Free Child Care Waiting List Template and Guide

One of the realities of daycare in the U.S. today is availability, so a good waitlist policy plus a childcare waiting list template are important tools for daycare operators. A waitlist policy outlines the process for prospective families looking for slots in your daycare center. A daycare waitlist template helps you gather the information you need from prospective families so you can notify them as soon as space opens up.  

Keep reading to learn why you need a waitlist and how to create a waitlist policy that includes essential information about your waitlist process. You’ll also find sample waitlist policy language and a sample daycare waiting list template that you can adapt for your center. Finally, you’ll get tips on how to manage your waiting list.  


Table of Contents 

Why Does Your Daycare Center Need a Waitlist?

Childcare is a necessity in the U.S., but daycares may not be able to accommodate all the children who need it. The COVID-19 pandemic combined with staffing shortages and rising childcare costs helped to shutter an estimated 8,889 childcare centers across the U.S. between December 2019 and March 2021. 

The lack of available centers and increasing demand for childcare create areas without proper care options. These are commonly referred to as “childcare deserts.” Even before the pandemic, 6 out of 10 Californians already lived in childcare desert areas. 

Some areas may have waitlists of up to a year or more. Military and naval families are especially vulnerable. In San Diego, Navy families wait between 6 to 18 months for childcare openings. 


How to Establish a Waitlist Policy

Parents with children currently enrolled at your daycare may pull their children out for a number of reasons, like relocation. When space becomes available, having a waitlist ensures that your center fills any vacancies smoothly and promptly. Your center should always have a waitlist policy in case prospective parents want to enroll their child at your center when a vacant slot opens up. 

You should always be transparent about your childcare center's waitlist policy. This will remove any major questions parents may have about enrolling at your daycare. Providing transparent and clear policy guidelines will also cut down on the number of phone and email inquiries your center receives.  

You also want to ensure that your daycare waiting list policy promotes fairness and honesty regarding when and how a child will be admitted to your daycare program as space becomes available. Your daycare waitlist policy is a larger extension of your center's overall philosophy. Setting the tone for your center through your waitlist policy helps to reassure parents of the steps they need to take to navigate this lengthy and often frustrating process.  

Establishing a childcare waiting list is crucial in case space becomes available at your center. If you're not sure how to create and manage a waitlist, having a childcare waiting list template can help. Following these steps will ensure your center has the best waitlist policy in place for potential daycare enrollees. 


What Should a Waitlist Policy Cover?

For the 58% of working parents who use daycare centers for their children, being on a waitlist can be difficult. To offer the most comprehensive information, a successful waitlist policy should cover several areas, including: 

  • Fees 
  • Enrollment periods 
  • Communication 
  • Waitlist order of enrollment 
  • Special enrollment offers

For fees, state whether your center requires any application fees to apply for your waitlist. You also need to state whether these fees are refundable if the parent decides whether or not to enroll their child with your center. Some centers may also require a parent to pay an application fee to hold their child's place on the waitlist or an advance on the first month's tuition. 

You should explain if your center participates in any government financial assistance programs. Include any pertinent information regarding daycare payment policies along with waitlist information. 

You'll also need to specify if your daycare has set enrollment periods or if you offer ongoing enrollment. If a daycare slot opens in the middle of the year, explain what the odds are of a child getting in between normal enrollment periods. This will help parents understand the likelihood of getting a spot in your center. 



Proper communication with potential new families is essential. Let them know how you plan to stay in touch with them while they are on your waiting list. Do they need to call the center each month or will you send text and email updates on their status? 

Inform parents of their current position on the waitlist and how long you will keep prospective children on your waitlist. If possible, let them know any estimated turnover times expected for certain age levels but explain that these are estimates only and not guarantees. Explain if your center operates on a first-come-first-serve basis or if you hold a lottery drawing for available spots. 

Your daycare waitlist policy can also explain if you have any special enrollment offers. These could include a sibling discount or enrollment opportunity for more than one child from the same family at the center. You may also offer a place on the following year's enrollment list if parents are willing to wait a little longer to enroll their child.  


Free Waitlist Policy Template

A proper waitlist policy will help you develop your childcare waiting list template. While you can personalize your waitlist policy as needed, a sample like the one below can help you understand what information you need to include. 


Child Care Waitlist Policy Editable Word Template 

Download the Child Care Waitlist Policy Template for Free! 

Child Care Waiting List Template


Waitlist Policy Text

To prospective parents and children of [Daycare Center Name]: 

Thank you for your interest in adding your name to our waiting list. 

How Our Waitlist Process Works:  

  1. Call or email our center to add your name to the waiting list. Please be aware that each age group at our center has its own individual waiting list. 
  2. Your position on the waiting list is determined by the day you call or send a message asking to be placed on our waitlist. 
  3. Provide the required information for your file to be considered for the waitlist. 
  4. Plan your expected start month accordingly, including the earliest start month you will consider. If you wish to start in April but would consider starting in February if space becomes available before then, please let us know. 
  5. For any changes relating to the contact information provided on our waiting-list form, please contact the center to keep your file up to date. 
  6. You may also call at any time to change your waitlist information without facing any penalties, such as moving your child from the infant waitlist to the toddler waitlist. 
  7. We do not require you to be on our waitlist for a specified length of time to be offered a daycare space. 
  8. You will remain on our center's list unless you specifically call to ask us to remove you. 

Policy on the Availability of Center Space: 

  1. Vacancies within our center are created only when a child or family leaves our center. While there is no set time-frame, the period from July to September has the most potential for possible openings. 
  2. Spaces can become available at any time during the year or at any point in the month. 
  3. Our policy for center withdrawal is 1 month's notice to parents and children. Once the withdrawal is confirmed in writing, we can begin to find another family to fill the vacancy. 
  4. We can contact potential families 4 to 6 weeks before any given space becomes available. 
  5. A supervisor at the center will call all families that are eligible to start in their prospective age groups. 
  6. We will contact all parents waiting for a particular month when spaces become available. If the month you specified for enrollment has already passed, your child will still be offered a space as long as they fall within the age group of the program requested. 
  7. Families called on the waiting list are given a specified time-frame to return the call. They must call back within this time-frame to continue their interest in the vacancy. 
  8. Failure to call back within the time-frame will result in forfeiture of your space and we will move on to the next name on the list. 
  9. If you no longer wish to join our center in the vacant space, the family with the highest seniority date will have the first official refusal of the available space upon calling our center back in the given time-frame. 
  10. If you are called for a space and do not wish to take it at that point in time, your place on the waiting list will remain the same. 

Policy on Securing a Daycare Space: 

  1. Upon receiving an official space offer, if you wish to accept it, we require a 1-week deposit of the child's fee. 
  2. We will apply this deposit to your child’s last month of care, as long as you provide adequate notice. 
  3. Any child accepted into our center will be required to pay a $30 registration fee. 
  4. We will contact all families that express continued interest in a space and are not successful to let them know that another family has filled the space. 
  5. In the event that a child is offered a space in a particular age group, we will let you know whether they are likely to move to the next age group, such as an infant to toddler transition. While space may not be readily available, we will let you know if and when they may be able to move. 


What Fields and Components Should Your Waitlist Form Contain?

Having the right information is key when creating a childcare waiting list template. You should ask parents to provide the following information for their file while on the waitlist: 

  • First and last names of parents/legal guardians 
  • Preferred contact telephone number(s)/email addresses 
  • Child's full name 
  • Child's date of birth 
  • Child's anticipated start month and year 
  • Any unborn children may be added to the list by providing their expected month and year of birth 
  • Desired days and hours of attendance 
  • Names and birthdates of any siblings already enrolled at the center 

While not required, it may be helpful to include a sheet of FAQs regarding your daycare center's waitlist policy as well. This can help parents understand any common issues.  

Parents talk to each other and they may become upset if they find out another parent's child got in before theirs did. But if you are clear on your policies and add a section to your FAQs explaining this scenario, it can help straighten out any misconceptions.  


Childcare Waiting List Template

A daycare waiting list template helps take the guesswork out of creating the right structure for your waitlist. Follow the daycare waitlist template below for help developing your own form. We included the text below in case you wished to copy and paste the material into your own document. Or, you can download our free template. 

Download the Free Editable Template! 

childcare waitlist form screenshot


[Name of Daycare] Childcare Waitlist Form 


Child's Information 


Full Name: ________________________________________ 

Birthdate or Due Date: ______________________________ 

Child's Home Address: ______________________________________ 



Name of Sibling (if applicable): _________________________________ 

Date of Birth: ___________________________________ 

Childcare Information 


Desired Start Date: _______________________________ 

Childcare Program Preference: 

Indicate which childcare program you prefer your child to attend by checking the appropriate box. If you have no preference, check all the boxes.  

[ ] Monday-Friday Morning Schedule 7:00-11:30 a.m. 

[ ] Monday-Friday Afternoon Schedule 12:30-5:00 p.m. 

[ ] Monday-Friday Full Day 7:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. 

We will fill the appropriate slots as they open for either session. 


Contact Information for Parent(s)/Legal Guardian(s) 


Name: ____________________________________ 

Relationship to Child: _____________________________ 

Cellphone Number: _____________________________________ 

Home Phone Number: _________________________________ 

Email Address: _______________________________________ 


Name: ____________________________________ 

Relationship to Child: _____________________________ 

Cellphone Number: _____________________________________ 

Home Phone Number: _________________________________ 

Email Address: _______________________________________ 


Please read our Daycare Waitlist Policy and FAQs for further information regarding our center's waitlist process. 

Our center actively promotes diversity and honesty in all forms.  


How to Manage a Daycare Waitlist

Effective management of a daycare waitlist can be a daunting task for daycare staff who already have so much on their plate. While it's important to maintain and inform parents of their status on the waitlist, you should make sure you engage in the proper practices to do so. Your childcare waiting list template and waitlist management go hand-in-hand with one another. 

Keeping the lines of communication open is essential. Staying in touch with your waitlisted parents can help build trust between your center and your potential families. It shows that you value them and are working diligently to address the issues of open space within your daycare.  

Send monthly or biweekly emails as needed. You can also use text alerts to keep parents informed. You should have a dedicated email address just for waitlist inquiries and updates to keep these messages from getting lost among the other messages. 

If you use a childcare management system, it can help you keep track of your daycare center's waitlists for you. It can automatically send email updates and text alerts to potential families informing them of their status. This can take a burden off you and allow you to focus on other areas of your daycare. 

You should never guarantee a parent a spot in your daycare within a given time-frame. Estimates are fine, as long as you make it clear that these are only estimates.  

Streamlining the waitlist process makes it easier on parents and daycare centers alike. You'll find it much easier when you automate your waitlist process combined with the use of a proper daycare waiting list template. 

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