Why Parents Leave Your Preschool (And What You Can Do About It)

Our mission at The Child Care Success Company is to positively impact one million children by transforming 5,000 early learning businesses. So, we teach our clients a lot about how to increase enrollment in your preschool ranging from how to market, how to answer the phone, how to build rapport, how to conduct an amazing tour, etc. If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ve probably mastered these skills by now. BAM!! Now you are an enrollment machine! (If you are new to us, check out our Enrollment Bootcamp Training Course for help with enrollment strategies!)

After you enroll more and more children you should be set, right? You should eventually reach capacity. Your center should be full and you should have a waitlist, right? This would be the ideal situation, but it cannot happen if you have a constant revolving door of families. You have to continue strengthening your loyalty fence every day. You must consistently offer excellent customer service and quality child care to keep your clients feeling happy and connected to your preschool. You can’t just “rest easy” now that they’ve enrolled, or families will continue to sneak out the back door.

The good news is that it’s easier to keep a current client happy than it is to market and gain the trust of a new one. You just have to make sure that once they are enrolled you don’t give them a reason to leave! Build trust, stay connected with them, and strengthen that fence!

Here are the top 5 reasons families leave a child care center or preschool and what you can do to reduce the churn.

They Are Concerned for the Health, Safety, or Well-Being of Their Child

When parents choose a child care program or preschool, they are looking for the best for their child. NOBODY chooses a mediocre child care program on purpose. Sometimes they will settle for one when the better schools don’t have openings, but from day one they plan to leave as soon as a space opens up at a better program. If parents are concerned that your facility is dirty, or unsafe – or that your caregivers are – they will head for the door sooner than later.

Take a look at your school. Are illnesses being passed around at an abnormally high rate? Is your facility clean? Does it smell pleasant, or like a diaper pail? Do you do curb-appeal inspections from time to time? Do you have an adequate cleaning and inspection routine? Do your caregivers dress and look well put together (vs. looking like they just rolled out of bed)? Do your caregivers conduct themselves professionally? Can parents tell that they truly care for the children? Are there any glaring safety issues? Broken toys, jagged corners, unsafe equipment, shelving in need of repair? Does your staff follow licensing and/or accreditation regulations – or do they regularly cut corners? Do you notice any other red flags that might concern a parent? Fix them!

Every time your client experiences one of the things listed above, you are chipping away at their trust for you and your facility – and parents will not put the well-being of their child at risk for long. It is your job to make sure EVERY health and safety concern that a parent could point out is fixed. Then you must hold your team accountable to uphold your high health and safety standards. This will cut down on the churn.

They Experience Poor Communication or Customer Service from Your School

Nobody wants to be treated poorly, or like they are an inconvenience – especially not by someone you are paying a good amount to care for the most precious thing in the world to them. So, if your parents are feeling like they are treated poorly, rudely, or worse yet – ignored, they will find a way to leave your school.

Be available to chat in the hallways, or to meet with parents when needed. Reply to emails and return phone calls promptly. Be sure that your staff is trained in your excellent customer service standards.

Secret shop your school by calling or having a friend call in posing as a potential family. Hire a secret shopper to come in and tour. Ask your families to fill out a survey to rate how you currently are doing, then use the results to improve.

To improve communication, use a parent app or a daily note to make sure important things about your child’s day are communicated to the parents. Send a monthly newsletter. Post regularly on your center Facebook page. Have a centralized parent bulletin board in your lobby. Find ways to make sure that your families are getting the information they need about what is happening at your school.

Put a parent retention plan in place to make sure you are showing them some love at regular points along the way. Wow them and remind them that they are important to you, and your school is the best place for their family.

They Are Having Financial Issues

If a family is having financial issues, child care is usually one of the first things they try to cut. It’s a huge expense, and sometimes other creative solutions can be found. IF one of the parents experiences a job loss this is usually a “go-to” budget-saving measure. In some cases, there is nothing that can be done. The family just cannot afford child care or preschool costs any longer. 

But in other cases, if you offered a reduced schedule option, you may be able to keep the family. If they are full-time, ask them if they’d be open to dropping to two or three days a week, at least temporarily. That way the child’s routine stays somewhat consistent, you don’t completely lose an enrollment, AND the parent has some kid free days to work on that resume and hunt down the perfect new position.

If you present the option as a win-win for the family, they just might take you up on it. And when they do land their new job, they will likely bump back up to full time.

PS – You don’t have to advertise that you do this if you normally only allow full-time enrollments. This is a strategy to help you keep a family vs losing them altogether.

They Don’t Feel Connected

If your families don’t feel connected to you or your teachers, they will leave as soon as something more convenient comes along. The allure of a more conveniently located school, longer hours, provided lunches, diapers, or a newer facility will catch their attention long enough to consider leaving you.

If your family is connected to you, none of these things will even matter. They will be willing to be slightly inconvenienced driving a little farther or by packing a child’s lunch every day because it’s worth it! They are getting amazing care for their child, and they are so bonded with you they couldn’t imagine leaving. I once had a family that moved 30 minutes away from my center, and rather than looking for a center closer to home, they continued to keep their 3 children enrolled because they felt like they were part of our family.

What can you do to make sure you are building relationships with your families? Engage with them. Make sure your teachers are trained to have positive conversations with parents daily – always sharing at least one cute or happy story about their child. (Don’t share negative stuff or complain about the child unless it’s truly a concern. Keeping children from jumping off the chairs or throwing toys is just part of the job. It should not even be mentioned. Parents won’t want to leave their kids with you if they feel like you don’t like taking care of them.)

As the owner or director, you should be available and visible during busy drop off and pick up times to greet parents with a happy smile.

Have a monthly parent newsletter and feature families of the month to help them feel important and get to know each other. Hold occasional family events or activities. Invite parents in for muffins with mom, or donuts with dad, or to help with the Valentine’s Day party. Send a note home, or call a parent once in a while – just to tell them something awesome about their kid. Purposely do things to let your families know you care about them and their child. Build the relationship. Build the connection. Keep the family long term.

Their Personal Circumstances Change

If a family has something happen in their lives to change their personal circumstances, you might not be able to keep them. Maybe they are getting transferred to a new town, have a new baby coming and are choosing to be a stay at home parent, or have some other type of health or family issue.

When these types of things happen, you may not be able to save the enrollment, but you can show them lots of love on their way out. When you show them that they are valued, and will be missed, they are much more likely to return if/when their circumstances allow it in the future.

I hope this has given you some insight on what you can do to strengthen your loyalty fence and keep more families enrolled at your school long term. If you have any additional reasons parents might leave and/or some ideas to prevent turnover, comment them below!

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Chris Pederson

    I agree that no one wants to be treated as an inconvenience. I want to send my kids to a child care service where they will be treated properly. I also want the teachers to respect me as a parent and my decisions for my kids.

  2. David Williamson

    Thank you, Sindye Alexander, for putting together everything in why parents leave your preschool. I think you have covered all the major points in this article, I will share this with my network as well. I think if anyone wants to become expert in child education, then he needs to read your content consistently.

  3. Kristofer Van Wagner

    I absolutely agree with you that when choosing childcare services, it is important that we take a hard look at their health and cleanliness level. As my child will be spending a huge chunk of their time at the center, it makes sense for us to have it clean and safe for my children to stay at. Since my wife and I are going back to the office next month, we need to drop off our kids at the center. I will definitely keep your tip in mind when I make my survey.

  4. Jacqueline R. Miller

    Really like these new tips, which I haven’t heard of before, like the Why Parents Leave Your Preschool. Can’t wait to implement some of these as soon as possible.

  5. Thanks for the top 5 reasons families leave a child care center or preschool and what you can do to reduce the churn.

  6. I absolutely agree with you, parents will trust your preschool if they know their kids will be safe. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Chance Cook

    I agree that parents will leave if they feel like they are being treated poorly. I hope that I can find a childcare place that appreciates me as a parent. That shows me how much they’d care for my kids too.

  8. Kristofer Van Wagner

    I appreciate that this post underlined that when looking for a child care center, it is best that we are mindful of the customer service. It makes sense as in doing so, it ensures that they are professional and care about us. I will definitely consider their customer service before choosing a center.

  9. kangarookids123

    You explain all point why parents leave preschool also provide solution ,its will help us to improve our school services .

  10. Alice Carroll

    You made a good point that having a list of needs first is essential when planning to choose the right preschool. I plan to look for a good preschool soon after my family has relocated to a new city. Finding the right school would take some time so it would be best to do that early on.

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