Like a nervous parent, when Cheryl Frazier handed over the child-care responsibilities for the event she had planned to a new provider, she was engaging in a supreme act of faith. She had checked backgrounds and verified references, but she wasn't about to relax until she saw how the company actually dealt with her attendees' children. “After that first night, after I saw what a good job they were doing, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders,” she says.

Frazier, marketing coordinator for Sysco Food Services of San Francisco, is just one of many planners who outsource child-care services at resort meetings. Frazier had heard about Corporate Kids Events Inc., a company in nearby Carmel that has a national clientele. After checking references, she hired Corporate Kids, and “since then, everyone has been madly in love with them.”

Corporate Kids Events has seen business trend upward, says Garen Gouveia, who with his wife, Susan, founded the company five years ago. After years of providing day care, the couple got into corporate and convention children's services by happenstance and, says Gouveia, “realized there was a need.”

The company has 60 employees and has provided services to the corporate market in places as far away as Hawaii, Ireland, and the Bahamas. It handles groups of as few as 10 and as many as 500 children. Gouveia says costs vary depending on the size of an event, its location, and whether it includes off-site excursions and field trips, as well as the age span of the children involved. For example, he uses a higher staff-to-child ratio for younger children, which makes that kind of care more expensive.

Diane Lyons, president of Accent on Children's Arrangements Inc., a child-care services company based in New Orleans, says it is important to be aware of how guidelines vary from state to state. Lyons says that she always provides a lower ratio than that required by the National Association for the Education of Young Children or by the applicable state agency. “If they recommend a 1-to-3 ratio for infants, we provide a 1-to-2 ratio,” she says.

Costs vary depending on the details. Lyons has set up children's sailing programs with instructors as well as fly-fishing events at an Orvis school in Michigan. “They are very cool,” she says, “but they obviously will have costs, like an adult program.”

Security Matters

When a company such as Corporate Kids Events or Accent on Children's Arrangements puts on events outside its home territory, it sends managers to run the event. Those managers hire local, part-time professional caregivers. Criminal background checks are done on these employees, and both companies expect them to be CPR-certified. Both Gouveia and Lyons say they look for employees who are experienced caregivers, such as retired teachers or college students who are going into the education field.

Security is the utmost concern for Jody Barrett, vice president of event management for Three Wide Event Management of Kansas City, Mo. Barrett plans an annual event for the retail optical chain Pearle Vision, which was held this year at the Doubletree hotel in Monterey, Calif., for 500 people, including 30 children. She narrowed down her child-care options through a Web search, and in the end she chose Corporate Kids. Between the background checks and the safety precautions, Barrett says, Corporate Kids put her at ease.

As part of his background checks, Gouveia ensures that his California-based employees are TrustLine-registered, which means that they have submitted themselves to a background check by the California Department of Social Services. (See box at right.)

Lyons believes planners often overlook this “risk management” aspect of the business when they look for child-care providers. Whether the issue is insurance, employee certifications, or background and training, planners need to “do a lot of due diligence,” Lyons says. “They should have loads of questions.”

Child-care Checklist

Diane Lyons, president of Accent on Children's Arrangements, New Orleans, says that planners should consider several factors when choosing a child-care provider:

  • Reputation

    Is the company recommended by a convention bureau? Does it have a solid, updated client list? How many years has it been the business?

  • Experience

    Has the company worked with a group of the same size and age diversity?

  • Insurance and training

    Does the company carry liability insurance? Are employees CPR-certified, or do they have other safety/medical training, such as pediatric first aid?

  • Staff-to-child ratios

    The National Association for the Education of Young Children calls for 1-to-3 adult-to-child ratios for children from birth to age 2, up to 1-to-14 ratios for children ages 9 to 12.

  • Programming

    Are programs customized? Are they appropriate for the age and culture of the children?

  • Security protocol

    Does the company have established safety, security, and registration procedures? How does it handle drop-offs and pickups?

Michael Bassett is a staff writer with our sister publication Corporate Meetings & Incentives, from which this article was adapted.