Business continuity, sometimes referred to as continuity of operations planning (COOP), involves being able to resume normal operations after a disruptive incident, such as an emergency or natural disaster.
A business continuity plan helps answer questions like:
- Would your program survive if you had to close for one week due to an emergency? What about one month or longer?
- Would parents be able to find care for that time while you were closed?
- How would you pay staff? Utilities? Rent or mortgage?
The Importance of Business Continuity in Child Care Programs
After an emergency, having safe child care available allows individuals and communities to recover faster. If child care providers plan in advance, before an emergency, they can reopen easier after damage or closure.
Business continuity planning should be included in a child care program’s comprehensive written all-hazards emergency plan.
Continuity of operations planning is a CCDF requirement for child care providers. Some state licensing entities require business continuity or COOP plans. It is also recommended in Caring for Our Children.
Business Continuity Planning Topics
To prepare for child care program business continuity, the following topics should be considered:
- Protection of vital records (both child records and business records)
- Protect paper records from water or fire damage
- Consider converting documents to electronic records and store them off-site or on a web-based server
- Back-up caregivers or alternate child care locations
- Find locations that may be possible places to operate if your child care site is damaged
- Consider another child care program that may be able to care for children if necessary
- Be sure to talk your state licensing to figure out what steps must be taken before operating at an alternate site
- Policies on parent payments during closures
- Decide in advance if parents will have to pay during closures due to an emergency
- Include the policy in your contract with parents
- Policies on paying employees during closures
- Decide in advance if employees will be paid during closures due to an emergency
- If you will be paying employees, figure out where those funds will come from
- Inventory of equipment
- Complete a thorough inventory of child care equipment, furnishings, and supplies, as well as administrative equipment at least once a year (including purchase price)
- Take pictures or video of the items
- Insurance coverage
- Make sure your insurance coverage is adequate for your business
- How Insurance Protects You in an Emergency offers more guidance
- Establishing an emergency fund
- It is recommended that you have enough money to cover all insurance deductibles as well as basic living expenses for at least three months
Review Reducing the Financial Toll of Emergencies for more recommendations on many of these topics.
COVID-19 and Business Continuity
The COVID-19 pandemic serves as an example of the importance of planning ahead for business continuity. Many child care providers have been severely impacted by COVID-19. Policies on parent and staff payments during closure often were not in place. Loss of income due to closing or reduced enrollment had a significant impact as well. While the challenges of the pandemic probably could not have been avoided, having a business continuity plan in place may have made it a little easier.
The pandemic also brings about other questions to consider when it comes to business continuity, including:
- Will your hours of operation need to change?
- How will you staff your program if employees must quarantine?
- How will you ensure you have adequate supplies (cleaning and paper products, for example)?
- Will you need to modify your child care space due to health or safety guidance?
- Are you encouraging parents to think of back up child care options in the event you must close temporarily due to illness?
Preparing for Business Continuity
If you have a business continuity plan in place for your child care program, be sure to keep it updated. If you do not have a business continuity plan, consider the topics above to get started. It is never too late to start thinking about business continuity for your child care program.
Your local CCR&R can be a great resource to help you create or update a business continuity plan.
Child Care Aware® of America Resources