About Parent Q&A

The Parent Q&A listing is intended as a way for parents to problem-solve with each other, seek advice from each other, and get a range of recommendations from other parents. Parent Q&A is not restricted to only parenting topics, but it is restricted to parents.  Professional advice isn't accepted and cannot be requested.  All posts must be either 1) a question about a specific problem or thing, or 2) a response to someone else's question. 

Related Pages:

General Policies for Parent Q&A

  1. Parents Only. Parent Q&A is intended as a forum for parent-to-parent advice. You must be subscribed as a parent in order to post a question or a response. Community subscribers (schools, businesses, nonprofits, etc.) cannot post Q&A unless they are also subscribed as parents and they are posting as a parent, not as a professional or as a business.  See Why only parents can post.  

  2. First-hand experience. Please post advice and reviews only about situations that you have direct experience with.  When parents are asking for advice from peers, they are looking for responses from people who have been in a comparable situation. Advice from parents who do not have first-hand experience is less helpful.   For example, BPN doesn't accept reviews of a school that your child has not actually attended, or advice about teenagers from parents whose children aren't teens yet.

  3. No Self-Recommendations.  You may not recommend yourself or a business or organization that you or your friends or family have a personal interest in.  This includes posting a review of your employer,  posting a question asking how to market your business, or signing your post with your business's name, website, or email.  Schools, classes, and other child-related businesses can purchase a Community Subscription and publicize their services on BPN, but promotional posts are not accepted in Parent Q&A.

  4. Negative reviews and criticisms must conform to BPN's Negative Review Policy. In summary, negative reviews can only be submitted in response to a question, they cannot appear in a question. Negative reviews must be based on the author's first-hand experience, and must be as objective as possible without name-calling.  Questions may not be posted with the intent of soliciting negative reviews. Gossip isn't accepted on BPN. We would consider a post to be gossip if it had a phrase like "I heard that ..." followed by criticism of a person, place, school, service, or product. 

  5. Judgmental and unwelcome advice is accepted, as long as it meets our other policies. If you are asking for advice, please be aware that you may receive responses that seem judgmental, or that you disagree with, or advice that you would never follow. BPN does have the goal of being helpful and supportive to the community of parents, but our community is very diverse, and opinions can vary widely on any given issue. 

BPN moderators are responsible for deciding whether Q&A posts meet BPN's guidelines and policies. We may reject messages that we feel do not comply with the policies, or that we feel are otherwise inappropriate for the list.  Members who are not willing to follow the rules after repeated warnings will be unsubscribed from BPN at the moderators' discretion.

Questions that BPN doesn't accept

  1. Questions seeking professional advice. Questions that require special expertise to answer, such as medical, legal, or financial question, are not accepted.  (See Advice about Medical, Legal & Financial Issues for more info.)
  2. Questions seeking "the correct answer."  Parent Q&A is intended as a way to get a range of opinions, not the one correct answer. Please don't post questions to BPN that you can find the answer to by researching it on google or similar. Examples:  "How can I start a home-based daycare?" ... "How do I apply for a transfer to the Berkeley School District?" ... "What are the ingredients in Tom's Toothpaste?"
  3. Open-ended discussion topics and "why" questions inviting other parents to speculate on an issue such as "Why is it so expensive in the Bay Area?" are not accepted.  We intentionally restrict Parent Q&A to questions from a parent seeking advice from other parents about a specific personal issue, because we don't want to referee lengthy discussions or monitor heated exchanges.
  4. Political calls to action such as "Call your school board member about this important topic!"  are beyond the scope of BPN.  There are many other online resources where you can participate in discussions like this.
  5. Survey-type questions, where you are seeking many data points so you can get a better idea of cost, practices, etc., such as "How much does your preschool cost?" Questions like this are not accepted because they have the potential to generate too many responses on a big list like BPN. We periodically run surveys of members, so if you have a suggestion for a survey, contact us.
  6. Marketing questions about how to find an audience for your service or product.  These conflict with BPN's policy about advertising and promotion. If you are conducting marketing research, please read Research Queries on BPN to see if you can post to the Announcements newsletter. 
  7. Requests for services outside the SF Bay Area.  BPN discussions are limited to the Bay Area with the following exceptions: boarding schools, colleges, sleepaway summer camps, vacation spots, and "moving to a new city" queries.
  8. Requests for services or items that are prohibited on BPN, such as posts asking about illegal products and services, or seeking/offering children to adopt, surrogates, donations of eggs, embryos or sperm.  See Prohibited Items on BPN.
  9. Questions that contain criticisms or negative reviews.  BPN accepts negative reviews that are posted in response to a question, but not in the question itself. Questions cannot include criticisms of specific people, schools, or businesses, or name-calling, or gossip. We also do not accept questions that invite other parents to post negative reviews about a school or business. See BPN's Negative Review Policy for more information.
  10. Questions that you have asked before. Please do not post a new version of a question you have asked in the past. We receive scores of new questions a week, and we want to give everyone the chance to post their question in as short a list as possible, without duplicates of previous questions.  If you didn't get the response you were seeking the last time you posted, please try other venues besides BPN. See also: Hints for posting a question that gets good responses.

Responses that BPN doesn't accept

  1. Replies that don't​​​ answer the original question, such as general comments on a related topic, or complaints about the original question or its responses. 
  2. Replies that are not based on the author's first-hand experience. Your post should clearly show that you have used the service you are recommending, or that you have experience with the problem you're giving advice about.
  3. Replies that promote one's own business or employer, or that of a family member, friend, or colleague. This includes mentioning your business in your post, or signing with your full name or business name.
  4. Replies that give professional advice rather than parent-to-parent advice. BPN's mission is to support parent-to-parent networking and should not be used as a resource for medical advice, legal advice, or any other advice that requires special expertise.
  5. Negative reviews that do not comply with BPN's Negative Review Policy
  6. Multiple reviews of the same person, school or business from the same subscriber.
  7. Follow-ups on your original post with clarifications or rebuttals. Only one post per topic, per subscriber, please. We do accept "thank you" follow-ups and summaries of offline responses.

Why only parents can post reviews and advice

BPN's mission is to support parent-to-parent networking in the SF Bay Area. Therefore, all advice and reviews must be posted in the spirit of one parent helping and advising another.  Professional advice and recommendations are beyond the scope of BPN, and we do not accept questions from parents who are seeking advice from legal or medical professionals or any other type of professional expert. Community subscribers can post reviews and advice only if they are also subscribed as a parent, and they are posting as a parent, not as a professional or on behalf of their business or colleagues.

  • But aren't parents missing out on helpful advice from a fellow parent who has special expertise?

Yes, sometimes.  BPN parents who are also doctors, attorneys, therapists, CPAs, and other professionals really do want to help their fellow parents by posting information they might not have access to otherwise.  But we don't accept professional advice on BPN for the following reasons:

  1. BPN's mission is to support parent-to-parent networking. Seeking advice from professionals, or giving advice based on professional expertise, is beyond the scope of BPN.  (Local businesses and private practices can purchase a community subscription to BPN, but they do not have access to post to Parent Q&A unless they are also parents.)
  2. BPN has no way to know whether the person giving you legal or medical advice has the training and background they say they have, and neither do you. We don't want subscribers to get inaccurate information that could affect their child's health or their family's finances from a well-meaning subscriber who is not actually trained in the law or medicine. 
  3. BPN subscribers who *are* lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc. cannot give you sound advice based on a brief message you posted to BPN. In fact, many professional organizations specifically prohibit this, because such issues are often complex, and require a more in-depth and in-person consultation to give accurate advice.
  • You used to accept advice from schools and business owners. Why the change?

We made this change when we became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and moved to a new website in 2015. Since its founding in 1993, BPN's mission has been to support parents in the SF Bay Area.  Initially only parents could subscribe. In later years, as we began allowing schools and childcare providers to post about their programs, we opened up subscriptions to "parents and people who work with children."  Anyone who was eligible to subscribe, including business owners, could give advice or recommend themselves in response to a parent's query. However, as the years went by, some discussions on BPN started to be dominated by subscribers recommending themselves and their businesses. Parent participation in the recommendations newsletter declined as it began to resemble a collection of free advertising for local businesses and private practices.  In 2015, when BPN was granted nonprofit status, we decided to return to our original mission of parent-to-parent advice and reviews. We still allow community members to publicize their child-related programs on BPN, but they must purchase a community subscription and post announcements rather than participating in Parent Q&A. The fees from these community subscriptions ensure that BPN will continue as a community resource for years to come.

How can I post a new question?

Only parent subscribers can access the Post a New Question button (why?). There are 3 ways to post:

  • Click 'Post a Message' in the main menu on the website and then click Post a New Question, or
  • On your account page (click 'my account' in the upper right corner) click 'Post a Message' and then click Post a New Question, or
  • If you are reading archived reviews or advice, you'll see a button at the top that says Post a New Question

​Filling out the 'Post a New Question' form:

  1. Title: Type a title that is specific, so parents know what you're asking about without needing to read your question. "Playgroup in Albany for 6 month old" is better than "Seeking a Playgroup"
  2. Question: Type your question. Note the icons in the bar at the top of the message window allow you to format your message:
    • = Boldface.  Select text that you want to be boldface and click this
    • I  = Italics.  Select text that you want to be italicized and click this
    • Bullet or numbered list.  Click on a line of text and then click this to put a bullet or number in front of the line. Click it again to remove the bullet.
    • Indent.   Click on a line of text and then click left arrow or right arrow to indent it or remove indentation.
    • Link to a website. (Looks like a carabiner) Select a line of text and click the carbiner icon. Type the URL (web address) you want to link to into the pop-up window and then click OK to create a link to a website.
  3. Include in "Parents of Teens" Newsletter?  Check this only if you are asking a question about teens, preteens, or young adults. All questions are included in the Advice & Reviews newsletter, but the Teens newsletter contains only the ones that have this box checked.
  4. Category:  The category is used to get your post to the right moderator who is going to review it.  Moderators may change the category later to match a topic in the archives that matches your question.
  5. Access and Contact: 
    • Hide username?  If you check this, your username will not be displayed on your post, so other subscribers cannot reply to you directly.  For this reason, we don't recommend checking this box. If you want to be anonymous, instead choose a username that doesn't identify you, that your posts can be signed with. You can change your username on your account page.
    • Limit Posting to Parents Only?  Check this box for posts that should not be public. This includes parent-to-parent connections such as carpools, playgroups, and book clubs, as well as reviews of private individuals such as teen helpers and housekeepers.

After you have filled out the form, click Preview, and then Submit for Review.  A moderator will review your post within 7 days.

How can I post a response?  

Only parent subscribers can post a response to a question in Advice & Reviews (why?).  Ways to respond:

  • In the weekly newsletter, click "Respond" under the question you want to reply to, or
  • Click on the title of question you want to respond to -  in the newsletter or on the Parent Q&A page (look under "Listings" in the main menu) or on an archive page (if the question is not closed)

Filling out the 'Parent Replies' form:

  1. Post a reply:  Type your response. Note the icons in the bar at the top of the message window allow you to format your message. (Instructions above in Filling out the 'Post a New Question' form).
  2. Hide username?  If you check this, your username will not be displayed on your post, so other subscribers cannot message you directly.  For this reason, we don't recommend checking this box. If you want to be anonymous, instead choose a username that doesn't identify you, that your posts can be signed with. You can change your username on your account page.

Click the Submit button.  A moderator will review your post within 7 days.

Can I post anonymously?

Yes. Your name and email address will not be included on your post.  Your post will be signed with your username unless you check 'Hide username' when you post.  If you hide your username, your post will be signed "Anonymous."  However, we recommend including your username on your posts. It makes BPN friendlier, and it gives the community the chance to get to know regular posters. Also, other parents will be able to message you by clicking your username on your post (only parents who subscribe to BPN will be able to see your username.) You can change your username on your account page if you have chosen a username that identifies you.

Can I ask the moderators to forward messages?

No. Instead, don't hide your username on your post.  Then, other subscribers will be able to message you by clicking your username.  Please do not post a response that says "Contact me if you want more information -- ask the moderators for my email."  It is time-consuming for moderators to forward messages for people. The BPN website is designed to allow subscribers to contact each other so we ask that you please use this feature. 

Where can I read responses to the question I posted?

Once your question has been approved and is published on the website, you can check for responses in several ways: 

  1. Click Parent Q&A under "Listings" in the main menu, and then scroll down till you see your question. You will see the number of responses received so far --- responses approved by the moderator and those still awaiting review.  Click on your question to read responses that have been approved.
  2.  You can go to your account page (click "my account" in the upper right corner of our website) and find your post and click to view it along with any responses.
  3. Wait for the weekly newsletter and look for this week's responses to your question. Are you subscribed to the newsletters?  If not, edit your account and choose which newsletters you want to receive.
  4. If you signed your post with your username (you didn't check "Hide username"), then people can send you a message directly. 

Please Note: Sometimes questions don't get any responses. Read the following tips about how to post a question that is more likely to get responses!

.Hints for Posting Questions that Get Good Responses

Many questions posted to BPN do not receive any responses. Here are some suggestions about how to post a question that is more likely to get responses:

  • Don't post a question that has been asked many times and is well-documented on the website, such as "Swimming lessons for kids" or "Piano teacher."  Parents rarely reply to questions that already have a lot of advice on the BPN website.  Review the previous discussions on the website first, and make your new question more specific, such as "Swimming lessons for kids in an indoor pool" or "Piano teacher in Richmond."

  • Don't post a question that is too vague, such as "Need a great preschool"  or "Looking for a Kaiser Pediatrician."  Make your question specific enough that readers will be inspired to give you their own inside information on the topic. 

  • But neither should you post a question that is so specific that almost no one reading it will know the answer to, such as asking about a small daycare that only a handful of parents could have experience with, or a rare medical condition that even google knows little about.

  • Make sure the title on your post contains enough information that people reading it understand what you are looking for without having to read the entire text of your question.  Readers tend to scan the titles to spot questions they are interested in reading. A short general title such as "Help needed" is less likely to draw the reader in than one that's more specific, such as "8 year old refuses to dress herself."

  • Questions about schools & preschools that get the best responses are specific enough that your request doesn't match every school in the SF Bay Area, but also not so specific that only parents at a single tiny school can answer your question.  Examples of questions that are likely to get helpful responses:  "high schools that offer Japanese" or "Preschool with lots of male teachers."  

  • Questions about medical professionals that get the best responses are those asking about hard-to-find features, such as a "couples' therapist who speaks French," or those with specific criteria, such as "African American pediatrician"  Very general questions such as "Need a pediatrician!" tend to get few or no responses.  People frequently post asking for reviews of "doctors on my insurance plan who are accepting new patients."  These questions rarely get responses.  Most parents don't know all the insurance plans that their doctor accepts, or whether their doctor has current openings, so they can't answer your question.  Instead, check with your insurance plan first to find which doctors are accepting new patients, look on BPN for reviews, and post a new more specific question if you still didn't find what you need.

  • Keep in mind BPN's demographics when you ask a question. Subscribers live all over the SF Bay Area, so if you are looking for a preschool you should include the specific areas you are interested in, so that you don't get reviews of preschools in far away cities. On the other hand, the majority of BPN subscribers live in the East Bay cities of Oakland, Berkeley, Albany, Richmond, El Cerrito. So you may get few reviews for childcare in Danville or San Jose.