I’m just trying to gather a little bit of information. Tell me about how you dismiss kids and why you do the things you do, specifically with elementary. I know that what you do depends on how you check-in your kids, but I just want to know more about what everyone does.
Do parents come into the classroom to pick up their kids? Do they wait at the door and you bring their kids to them? How do you verify that the parent is authorized to pick up a child? Do you keep their name tag? Do they keep their name tag? Why?
What have you found to be most efficient? What have you found to be most secure?
I’m hoping to learn some things that you’re doing that can make my check-out/dismissal even better than it is right now. Don’t be shy, right out a long and detailed comment about what you’re doing. Everyone can learn something from anyone. Don’t make me call you a lurker!
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There are several components to factor in:
1. The tag: How much info to do you need?
2. Exit process: Are parents allowed in the room?
3. Matching of tags: Who does it and how?
We include the first & last name of the child, the parents names, and a family ID number (that doesn’t change). The parents’ ID tags also have the names of their children on it. Only adults with ID tags are allowed to pick up a child.
Each classroom has separate entrance & exit doors. We have a volunteer or staff member standing at the exit door to greet the parents. We use a headset microphone to call the names of the children when their parent arrives. We have also allowed parents to come into the room and get their child when needed, but someone still matches up the tag at the exit door before they can leave the room.
Matching of tags:
I feel that the safest and most efficient way to match the tags is to have a staff person or a regular volunteer (who is familiar with the families) looking at the kids tags and parents tags to match up and verify the information. We do not physically remove the tags from the children.
I have seen it done many different ways. Feel free to try out different things until you find what works best for you and your families. Just remember….safety first!
We have a five step process for security and organization.
1. Arrive at the Cross Town Children’s Ministry check-in table.
2. Child receives a pre-made name tag with lanyard.
3. Parent receives similar card with just a number that
corresponds with the child’s name tag.
4. Child it escorted to class by volunteer.
5. Parent returns to check-in table and hands card to volunteer who goes to the child’s Sunday School class and brings the child to the parent after matching card to name tag.
This process works fairly well for us except for a couple of issues.
We have an older building so we do not have one central door to the children’s area. Parent’s tend to come from both directions which leads to some chaos. Looking into fire codes to lock one entrance from the outside yet still be able to leave without unlocking a door for fire code.
Small area for check-in and out so if it is a first time guest than filling out the paperwork and making guest name tags tends to be a little bit of a slow down.
Not all parents and adults show up to drop off or pick up their child. Not sure why other than lazy.
No need for computer system/ software/ labels/ printer
One time cost for name tag/ laminator/ laminate sleeves/ lanyard
Can put any information we would like on cards like schedule/ allergies/ special instructions/ where parents are/ etc…
Easy to use
Small hallways so keeping traffic flow to a minimum.
We use an electronic sticker system with randomized numbers. For check-in the family uses the kiosk and it prints out one label for their entire family with different numbers on it for each kid. Each kid gets a name tag and the parents keep the “claim tag.” Because it’s sticky many parents put it in their program or their leg or something else. Also, having only one claim tag for the whole family makes it easier than having one for each kid.
When it comes time for check-out families come to the doors of each classroom. We’ve got plastic chains that we’ve strung up across the doors that say essentially, stay out. It’s obviously much nicer than that, but that’s what they basically say. So parents come to the doors and show you their claim tag. I use the name and simply call it out if their old enough to know their name. I do a quick spot check on the kids name tag and the numbers and then they’re good to go.
If the claim tag is lost, I go over to the check-in kiosk, get on the system, look at the parents names and make them show me a picture ID. We’re a small church (60 kids) so most of the parents I know very well, but doing this is annoying to them and they realize, “I’d better keep a hold of my claim tag or else I’ll have to go out to the car to get my purse every week and be late for lunch.” It doesn’t take but one or two times for them to see we’re serious.
Because we’re a smaller church and pretty much everyone knows everyone, what I hammer into my teachers more than anything is just take the claim tag and use that to call out names. If they’ve got the tag, they’re good to pick them up, but just use the tag. Easy enough. It’s a struggle but I’ve got about 75% of my teachers doing it consistently w/o question. That’s how we roll downtown.
Forgot to put that I don’t care who keeps the name tags and the claim tags. Because they are disposable stickers when I take the claim tag if they need it back to go get their other kids, I’ll give it back. But then usually it’s thrown away at the last classroom. The name tags usually go home on the kids backs because that’s where parents have been instructed to put them. I know my little girl Kyla loves hers and plays with it in the car.
Our check-in kiosk system prints two stickers for each kid. One goes on the child, the other stays with the parent. The 2nd sticker (identical to the first) is used for pick-up. It is presented to teacher who REMOVES the sticker from the child, matches it to the “claim sticker” and releases the child. We do our best to not allow the children to walk out of the building with the stickers on, for many reasons… (Stickers are no fun in the washer, but more importantly can become a safety issue in a public area. Children sometimes assume that if an adult knows their name, they are safe/know me/friends of the family.)
If a parent losses their 2nd sticker used for pick-up, they simple go to the kiosk, enter in their (private and unique) 5-digit pin, and re-print the sticker.
I’d be interested to know how other churches handle check-in/pick-up with first time visitors, not yet in the check-in system.
oh – also… we do our best to keep parents out of the classrooms. The younger children are, the tougher this is, AND the more important. For our baby classes, or anyone expecting a child, has a new child, or is even new to the church w/a very young child, we hold quarterly “baby showers” were we invite parents to come to a special party where we love on them, but also spend time both showing them the classrooms (scavenger hunt), talking about the teaching that goes on in the baby classes (yes – we do have baby class “curriculum”!), and teaching about things parents can do at home to begin to lay a strong foundation of faith. A little off the subject there, but all that to say – it gives parents a hands on view of the classroom, activities, cleanliness, and an opp for us to speak into the “why” behind our policies and procedures during Sat/Sun services.
From infant nursery on up through 6th grade we generally host about 100 kids per week.
When I arrived, children signed themselves in (but not out), and each child had a laminated name tag attached to a lanyard. Needless to say I very quickly got sick of making a dozen new lanyards for kids who had lost or damaged them every week. Also, I realized our records were completely unreliable, as many children often forgot to sign themselves in, and it didn’t matter anyway, because we had no record of them being picked up.
I abolished that system, and started from scratch, basing most of the new system on what I had learned from the book, “Safe Place” by Marv Parker. (Great resource!)
Now I have a “Safe Place Director” whose job it is to recruit, train and schedule “Safe Team” members. Their responsibility is to enforce our Safe Place policies, including our check in/out system.
Our check in system is based on good-ol fashioned paper forms, and is working beautifully. Kids under 10 are signed by their parents, or a designated guardian (we have a space on the child’s form where a parent can designate certain people to check in/out their child). Each child gets a pre-printed name tag with a color dot (we just use Avery mailing labels). Each child has a form and a sheet of name tags in a binder. The binders are organized alphabetically.
After service kids, under 10 must be signed out by someone that has been designated by the parent. Usually the name tags have become doodling material or spit balls by that point.
Kids over 10 can sign themselves in and out.
Here’s a link to our form online (yay Google Docs!) feel free to download it/use it.
How awful is this? In our elementary environment, we just tell the kids bye and they go. We meet in the gym at church and 95% of the parents are in the gym waiting when we finish and they get heir kids as they leave. We average 20-40 kids and we know every parent. This is a terrible system especially when compared to our system int eh preschool which people do not like since it rivals the bank. We desperately need to make this a priority to fix but just haven’t yet.
We have check-in Kiosks out in our main lobby. As well as in the foyer area of our preschool room and in our 5th & 6th grade area. Every Kiosk is capable of checking in an entire family from baby to 6th grade. Every child that comes with a family gets the same security number printed on their name tag and the Parent gets a tag with the number on it. We take the time at checkin to enter info in and checkin first time guests so nothing different in regards picking up a first time guest. Our building is somewhat unique because it was formerly a furniture store that we renovated into our current location. We made the decision to keep big open rooms and have loved it, so our preschoolers are in one big room and our 1st-4th graders are in one big room. Each area: baby suite, preschool (toddlers – 5k), children (1st-4th), and middle school (5th & 6th) has a different check-out procedure that fits the age level and the design of the room. I’ll focus on our children’s area since that’s what you asked about.
Greeters meet the parents at the Entrance door that connects to our main lobby. They hand the parent our take home sheet for the weekend and ask to see their sticker. The sticker verifies that they have checked a child in and at that point they are allowed into the room. (This is the only time a non background checked person is allowed into this room) We do some different things with the kids at checkout time from large group upbeat worship lead from the stage, to Large group games (often times trivia type games to reinforce the weekends lesson). Parents find their own child and then proceed to our exit door. We keep children’s workers stationed at both the entrance doors and the exit doors during this entire time. If a parent or child tries to exit through the entrance we kindly redirect them to our exit door. At the exit door we have workers stationed to check the security numbers on the name tags. We take the kids name tags off and throw them away at this point (they are disposable stickers) I agree with a previous posters thoughts that these could be a safety concern if left on out in the community and also don’t want parents to have to worry about washing them :-). The Parent keeps their tag because they may be using it to pick up another child in another room. Our exit door is somewhat like an exit door at a movie theater, people can exit out it, but no one can enter through it.
In the past we used the procedure of parent’s waiting at our main entrance and us bringing kids to them. As we grew this became too cumbersome and we felt too much of a negative experience because of the log jam that ensued at that area. One specific problem with renovating a building the Baby suite door and the Kids doors are in the same nook off of the main lobby and parents still have to wait outside the Baby suite for their child to be brought to them. We also need to clear our room as efficiently and quickly as possible because we are currently running four identical services and three of them are back to back to back on Sunday morning. We responded by using the procedure we have now. Pluses for us are that it is much quicker and Parents get a taste of the great experience their child is getting in our room. Only downside would be a possible security risk as compared to the no parents in the room procedure, but I believe we have taken the necessary steps to remove that risk: by the open design of our space – no place for a vol or parent to be unseen with a minor; by training our vols to spread out through the room and interact with kids and parents at pickup; and by having the right vols stationed at both the entrance and exit doors (people who love to follow the rules and are not afraid to kindly ask others to do the same) We also keep payed police officers on campus all weekend just in case.
When parents check in they receive a “pick up” tag. We have a randomized number printed on three labels, the “pick-up” tag does not have the child’s name on it, just the numbers and the classroom they belong to. Many parents allow their 1-3rd graders to go to their classroom by themselves. (It is strait up the stairs from the check in area, and there is no where else for the kids to go.)
For dismissal, I require the parents to return to the classroom to pick up their children. They must give the “pick up” tag to the teacher to receive their child. I have a few regulars who seem to always forget their tags, and typically I break policy (photographing a DL) to allow them a more smooth pick up. We are still a small church and so I know every parent and who goes to which child.
In our Early Childhood area parents are not allowed in the classrooms, they can view the rooms on a tv screen, and check in/out at a counter directly in front of the 3 classrooms. This works wonderfully, and allows us flexibility to move kids to different rooms based on numbers (we can range from 4-20 on any given Sunday)
In our elementary area 95% of the parents wait at the door, some parents come in the room a few feet to talk to the teachers and some come in and play a game/ finnish an activity with their child for a few minutes.
Our 4th and 5th graders don’t get a “pick up” tag, we do require a parent to pick them up however. We are training them for middle school when they just get released when they are done.
Our system works really well. Parents appreciate the security and the fact that we are flexible for regulars who we know. I love the fact that there is a bit of extra security in early childhood to a little less in lower elementary to even less in upper elementary. It protects our kids, makes the parents feel safe, and still allows us to minister each week.
Thanks everyone for all the great information. I hope it was helpful for everyone. It was for me.
Brandon, I’m going to give you the same line of advice that I’ve heard Jim Wideman say over and over again. If you want to grow, you’ve got to create a structure for growth. So, if you don’t structure like a elementary program that could handle 100 kids, you’ll probably not grow to 100 kids. I’d redesign your elementary check out as if you were running hundreds and didn’t know all the families. Sorry, I know you didn’t ask for my opinion.
Erin, just curious. Are you guys using Shelby. Your stickers sounded an awful lot like Shelby.
Rob, I can’t tell you how much I loved the layout of your facility. It’s still one of my favorites. I blogged about my visit to Keystone 2.5 years ago and believe it or not, it’s still one of my most visited posts.
.-= Kenny´s last blog ..What makes a great iPhone App? =-.
I have been searching for some type of software that would allow us to highlight a child’s name from our attendance list when a parent arrives and the name be projected onto a monitor in the classrooms. Have any of you heard of any type of software that could do this? We currently use an overhead speaker system and our dismissal leader calls out the child’s name when the parent arrives. But, we run 85-90 kids so once she begins calling names it is very distracting in the classrooms for the next 10-15 minutes as names are being called!