The demand for afterschool programs continues to grow, but sometimes the very places that need one have multiple challenges in implementation and operation. According to a study by the Afterschool Alliance, participation in afterschool programs has increased by two million children between 2004 and 2009.
However, while participation has increased, unmet demand has also increased. In 2014, over 19 million children were not currently enrolled in a program that would be if one were available. The number of unsupervised children in the hours after school sits at 11.3 million. While that number is smaller than previously, it signals the continuing need to implement a solution. For every child in an afterschool program, two more children are waiting to join.
The Relationship between Funding and Recordkeeping
Funding issues fuel much of the program shortage. With government budget cuts, the problem will only grow more severe. Securing funding requires accurate record keeping and the ability to track performance. Unfortunately, many programs are still using manual methods for tracking data, particularly attendance - a significant shortcoming.
Afterschool management software provides tools to retain accurate records, manage data, and provide reporting to comply with requirements from agencies and other groups who provide funding for these programs. It also streamlines operations to make more efficient use of available resources.
Registration and Enrollment
A potential barrier to participation is the need for a parent to obtain the proper forms for registration and enrollment and ensure the documents reach the appropriate department to get their child started in an afterschool program.
- In many households, regardless of income level, time is at a premium.
- Anything that requires extra time and effort is less likely to be done.
- Online registration and enrollment allow parents to submit information online at a time of their choosing.
- Documents are readily available, can be transmitted over the internet, and are less likely to be lost.
No data entry is required from the afterschool program staff, eliminating errors. In the meantime, the information is stored in a central database that other applications can access. With information living in a single area, there is no need to update multiple records, eliminating another source of error. Less time is spent on repetitive administrative tasks too.
Calendar-based enrollment adds another layer of efficiency to your operations. Parents and students can enroll directly into specific activities ahead of time in the calendar function of the software. Your program director can track the popularity of specific activities and manipulate room and teacher assignments as needed.
With the flexibility of calendar-based enrollment, you can manage your enrollment details in a structured way as well as define separate rates and discount types for each activity. You collect the fee up front so you can ensure you have enough for the required resources.
Attendance Tracking with Afterschool Software
Automating your attendance process eliminates paper rosters and tracks attendance times and numbers without intervention from you or your staff. Since attendance is a primary metric measured for funding, keeping accurate attendance is critical to the life of your afterschool program.
Attendance can be performed by entering an identification number into a smartphone or computer, or you can scan barcodes or smart badges as children enter and leave. The data is stored in the central database where it can be accessed by the billing application and used for reporting.
Let pickup fees are charged automatically based on the time stamp entered when a child leaves for the day.
Billing and Invoicing
Automated billing and invoicing provide more operational efficiency. Not only are you not required to print and distribute invoices each week or month, but you also don't need to manually track payments or add fees for late pickup or late payment.
Set your childcare management solution to invoice on specific dates or periods. Late pickup fees are added automatically for that period. Late payment fees are also added automatically, so there is no need for you or your staff to track them.
Poor cash flow can cause problems in maintaining the operations of an afterschool program. When payment is provided by check and subsidies are received for students through an agency, the lag time between the receipt of payment and the money entering the account can create periods of low or negative funds. Late payment exacerbates the problem.
Online payment receipt and processing get the money in the bank quickly without the need for manual processing, receipt of funds, or trips to the bank. Payment is rendered online, and the money goes directly into the account, reducing the payment cycle substantially.
Online payment processing is more secure than handling checks or cash at the program facility. Nothing gets lost or misrouted. And when you process checks electronically, the money is delivered to your account more quickly, without waiting for the physical check to clear through the bank.
Keeping parents in the loop about their children’s well-being is of utmost importance. They need to know where their children are and what they are doing. Support for afterschool programming is only part of it. Parents also want to have a steady source of communication and interaction between themselves and the program.
A parent portal, one application of a childcare management solution, enables quick and clear communication between the program and the parents. It not only allows parents to register and enroll their children, but they can also manage their child's information and receive notifications from the program.
A parent portal provides a centralized communications center where parents can go to receive bulletins and emails, pay for their child’s participation, and send inquiries. They can provide various forms of documentation electronically, such as immunization records, and make changes in permissions and authorizations. For example, they can give authorization for an alternative person to pick their child up if they are not available.
Parents can also obtain tax documents and receipts for their files.
Afterschool management software provides accurate data gathering and reporting so you can prove program participation in support of funding requirements. You can generate reports to help you make business decisions quickly. Add in smoother cash flow to end the feast or famine at the bank, and you have more than enough justification for implementing the solution.
With the time and money saved using childcare management software, you can expand your program, increase your resources, and make a bigger dent in the number of children waiting for a program. The community and the children are safer and more successful academically when an afterschool program provides shelter and assistance.