When things aren't working, you have to make a change.
I have spent weeks really thinking about this. I've reached a deeper understanding; we [employers] are not innovating how we attract and recruit. The Early Childhood field, especially, is not trying new things to find new Leads, new Assistants, new Cooks or new Aides.
All are important, not only are they typically paid in a hierarchy of experience and education, but what gets so quickly overlooked are the less tangible assets; kindness, responsibility, reliability, creativity, passion- a profound ability to care for children that are not yours. Employers are not acknowledging people's natural desire to be valued, appreciated, mentally stimulated and work with a purpose. Employers are not listening to employees. The pandemic showed us so many things we weren't ready for. Also things it was time to see: A job or career fit is a two lane street. We're all busy shouting what WE need in an employee, what will make what we do better, or what we'd like, easier..but the real questions is, what do YOU need from us?
What hours can YOU work, what days can you *not* work, what factors may be preventing YOU from working? Do you need physical accomodations? Tell us about YOU and YOUR needs, and we'll see if we're compatible.
None of this is to say we are desperate, in fact, the opposite is true; Hour Kids is very selective of our candidates we bring in and as a result, we have 90% retention of new hires for at least 2 years (or more). We are good where we are with the wonderful people we have, and do not urgently need "warm bodies" like so many others right now. I do not make a habit of overextending us. We don't need you, we WANT you and that's different because it's a way to build commitment and equity in each other.
Hour Kids is ready to bring in more families that need care from our waiting lists, they are in a bind but so many can't work due to a lack of childcare. We can't provide it because we can't find enough people with the charcteristics listed above. We want to do this but with those that choose us, they way we choose them.
Our new dual mission is to also cater to perspective employees that have less traditional work needs too. If that's you, or someone you can recommend we reach out to, let's talk. I'm here to listen.
Hour Kids has been well received in the community since we opened over three years ago. We have even won the esteemed "Emerging Business of 2019" award from Minnesota Women's Venture. We have steadily grown each year and have had several children age up from our infant room into our Preschool room, most recently, we have officially sent three groups of Kindergarten-ready children off to Kinder!
Since we have opened we have remodeled, renovated, and invested tens of thousands of dollars back into to our program. We've prioritized new equipment, toys, staff development, increased compensation and bonuses, and raised our health, safety and general cleanliness standards. We have added a new classroom, earned our Parent Aware stars and began our national accreditation process. Additionally, our owner has returned to graduate school for a shiny new MBA and several of our long-term staff have been promoted into leadership roles (and are also back in school). Suffice to say- we've been a busy bunch! Covid or not, our mission remains the same: to provide high quality childcare and learning experiences for all families that use our services, whether that's full-time, part-time or one-time.
With all growth comes change. Our most recent change has been positive, we are adding more families and more children to our roster each week. We've been very lucky and proactive to keep COVID outbreaks from happening and our children and families have been so supportive and kind throughout COVID. We are so fortunate to have such wonderful parents supporting us, backing us and even sending us tokens of appreciation from kind emails, to morning treats. Relationships with parents are just as important as our relationships with their children. What has helped more than that has been their respect for our profession and respect for us as caregivers. Things are great and we look forward to Fall.
Some additional updates:
*We no longer provide Saturday care, the utilization has been too low for that to be a sustainable option for us. We apologize to anyone that affects.
*We are bringing back catering now that enrollment is picking back up!
*We will officially welcome Marneka as our NEW DIRECTOR as of 9/1/2021.
*Additionally, our longest-term staff member Katie, will become our new Assistant Director!
*We have started being able to take our children on field trips and have several coming up between now and October! So far we have visited Cliff Fen park, and have the Works museum, Rockin' Jump, the MN ZOO and Chutes and Ladders on our agenda.
*We had our annual licensing inspection and only got two minor corrections; one for forgetting to note a crib was "no longer in service" on a form, and one for a staff member being a credit shy of what she needed (a course that we thought counted no longer did). Of all the 400+ items they check for, only getting two minor write-ups, is a bummer, but is also a learning experience- we'll take it.
*We have officially begun our search for a second location. Yay!
*We are seeking new staff, if you know anyone that may be a good fit, please send them our way!
That's it for now. Stay safe, stay healthy and please choose kindness even when the rest is hard.
With another state-wide dial back in place for business restrictions, as a childcare facility, again, we are asked to remain open to serve our community's childcare needs. We proudly answer that call and will continue to provide FT and PT childcare for our permanently enrolled families. Our biggest change is that we will also be dialing back our drop-in offerings. To prevent unnecessary transmission and spread, we have decided it's in the best interest of our currently attending families and staff, to temporarily suspend drop-in care and walk-in care requests for any new families.
To clarify: Hour Kids will provide drop-in care to currently enrolled families during this time. Any families that registered between 1/1/2020 to 11/19/2020 will still be able to utilize our back-up care offerings. The reason for this is that these families have already been in consistent contact and communication throughout the pandemic, therefore even attending intermittently, they are aware of our policy changes and operational tweaks. We will not be registering any NEW families for drop-in or back-up care until the new year.
As with other small businesses, especially newer ones like us, we are in a precarious position of trying to balance serving our existing clientele with trying to steady the shift while we navigate pandemic-related uncertainty. our hope lies in a vaccine program and case numbers trending downward, however that may be.
It's sad to not be able to welcome new faces and new friends, so we must focus on keeping our current families and staff as healthy as possible.
Thank you for supporting Hour Kids!
Learning and knowing all your childcare options as a first-time parent is pretty tricky. Combing through your many, many care options-even as a seasoned parent is still quite the endeavor!
As an independent, specialized care model [walk-in care], we often take calls from exasperated parents not knowing quite where to go, or what they really need. They usually only know they need "something" and they either need it "today!" or "tomorrow morning?" ...Even after setting these calls up for back-up care, we spend a great deal of time on the line answering more general care questions and informing them, while trying not to overwhelm these families with the magnitude of options that our state is lucky to have.
As I said, Minnesota is quite lucky compared to most of the rest of the country; Minnesota takes early childhood and early childhood education very seriously. Our standards for licensed childcare programs are high; MN mandates lower ratios than many of our bordering neighbor states, we also require higher degree and education requirements for staff qualification, and we have many state-sponsored resources designed to help both parents and early childhood educators do the best job they can.
Because we are so well-equipped and well resourced, the most basic information can get lost in the mix. Here is a more detailed version of the breakdown we give parents on the phone, when we teach them about some of the most popular care options. Also included are some the most widely known 'pros' and 'cons' of each arrangement. Please keep in mind, this is not meant to be all inclusive, but rather a snap shot of the major differences and takeaways.
Traditional Child Care Center
Definition: A facility designed specifically for professional child care to take place outside of a child's home. Children are usually transported to the facility by their guardians.
Note: These programs usually operate independently outside of any school district calendar. This is helpful if parents have limited PTO or inflexible work schedules, and/or need care to before and after a Guardian's work hours.
Pros: Licensed programs have hundreds of health and safety requirements to meet and are evaluated annually for compliance. Staff are trained and educated in Early Childhood and Child Development. A full day of care is part of the arrangement. Trained caregivers can bolster child development as well as identify deviations from expected development patterns, thus trained to refer you to interventions quickly, if needed. This is the most reliable care option with very few/scheduled closures and back-up caregivers built-in to cover illness and teacher vacations. This option has the most slots of availability per location. Best for children that enjoy novelty and needs more stimulation and new faces, as children change rooms/teachers as they move up in age.
Due to the educational staff, licensing, and insurance requirements, this can be the the most expensive option for formal care. Some children might not acclimate quickly to group care. Staffing can change often based on the facility's needs. Some programs or specific classrooms are prone to high staff turn-over (toddler rooms). Payment is usually required regardless of attendance as you're paying for your spot in the group and not by attendance.
We are a hybrid; Hour Kids combines traditional care with drop-in care and walk-in care. For us, "Drop-in Care" is when you send in all your needed dates ahead of time. "Walk-in care" is same day but subject to availability. All options take place in our structured, age-specific, classrooms.
Definition: Licensed child care provided in a home-setting, away from the child's home (unless the provider has their own children in the program).
Note: This type of care is what people are beginning to know as and call as true "daycare" while center-based care is getting differentiated as "Childcare" by industry leaders and state entities. Those of us in the field do prefer to be differentiated. You can tell when a program is strong by asking for references and when you tour, by paying attention to the environment; you want to see clearly defined learning areas, items in good repair and age-appropriate toys and decor as well as a posted and valid license from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS).
Pros: There are thousands of great in-home providers across our state. Many hold degrees in Early Childhood and Child Development and just wanted to do their own thing. Or they have been providing care in their homes for decades and have priceless experience and expertise. In-home caregivers can really tailor their programs to their communities, and their own visions. They range from "school-like" to FFN-like, but with a license. Any variation can be a good fit for a variety of families.
Cons: When the provider is sick or on vacation, often the program is closed and parents usually will take the time off from work, or they make alternate care arrangements if they can't. Good for children that are resistant to change, as they have the same provider and environment for as long as they're in care. Payment is usually required regardless of attendance as you're paying for your spot in the group and not by attendance. Mixed ages for care means sometimes it's difficult to balance care when a group has children in all age ranges from infants to after-schoolers, only very experienced 'career' in-home providers can manage with ease.
School District Care/Preschool
Definition: Childcare with school district-specified curriculum embedded within. Parents or buses typically transport children to these programs.
Note: District preschool is usually on a half-day and alternating day model. District preschool is primarily designed to get children kindergarten ready in a highly regulated environment. As the most formal "preschool" model, the focus is on academic testing and meeting scores for readiness. Most quality traditional childcare centers also have formal "preschool" built-in and use the same state-approved curriculum(s) for school readiness- however, many parents don't realize this and think it's much different.
Pros: District-based preschool is a great option for parents that don't need a full day of learning for their children as it is usually half-days. This option can be free for some families. This learning model can efficiently introduce children to a formal learning environment. Often children will attend in the physical location they will attend Kindergarten in.
Cons: With limited hours, parents will often need care before and after as well as transportation to after-school care. Schools are limited in resources and parents will often need to supply school supplies and meals. District-based early learning can be very tied to scores and achievement at a time that others argue our youngest children are not ready for. Can be overly structured and not a good fit for all children, especially the youngest. Payment is usually required regardless of attendance as you're paying for your spot in the group and not by attendance.
Definition: a paid house-hold employee that cares for a family's child/ren.
Note: You will want to make sure your Nanny comes from a reputable company and/or is background checked. You may need to create a routine or structured day for your Nanny or ask them to.
Pros: Care can be specific to individual children and family schedules. Very little illness exposure (a high degree of Kindergarten illness absence may be the trade-off for this), Specific diet or allergy-friendliest care, care is in the child's home, sometimes while parents work from home and can supervise. Only one caregiver in addition to parents.
Cons: Your Nanny is considered a household employee, you will need to provide your Nanny with tax withholding or a 1099 Independent Contractor form so you are not liable for their tax reporting. If your Nanny becomes sick, goes on vacation, or stops showing up, you will need to find alternate care. Private Nannies do not have to disclose driving records or educational records, but do if hired through an agency. Payment is based on attendance and can be reduced or increased accordingly.
"FFN Care" (family/friend/neighbor)
Definition: Can be a formal or informal arrangement usually between families that know each other well, are related or live near each other.
Note: When grandparents do this type of care, ECFE is a great supplemental option where children can be socialized and still have a familiar face around. These classes can be found in city community ed. publications. Also, in Minnesota people that provide FFN care can only legally care for one additional family at a time, if they remain unlicensed.
Pros: Tends to be most affordable, most flexible, or most comfortable if you are unsure of traditional formal care options. This arrangement is flexible to caregiver's style/objectives and what the parent wants.
Cons: Not regulated for health and/or safety or by licensing entities. No background check is required, usually based in trust or familiarity. Un-related caregivers sometimes quit the arrangement with little notice or warning. Payment is based on attendance and can be reduced or increased accordingly.
After spending 19 years in the field of Early Childhood, I have cared for HUNDREDS of children, whether it was in my licensed in-home program, through nannying, teaching FFN children at an ECFE class, or during my Early Childhood internship (in a school distrct-based program), I strongly feel that whatever option you decide is best for your family, do know that every option here requires a bit of research, commitment and your support for your caregivers. These relationships can be strengthened by open, and frequent communication with clear expectations set for both sides.
Best of luck!
Did you know that Parent Aware is a comprehensive free website tool available to all Minnesota families? Currently, Hour Kids is in the process of earning a 3 star rating, with Parent Aware. They have been instrumental in helping us achieve our overall program quality goals and helping us align our Kindergarten readiness features with Minnesota's Early Childhood Indicators of Progress.
I highly encourage you to check out their fabulous website if you have not done so already. They have everything from information about your child's physical development and milestones to financial resources to COVID-19 Health and safety links- plus there is just so much more, you really should have a look. It's all free and written by experts.
We all know child care is costly. Hour Kids strives to provide not just flexible care options, but affordable care options; when you only pay for what you need, you can better control your household's child care expenses. We also offer discounts for multi-day reservations, HERO discounts, sibling discounts and offer a "practice preschool" as an option for parents to help their preschooler/s gain school-readiness exposure and socialization opportunities without pricey weekly attendance minimums.
Sometimes, some families need some extra (or temporary) help to cover the cots of care. If you need help paying for child care, please check out the resources located on the Parent Aware website:
Feel free to reach out at anytime. I will be more than happy to offer my 19 years of professional child care expertise; I know the field inside and out. I can help you understand the various types of care 'out there' and pros and cons of each- even if you just want to know how it all works, or what financial resources are available and don't want a sales pitch!
Parents and Guardians,
I know there's not much to say about COVID-19 that hasn't already been said, thought, or felt since the pandemic unfolded. So I'd like to focus on another aspect; food insecurity.
There is so much outside our control as parents, let's do what we can to keep these little tummies full. Here are some resources for anyone that needs help with food resources.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to any of the organizations listed in this link. Or, if you'd prefer, you could reach out to myself, or our Assistant Director for confidential assistance.