Child Care Software Data Management

“Data Management” is a general term for storing and reporting on the myriad of information a childcare center must maintain. The principal advantage of storing this data on the computer is the ease with which the information can accessed, sorted, selected, and reported on. In most centers, the major areas of data management are:

Enrollment – Information on registered children includes family contact information, child biographical data, medical and other health records, emergency and authorized pick-up information, demographic information, etc. Since the information that must be maintained will vary depending on the type of center, licensing regulations, and forms used, you should evaluate a product’s flexibility in this area carefully. Having to skip non-relevant fields or not having needed fields is one of the most common complaints among software users.

Online Registration – Today, many larger childcare and school age programs have been offering parents the convenience of online registration. Products that offer online registration tools position you for the future even if you don’t think you are ready for that level of sophistication immediately.

Staff – As with children, there is a great deal of data on staff such as employment dates, training and certifications received, medical data, etc. that can be maintained in the computer for easier access and analysis. Here too, flexibility is a critical feature.

Prospect/Waiting List – It is a good idea to enter information on every family that inquires about your center. This allows you to analyze the effectiveness of your marketing, easily send follow-up letters and newsletters, and maximize your center enrollment. Typically, the information you want to maintain on a prospect is much less (and often different) than the information for an enrollee. It is therefore usually best if prospect information is entered into a separate database (file). Well designed childcare software should still allow you to easily transfer a record from a prospect or waiting list database into your enrollment database without needing to re-enter information.

Other types of data tracking (incidents, inventory, etc.) – As you think about your center, review all the paper forms that are produced; each is a candidate for automation. Since not all centers have the same requirements, childcare software that allows you to create additional databases can be a great advantage in accommodating these needs. Consider how convenient it would be to have all incident records entered in your computer – allowing you to review those involving a particular child, class, time frame, type of incident, etc. What licensing department (or parent) would not be impressed with this level of professionalism?

Report Writer – Good childcare software should include many useful standard reports that can be modified on the fly or used as quick one-time queries to answer day-to-day business questions. Most childcare software comes with a wide variety of standard reports that can be generated from the databases above; however, very few provide any real ability for you to create your own “custom” reports. An easy-to-use report writer can be a very powerful tool, allowing you to tap the full benefits of your data.

Since some products offer third-party report writers, which may be more oriented to programmers, it is a good idea to ask to see a demonstration of just how easily you can create a new report. Although it’s also useful to be able to modify the selection or sorting of an existing report, don’t confuse this with the ability to create a new report. Lastly, be wary of companies who suggest that they will “create” any custom reports you need for a small fee. This practice involve a lot of hidden costs that can end up being quite expensive.