Client Interviews Part III: Tha Playdate

There's not one way to skin a cat and I for one have asked many providers for a run through of how their interview process works and taken the "best of" (in my opinion) to create my own client interview process.  The goal is to streamline the process so that I can save time but also cover all important topics in an attempt to "weed out" candidates.  My interview process consists of three parts; 
Part I The First Phone Call, Part II The First In-Person Interview and  Part III a Playdate. 
In my previous post I discussed how I conduct my first in-person interview.  If it went well and there were no obvious "red flags" then I will invite one parent back with the child during daycare hours.  This is a relatively short meeting lasting about 30 minutes that I schedule in between meal times and during free-play.  


The day before the playdate I will contact the parent to confirm the date and time to make sure that the time still works for them.
The morning of the playdate I will contact them again to give them my address and directions to my home as well as directions on where to park (I live in a condo community and have designated parking).  This serves as a last reminder and reduces the chances of a parent forgetting or a "no show".
Before the playdate I make sure that, as usual, I clean up well after meals/snacks and that the space is relatively clean not including the toys and materials that the children are playing with.  I normally may have cups of water and a pitcher on a low table for the children but, depending on the age of the potential client's child, I may put these up and out of reach.
I will have what I call a Parent Packet prepared and handy.  The Parent Packet consists of all paperwork that I require parents to read and/or fill out in order to enroll.  For me this includes a contract, policy handbook, licensing forms, information about my daycare and other forms that I require for enrollment.
I also let the daycare children know in the morning that we will be having guests that day and remind them of the rules so that they are prepared and in an attempt to keep energy levels low during the playdate.  I find that if I don't do this I have more issues with behavior and energy levels.


Once the potential client and child arrive I greet them and invite them in.  I will introduce the child to my daycare children and if the child is about 2 1/2 years old or older I will suggest that my daycare children show the child our toys.  During this time I will briefly go over the child's needs again with the parent to make sure that what they have said their needs are has stayed consistent throughout the whole process.  I will also ask for details about the child's home routine.  I will also keep an eye on how the child interacts (or doesn't) with the daycare children and the child's general temperament.
I want to see a number of things before I can make a decision on whether I think the child is a good fit or not.
  • How the child interacts with the parent
  • How the parent interacts with the child during play
  • How the child interacts with the other children
  • How the other children interact with the child
  • How the child reacts to me
If the child is an infant I will ask specifics about meals, diapering, and nap routines.  I will ask the parent to go through the bed-time/nap routine for me and then show me how the child is held, if at all, in order to fall asleep.  I will also require that the parent feed the infant an entire bottle in my presence.  I do not take the parent's word for it when it comes to whether or not an infant is bottle ready.   Sometimes a parent will say that their infant drinks from a bottle when in fact the infant has trouble or doesn't take a bottle at all and I require that an infant be completely bottle ready before enrollment.
I also ask if there are any medical conditions or food allergies that I need to know about as well as any personal, cultural or religious beliefs that I should take into consideration. 
Any challenging behavior  that I see is discussed, but is not altogether a deal-breaker depending on whether the behavior is developmentally normal for a typical child.  If the playdate goes well I will give the parent a Parent Packet to take home with them and will let them know that I will follow up with them soon. 

CAUTION!   I said this in my previous post and I will say it again here.  Never agree to enroll a client on the spot.  At the end of every interview or meeting I tell the parent that I will finish up interviews and contact them after making my decision... even if I don't really have another interview.  Wait at least 24 hours after an interview before making a decision so that the excitement and nerves have passed.  You may think back and see some "red flags" that might become an issue later, or might find another family that's a better fit.


When the end of the playdate appointment arrives I let the parent know that the playdate is at an end and that I need to continue with our day.  If I think that the playdate well I may give the parent a Parent Packet to take home.  I give them a date to hear back by and I walk them to the door and say goodbye. 

Once I make a decision and decide who I want to enroll I call my first choice and offer them the spot.  I give them a date to bring a non-refundable deposit by and remind them that if I don't have the deposit by that date that I will call the next person on the list.  Never hold a spot for a family without a deposit and always have the parent sign a form that states how much they paid, how long you'll hold the spot for (start date), that the deposit is non-refundable, and a date to have the forms and contract signed and returned by. 


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