Part 4: How to find daycare clients -Interview With Care

You run a high quality home child care business.  You are limited in how many children you can legally look after because you are a home business.  Therefore, it is in your best interest to fill your openings with the very best clients.  You can afford to be selective in whom you choose to accept because you can only take a handful of clients.

Most parents and caregivers view the interview process as the parents interviewing the caregiver.  Yes, parents need to interview caregivers to find the best match for their children.  It is also imperative that caregivers interview parents (and their children) to find a good match for themselves and their existing clients.

Instead of viewing the interview process as a time when you need to ‘sell’ yourself and your child care business, view the interview as a time when the potential client has a chance to convince you that they would be a good ‘fit’ for one of your available spots.  Remember, you don’t need to persuade anyone of the merits of your home childcare, you just need to be honest and straightforward because you HAVE a high quality childcare and you ARE a highly knowledgeable caregiver.

Your time is valuable so before you schedule an interview it is important to ask the potential client some basic questions over the phone.  First the client will ask you about your daycare and let you know what they are looking for.  Then, they hopefully have seen your website that lists your hours, daily rate, holiday schedule, school bus area and any policies you have (ie. sick day policy, pet free policy, nut free policy, etc.) and then will ask specific questions to clarify any issues.

If you don’t have a website or if your advertising flyer did not give this information, now is the right time to give this potential client basic information.  You will want to make sure the client’s schedule matches your own.  Ask some basic scheduling questions such as:

How old is your child?
How many days a week are you looking for care?
What time do you want to drop off?  pick-up? My day care is open_____ to ______.
My daily rate for your child’s age category would be _____.
Am I in your school zone for busing?
My childcare is closed for ____ weeks a year for holidays.  Does this match your holiday schedule?
I drive in my van with my daycare children, would this be a concern for you?
Does your child have any allergies?
Do you have sick leave at work or friends close by for alternate child care if your child is too sick to come to daycare for a day or two?

Too many times caregivers give an interview and then discover at the end of the interview that the client is looking for a schedule they can not provide.  If you make sure during the first phone call that what you are offering, is what the client is looking for, then you will save everyone precious time.

Now that you have the major details aligned it is time to schedule an interview.  Invite the client to come for a tour of your daycare and ask them to bring a list of any questions they may have.  Ask for both parents to attend if possible and, of course, the child.  You want the child to attend the interview because you will be spending a full day with this child multiple days a week. It is in your best interest to select a child that will fit smoothly into your existing peer group.

Let’s be honest, some children make better clients than others.  Same goes for parents.  Choose parents with a similar parenting philosophy to your own.  You will run into far less bumps down the road if you choose wisely now.

At the interview, I like to begin by giving the clients a tour of my facilities. I then sit down where the child can interact with some toys while the parents have a chance to ask me their questions. During this time, I have a chance to watch how the child plays with the toys, what they choose to do and how long they spend on one activity. I observe how they interact and communicate with their parents and how the parents respond to their child.  This information helps to form an impression of how that child will probably react with me, and other children during the day.  After the parents have finished asking their questions, I then ask the parents questions about their child.  Depending on the age of the child I might ask about:

  • Eating habits
  • Sleeping habits
  • Previous childcare experiences
  • School experiences
  • Peer relationships
  • Behaviour when separated from parents
  • Likes and dislikes
  • Overall personality type
  • Birth order and family role
  • Any major development milestones (any birth difficulties,  first word, first step, any illnesses)

At this point, I will have formed a good impression of this family and I will know if I am interested in having them as a client.  I finish by asking them, what is the most important part of home childcare they are looking for.  For example, nutritious meals, academic programming, outdoor activities, a TV free environment, etc.  This interview process will enable both your potential client and yourself to have a clear view of the other party.  Now you both can decide if this daycare arrangement would be a good match for each other’s needs.

Comments

  1. I am curious, if you’ve decided that the child/family is not the right fit for your center, how do you handle that? Do you tell them that when they are at the home tour or after?

    TIA

    • HowToDaycare says:

      I always give myself a day to think about each new family and how the tour/interview went before I say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to them. I also encourage the family to take a day to think about the best fit for themselves and then give me a call. I have made the mistake in the past of enrolling a family that didn’t feel like a good fit during the tour/interview but I allowed them to convince me to give it a try. It became very clear within the first two days that it wasn’t going to work out. I explained the situation and refunded their money 100%. However, they were quite upset and disappointed. This experience taught me to interview and choose families who have similar child rearing philosophies as my home daycare philosophy.

  2. Hello – thanks for the helpful comment above!
    So if you choose to say ‘no’ to them….how would you word that to them?
    I can be a people pleaser at times, and am trying to think of the right wording to reject them nicely haha

    Thanks,
    Mel

    • HowToDaycare says:

      Yes, it can be difficult to say ‘no’ after an interview. I word it very carefully and put the emphasis on how my home daycare does not seem to be a good match or fit for their child’s needs or schedule. Sometimes it is the mix of ages that isn’t ideal, or the activity level, or my routine doesn’t allow me to meet the child’s napping/school/drop-off, etc schedule. It’s not their child that is the problem, it’s my routine or activities that won’t be a good fit. I made the mistake of letting a set of parents ‘talk me into’ accepting their son even when I expressed some reservations after the interview. It was a disaster and I learned this lesson the hard way. Trust your instincts, if it doesn’t feel like a good fit, it probably won’t be!

  3. Hello, I had an interview with a parent a week ago. I than took her child for an hour the same week because she was not able to bring him during the interview. She said she would call me right away with her answer. It has been 4 days since and I haven’t heard from her yet. Should I call her and ask if she has made a decision? I don’t want to be left wondering for too long and I don’t want to sound desperate either. What advice can you give me in general with regards to this. Thank you

    • HowToDaycare says:

      I think four days is long enough to think it through and it would be fine to call her. You would not sound desperate because you might have other parents who you have interviewed who want to know if the spot is open or not. I would also pause for a moment yourself and think about accepting this parent. Do you feel she is reliable? Is this family a good fit for your home daycare? It was very generous of you to take her child for an hour instead of rescheduling the interview time. She might be a great fit and simply had a personal emergency that has prevented her from calling you back when she said she would. I don’t know the whole situation but I do know that you deserve clients that keep their word. I wish you all the best in finding the client you are looking for Suzy.

  4. How do you deal with children that as they age and develop are not a good match with you or the other children? The parents make excuses for behavior instead of addressing the problem. In addition, they are paying later and later. I haven’t had problems like this before and feeling very uncomfortable addressing it.

    • HowToDaycare says:

      Yes, I have had this problem before and I agree with you, it is very uncomfortable. I have found having the parents sign a yearly contract with clear payment guidelines has been very helpful. Consider changing your payment schedule so that the parents pay in advance. I would suggest you take some time and decide if you want to continue having this family as your client. It is O.K. to let them go because your styles of child care behaviour management now differ. This happens. If you decide you would like to keep them as a client then write out your expectations of them. You can also include what actions you plan to take to help the situation. Have a meeting with the parents and tell them with kindness and respect the situation and how you would like to handle it. Be prepared that they may choose to find different child care. If you feel uncomfortable addressing the issue you could send them an email to get the conversation started. Just remember to state your needs with kindness and ask them how you can help them navigate through this challenging time. You deserve to be treated with respect. There is no greater gift than caring for their child everyday with happiness and joy. Remember you also have a responsibility to the other children in your care. They deserve an environment that is calm and peaceful and safe. Good luck.

  5. K from London ON says:

    Great advise!

  6. Shantalle says:

    Hi Jana,
    I run a very successful daycare and my wait list is extensive, some people wait up to two years for a spot to open. My turn over rate is extremely low. My question is, since my wait list is ever growing, and I do not have spaces opening any time soon. How would you deal with scheduling interviews. I feel they are not necessary when I don’t have an opening because I could interview every weekend with a possibility of never having a space open for that person, and if I did it would be in the future and I would want to reinterview because I will have forgotten them by that time. Is it ok to say that I do not do interviews unless I have a space available?

    • HowToDaycare says:

      Hi Shantalle,
      Yes it is o.k. to say you do not do interviews unless you have a space available. I put people on my waiting list after an email or a phone call. Then, if I know I have a space coming up available I will send out an email to the people on my waiting list first. I’ll set up the interviews according to the people who respond from the wait list. You know the families who are VERY interested and dedicated to getting a spot (these are the ones who keep dropping you friendly emails every few months to see if any spots might open up!). If the first batch of interviews don’t work out then I continue on down the list. Hope that helps. Congratulations on your successful business Shantalle! I’m happy for you. 🙂

  7. Hello, thank you for this information it has been very helpful. I am starting a home daycare and I am a bit new to all this. I am having trouble finding children, I have had a lot of parents visit but all of them with babies (under 18months) and they come visit with a lot of time in advance (about 3 months earlier) and I am not sure how to do my call backs. What should I say? or should I wait for parents to call me back?

    Thank you for your help

    • HowToDaycare says:

      When they leave the interview I inform them that I have other interviews booked so they need to contact me within two days if they want the spot. If they would like to reserve the spot (for 3 months down the road) they can pay a holding fee (you can decide on the fee).

      Email me directly if you would like more information and assistance on advertising. howtorunahomedaycare@gmail.com

      Best of luck! Jana

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