It's not that common for parents to ask providers for references before making a decision to enroll their child, but it does happen.
What's the purpose of references?
Why would a parent ask for references knowing that you will only give them names of current clients (who are presumably happy with your care) or past clients who will only say good things about you?
I think the answer is that references can reassure parents that they are making the right decision. Some parents only need to see that you have a list of references to be reassured. Other parents will call every reference and spend a lot of time talking with each one.
Some family child care providers are reluctant to give out references. They wonder if parents are less trustworthy because they are asking for references. Or, they are concerned that the parent will unnecessarily bother their clients with endless questions.
I think having a list of references is a good idea.
I would probably only give out two-three names of either current or past clients.
You may also want to have some current and former clients write you a letter describing what they liked about your program. You can have these letters in your binder of materials you show prospective parents at their interview. Three or four such letters is probably enough.
Obviously, before giving out a reference be sure to get written permission of the person you want on your reference list. I'd recommend getting new references and letters every year or so to replace old ones.
Some providers don't give out references and refer parents to reviews and letters posted by clients on their Facebook page or website.
Some parents will ask for references because they've read guides to choosing child care that recommend it. Therefore, I think it's a good idea to either give out names of a few references or have positive letters you can show or refer the parent to.
Asking current or past clients for a reference shouldn't be difficult. Most will be very willing to do so and they can be fun to read!
What has your experience been with references?
Tom Copeland - www.tomcopelandblog.com
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/grovesa16/