Published Date: 05/21/20
As states begin to reopen services that were shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents have are unsure if they’ll send their children back to daycare or preschool.
Providers can expect to lose some families who no longer need care, as many have lost jobs as a result of COVID-19. Others are understandably concerned about the spread of of COVID-19 in a group childcare setting. They may rely on a nanny or family member to provide the care that they need.
Inevitably, parents who forego daycare or preschool during, and in the months following, the COVID-19 outbreak will need and want occasional care. There will be an increased need for drop-in care and providing it for families in your area has both benefits and drawbacks to consider. It’s important to note that many states currently require childcare to be conducted in stable groups, meaning that drop-in care may not be an immediate option for you. Check your local guidelines to determine if you’re permitted to provide it.
Pros of providing drop-in childcare
Generating incremental revenue is the most obvious reason for providing drop-in childcare. If you have unfilled spots, you’re not maximizing your revenue and may not be able to keep your business solvent long-term. The incremental revenue earned from drop-ins can keep your business intact while you’re working to fill full-time spots with other families.
You can charge a premium
Drop-in spots are hard to come by during regular times and are especially hard to come by during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means you can charge a premium above your normal rate for them. Don’t feel badly about charging more. If a parent questions why an occasion daily rate is higher than a day breaks down to for a weekly or monthly rate, simply explain that your contracted rate reflects a discount on your daily rate, not that you charge more for daily. As with nearly everything we purchase, buying in bulk saves you money, and your childcare is no different. You’re able to anticipate needs with long-term customers, which saves you money.
As mentioned, because of the COVID-19 outbreak, many parents will only need drop-in care for the moment, but eventually are likely to return to more regular care, either part-time or full-time. You’ll be ahead of the game when they begin looking for something more permanent and have already built the relationship both with the parent and the child. Converting them will be much easier because they already trust you.
Acts as a trial
You likely have had children in your care over the years that have not worked out for one reason or another. Maybe they need behavioral support or maybe their parents are unreasonably demanding. Drop-in care acts like a trial of both the child and the parents and gives you insight into how both may act if enrolled. There’s no long-term commitment on either part initially, so you and the families who drop-in to your daycare or preschool can test the waters to see if it’s good fit. Knowing a family won’t work out ahead of time can save you time, money, and headaches in the long run.
As we always say, childcare is a word-of-mouth business. Drop-in care exposes you to a wide group of people, which means there’s potential for more referrals both for drop-in care and for enrolled spots. Don’t forget to encourage these referrals.
There are many benefits to offering drop-in care, especially immediately following the COVID-19 pandemic when you’re likely to have openings to fill and are trying to recoup losses from closures and withdrawals during the epidemic. However, there are some negative repercussions that may occur when you offer drop-in childcare.
Cons of providing drop-in childcare
Viewed as a babysitter
As an early childhood educator, you’re constantly fighting the stereotype that you’re a babysitting service. You’re educating the whole child and providing invaluable social and emotional development tools - not to mention the academic base! Parents who utilize drop-in care may neither see nor understand your role and simply view you as a part-time sitter who can be used out of convenience.
Parents don’t follow your rules
Parents who aren’t looking to establish a long-term relationship with you may be less likely to respect your rules. Without the need for full-time daycare or preschool, they have less skin in the game and may not care about the consequences of breaking rules, leaving you frustrated.
They may say they’re coming but not show up
If you offer drop-in care, parents may contact you to bring their child for a few hours or a day, but not show up. This leaves you in a difficult position to staff properly. It also leaves you out revenue for that spot when you could have taken another child. Whenever possible, require a deposit to hold the drop-in spot for the day, just like you would require a deposit to hold a spot for an enrolled family.
In the early days of going to daycare or preschool, children often experience extreme separation anxiety. Over time as the child begins to know and trust you, that anxiety lessens. Children who only attend drop-in childcare never have the opportunity to build that relationships with you and may be prone to tough drop-offs and bouts of crying throughout the day.
Kids don’t follow your rules
It takes time for children to learn the rules of your daycare or preschool. You need to set expectations and reinforce them daily and even then, children don’t always follow them. Children who only attend on a drop-in basis cannot be expected to know your rules and therefore you may spend much of your day correcting their behavior.
Disruptive to the lesson plan
When you build your daily lesson plans, you build them with the children in your care in mind. You know what levels they’re at socially, emotionally, and academically, and can take that into account when developing your activities. With a drop-in child, you don’t know if they’re advanced, behind, or on the same level as the other children in your care. If the activity is too difficult or too simplistic for them, this may lead to boredom, frustration, and acting out, disrupting the entire lesson.
There will be an increased demand for drop-in childcare in the coming months in nearly every market. It’s a great opportunity to generate incremental revenue and potentially acquire new customers. Should you decide it’s a good option for you, go in eyes wide open anticipating the cons of providing drop-in care and have plans in place to make it easier on both you and the families in your care. And remember to check your local COVID-19 childcare rules regarding stable groups before opening your family childcare or center up to drop-ins.
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