Building a business
Immunization: Help parents get accurate information
Before parents can enroll children in child care programs and public schools, state law and regulations require children to be immunized against certain infectious diseases. In Texas, for example, licensing rules (Section 746.613) require a schedule of vaccinations beginning at age 1 as specified by the Texas Department of State Health Services (25 Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 97, Subchapter B).
Note: A vaccination is the injection designed to provide immunity to a disease, and an immunization is the immunity provided by vaccination or by having recovered from the disease.
There are exemptions to the requirements, however. All states allow exemptions for medical reasons, and almost all states allow exemptions for religious reasons. In addition, 20 states allow exemptions for personal, moral, or other philosophical beliefs. To obtain an exemption, parents must follow a state’s regulations. In Texas, for example, parents must request a specific affidavit form from the state health department, get the affidavit notarized, and present it to the school (25 TAC, Section 97.62).
If parents ask your opinion about the benefits or risks of immunization, help them find accurate information. The links below can direct parents to reputable medical and public health resources.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Be Informed,” www.vaccines.gov/basics/safety/informed/index.html.
Mayo Clinic, “Infant and Toddler Health: Childhood Vaccines: Tough Questions, Straight Answers,” www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/vaccines/art-20048334.
Texas Children’s Hospital, The Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research, “Vaccine Facts and Myths,” www.texaschildrens.org/Locate/Departments-and-Services/Vaccine/Vaccine-Facts-and-Myths/.
Relying on reputable resources is critical because children’s health is at stake. Just as one would carefully check out doctors or financial advisors before consulting them, parents should check out immunization information, especially any they find on the Internet. Key questions include the following:
Who is providing the information (individual, organization, agency)? Check the “About us” or similar tab.
What are their credentials (education, experience)?
What is their motive in providing the information? Is it to inform the public, sell a product, or gain notoriety for themselves?
Is the information based on facts and verified research, or is it opinion and speculation? Are strong assertions grounded in sources that you can check for yourself?
For more information about preventable diseases, vaccine safety and laws, state policies, and information issues, check these websites:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Vaccines and Immunizations,” www.cdc.gov/vaccines/.
Georgetown University Library, “Evaluating Internet Resources,” www.library.georgetown.edu/tutorials/research-guides/evaluating-internet-content.
National Conference of State Legislatures, “Immunizations Policy Issues Overview,” www.ncsl.org/research/health/immunizations-policy-issues-overview.aspx.
Tax deductions for home care providers
Although the April 15, 2016 tax deadline is months away, it’s never too early to organize business records that can save time in preparing tax returns. In-home caregivers, part of the 815,000 self-employed people in the United States, may be able to count certain costs as business expenses and keep more of their earnings.
The following is not intended as tax advice, but the questions may stimulate ideas. Check with your tax preparer first.
Do you pay cash for some items, such as games and books you pick up at garage sales? What about tolls and parking when you go to professional conferences? Those expenses can add up. You might keep an envelope in the car glove compartment for receipts.
Do you pay for your own health insurance? Your premiums can be deducted, not as a business expense, but on your own personal tax return.
Do you use your car to pick up children, take them on field trips, or take them to piano or gymnastic lessons? Keep a log in your car for recording mileage.
How do you advertise your services? Website hosting, printing of handbills, and ads in the neighborhood newspaper are all common business expenses.
Do you pay for professional services related to your business, such as bookkeeping, legal advice, marketing, or graphic design? Even the fees charged for tax preparation are business expenses.
A portion of your home expenses. The IRS allows deducting a percentage of your mortgage payment or rent, property taxes, and utilities based on the square footage of those parts of your home that you use to care for children.
Payment of family members. If a spouse and children handle some of the caregiving or administrative duties, their wages may be deducted, but you may also need to withhold income and FICA (Social Security and Medicare) taxes for them.
Retirement plan. Contributing about 25 percent of your net earnings to a Simplified Employee Pension Plan (SEP) may count as a deduction.
Bad debt. If a family has skipped town without paying, you’re out of luck if you use cash basis accounting, in which you record revenue and expenses as they occur. If you use the accrual method of accounting, however, you can write off the loss as bad debt. Keep records of any agreements parents signed and any letters or e-mail messages you sent in trying to collect.
For more information, see the “Small Business and Self-Employed” section on the IRS website. www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Deducting-Business-Expenses
Child care providers and other small businesses know that the best way to get customers is word-of-mouth. Parents who have a good experience placing their children in your program will likely tell other parents about you.
Of course, word-of-mouth works the opposite way too. Parents who have had a bad experience with your program may tell other parents to stay away.
Word-of-mouth can be spread in person, by phone, in writing, and now social media. How can you encourage satisfied customers to refer other potential customers to you? Suggestions:
Identify your target audience. This is the first rule in any marketing campaign. The target audience in child care is parents with young children, but which parents? Those in the neighborhood? Those with infants and toddlers, or those with school-age children?
What specific attributes does your program offer? Attributes may cover such things as a convenient location, hours of operation including holidays and weekends, accreditation, organic foods, or relationship to a religious group.
Offer an incentive to parents to refer your program to others. The incentive needs to be meaningful, such as a small credit toward the next month’s bill, for example, if the referral brings a child into your program.
Follow up with an e-mail message. The message might contain a link to your program’s website as well as the physical address and phone number, making it easy for a parent to refer someone.
Keep your offer and follow-up low-key. “We love to get referrals,” may be enough to say. You can turn off satisfied customers if you appear too aggressive or constantly hassle them.
Express appreciation regardless of whether the referral brings in another customer or not. “Thanks. We believe good customers refer good customers.”