make the re-enrollment process easier for parents as well. If children are continuously enrolled, requiring a simple signature after a parent has reviewed and updated their information can be all you need.
Lastly, you can also be proactive about your enrollment forms. If there were questions on the form that didn't provide any information you used either day-to-day or administratively, take them off.
Use every form to your advantage
There is no single be-all-end-all to enrollment forms. After you have basic enrollment information (name, age, etc.), you'll need to compile your own set of questions that works to your advantage. Tailor your forms to help build relationships with parents without overloading them with a stack of paperwork.
Additionally, your staff will benefit from having the exact information they need to start off right. More than just names and number of children, enrollment forms can provide staff with a wealth of background knowledge that will help as they are getting to know the new faces in your program.
Take a critical eye to your enrollment forms at least once a year to tweak them. Communicate early with parents and don't be afraid to follow up. And look at the information parents give you closely to build a more complete picture of your incoming children.
- How to Manage Parent Communications
- Top 5 Tools for Preschool Directors
- Childcare Emergency Forms - and When to Use Them