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100% Family Enrollment: How One YMCA Early Learning Director Grew Her Community through Parent Communication

Ashley Rice has her hands full.

As the Early Childhood Director at the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, she's responsible for all things early learning. Whether it's the full-day licensed preschool, the Play and Learn Center drop-in babysitting or any of the Y's many family events, if it involves the association's youngest members—Ashley's the woman behind it.

Today, 100% of Ashley's families are enrolled as members of the Y. 

But getting there wasn't easy.

We had to know. How does a woman with so much on her plate still find time to enroll all her families as members? Ashley gave us an inside peek into how she makes it happen.

The Challenge: Scrap the Paper Sheets and Boost Parent Communication

Not long after joining the Ransburg YMCA in 2015, it became clear Ashley needed a tool to help her teachers communicate better with parents and guardians.

"When we originally opened our early learning centers we were using paper sheets and it was very hard to get the teachers to fill them out. We also do surveys twice a year and from our results, it was clear our biggest challenge was parents weren't getting enough communication about their child's day. We knew we needed to find something better."

The challenge for Ashley was three-fold:

  1. Provide a better parent engagement platform

  2. Find a tool that would be easy for teachers to use

  3. NEVER compromise on family safety and security

"It's a technology world now and we knew we needed a tool to help our teachers communicate with parents on a day-to-day basis. We are that safe haven for families and they need to know their children are always secure. What better way to do that than by giving them little tidbits and updates throughout the day?"

Instead of chasing down teachers to fill out paper sheets and then waiting for parents to come pick them up, Ashley launched a child care app that allowed her and her team to show families what their children are actually doing throughout the day. "Now our parents never have to think about questions like 'Is my child learning?' or 'Is my child safe?'"

And with 41 children to educate and care for, safety is always a concern.

The Solution: Find a Tool That Makes Secure Communication a Breeze

Ask any ECE specialist and they'll tell you: drop-offs and pickups are two of the toughest parts of the day.

"Before we started using LineLeader, we used another tool that didn't offer the Pin Check-in and it was a little crazy. Anybody dropped off, anybody picked up and we didn't know who was who unless a parent came and told us."

But Ashley and her team of 7 teachers don't have time to drop what they're doing and chase parents. And Ashley wasn't about to cut corners on safety. She started exploring tools that would not only help her communicate with parents but also handle those important logistical moments.

"With LineLeader, I love that we're able to always know who's dropping off and picking up. We now have greater control over the security of our center. Our parents know that if someone else is dropping off or picking up their child, they need to have that pin code or they're going to get a call from us."

But for Ashley and her team, creating a safe haven for families isn't just about the logistics. It's about shining a light on those priceless growth and learning moments that happen each and every day while the children are in their care.

The Results: Better Memories (and more memberships)

Before rolling out her child care app, there wasn't much of a connection between parents and teachers.

But today 46% of parents view their children's successes and failures as a reflection of their parenting and if they want to feel confident in their roles as parents, they need to be empowered with more information about how and what their children are learning.

"Now it's not just a matter of allowing the parents to see what's happening throughout their child's day, we also educate them on the standards and foundations their children are learning from. When we post pictures, we're able to say 'This is under the umbrella of language and arts' and 'This is the foundation they're learning.'"

It's a small but important step in bridging the gap between parents and teachers.

"Daycare and preschool are not the same thing."

Now that her parents are more switched-on and engaged in their children's learning, Ashley and her team have put an expectation on them to become more involved with their kids at home.

"One of the biggest things we noticed was that parents didn't know how to engage with their kids at home, they didn't know what to do beyond teaching them the alphabet song or how to count to ten."

Ashley and her team now send small activities home with the kids and even though they don't call it "homework", it helps open the door to parents to become more involved in their children's' learning.

Here's a quick sum-up of the results Ashley and her team have seen:

  1. More engaged parents and kids
  2. Chaos-free drop-off and pickups
  3. 100% family enrollment

When new parents come into the center, Ashley always lets them know about everything the Y has to offer. 

"I always let parents know they can become members to get the member rate, but not only that, you can also engage as a family and enjoy everything the Y has to offer. So if you want to put your child in Taekwondo, or ballet, or if you simply want to exercise together as a family—now you have the option to do that because you're a member of this community."

As a result, all of Ashley's families are now members of the YMCA.

With LineLeader, it's easy for Ashley to track parent engagement rates and keep enrollment up, for the benefit of both the early childhood programming and the association overall.

Greater Engagement, Greater Community

When she's not caring for the Y's youngest members, you can find Ashley crazy

"I love to decorate. Event planning is one of my passions. I love it. I love it. I love it. Any chance I can get to do events at the Y or the early learning center, I'll do it. Right now I'm planning my goddaughters baby shower and I've probably gone over the top. I just love creating an atmosphere people can enjoy. Whether it's the centerpieces or hall decorations, I love doing little things that bring joy and life to an event."

And it's that same attention to detail that makes Ashley the standout educator she is today. 

"I chose early childhood because of my passion for making sure children get a great start to their education and also because I love working with families."

Whether it's money, supplies or fair wages, we know that heroes like Ashley often don't get the resources they deserve. "My wish for early learning centers is that they have more resources and space. There are many centers out there that just don't have the resources they need to provide the level of quality that they want to provide," says Ashley. 

But with the right tools, at least today's ECE professionals can build more trust and respect with the families they serve while making it easier to prove their value in terms of hard numbers like membership and enrollment rates. More than that, they can now prove the real impact of the work they do.

Before using LineLeader, some of Ashley's parents still referred to the center as 'daycare'. These days, it's a word she hears less and less.

"We've noticed that the parents are asking more questions now. Before they were coming in, we'd tell them what we were working on and they were like, 'Uh-huh. OK, bye.' Now, they're coming in, asking questions and telling us about the things they're noticing in their children. They're even asking us for more activities they can work on at home. That's something we had never seen before using LineLeader."

Streamline Your YMCA Centers and Family Engagement

By embracing a parent engagement app to simplify communication, you can enhance family engagement and create a more enriching childcare experience.

Whether it's sharing important updates, involving families in their child's education, or streamlining administrative tasks, the right mobile app can empower you to build stronger connections with families and nurture a thriving childcare community. 

Not a User Yet? 

Explore an efficient tool that simplifies communication with families. 

Schedule a Demo

Already a User or Simply Want to Learn More? 

Check out the Knowledge Base to make the most of your family engagement app. 

Meet The Author

Asyah Jiron is a marketing intern with professional experience in field marketing, content, and advertising. She attends the University of North Texas and is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies with a Marketing concentration. Asyah is passionate about growing her marketing knowledge and always tackles any new challenge thrown her way.

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