About Parent Q&A

The Parent Q&A listing  is intended as a way for parents to problem-solve and get a range of advice and recommendations from other parents. Professional advice is not accepted and cannot be requested.  Open discussion and announcements are also not accepted - all posts must be either a question posed to parents about a specific problem or thing, or a response to someone else's question. 

Policies for Parent Q&A

General Policies for Parent Q&A

  1. Parents Only. Parent Q&A is intended as a forum for parent-to-parent advice. Professional advice is not accepted and may not be requested (see Advice about Medical, Legal & Financial Issues for more information.) You must be subscribed as a parent in order to post Q&A. Community subscribers (schools, businesses, nonprofits, etc.) cannot post 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. Promotional posts are not accepted in Parent Q&A. This includes recommending a school, business or organization that you have a personal interest in, or that your friends, family, or colleagues have a personal interest in;  posting a question asking how to market your business; signing your post with your business name, website, or email address. 

  3. Negative reviews and criticisms of schools, childcare facilities, or any other business must conform to BPN's Negative Review Policy. In general, negative reviews can only be submitted in response to a question from another parent. Negative reviews must be based on the author's first-hand experience, and they must be as objective as possible without name-calling.  Questions may not be posted with the intent of soliciting negative reviews, not may questions contain negative reviews. 

  4. Name-Calling & Gossip. Posts that use derogatory language to refer to other parents or their opinions or posts, are not accepted. Gossip is not accepted. 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. Deceptive posts. This includes posts that are deliberately misleading as well as posts that are written in a way that will give readers a false impression about your intent. Examples (a) not disclosing that you are the owner or friend/family of the owner of the business you are posting about; (b) asking for reviews of a school and implying that you are a prospective parent in order to solicit negative reviews for a school you had a bad experience with. See Fraudulent and Deceptive Reviews.

  6. 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. 

Enforcing the policies: 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 a warning may be unsubscribed from BPN at the moderators' discretion.

Questions that BPN doesn't accept

BPN accepts all types of questions, not just parenting advice. Popular topics include advice about relationships, careers, and Bay Area neighborhoods, how-to questions, vacation suggestions, and much more. See the Advice and Reviews Archive for thousands of past discussions in many different categories.

There are some questions we don't accept:

  1. It needs to be a question. Please don't click 'Post a question' to submit a review of a school or business (instead see "About Reviews'), or an announcement about a product or service (see "About Announcements").   

  2. Questions that aren't really questions. Please ask a specific and concise question that you would like other parents to give you advice about.  BPN does not accept questions that ramble over a number of topics, or that invite parents to speculate about broad open-ended social issues, or that seem more like an editorial, a lecture, or a rant. Lengthy discussions and back-and-forth debates place a burden on the moderators and can often lead to heated exchanges that are not helpful to readers. 

  3. Questions seeking "the correct answer."  Parent Q&A is intended as a way to get a range of opinions from other parents. Please use other resources besides BPN if you are hoping that someone on BPN might know the correct answer to a specific question, such as  "What time does Berkeley High start in the morning?" or "What are the ingredients in Tom's Toothpaste?"

  4. Questions seeking professional advice. Questions that require special training and expertise to answer, such as medical, legal, or financial questions, are not accepted. See Advice about Medical, Legal & Financial Issues for details.

  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 do you pay for daycare?" 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-type questions asking whether there is interest in your product or service, or seeking advice about how to market your product or service.  These posts conflict with BPN's policy about advertising and promotion. (Note: BPN does accept paid subscriptions from child-related business that would like to post announcements seeking parents for marketing research. See Research Queries on BPN for more information. )

  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, whether implied or explicit. 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 posting general comments on a related topic, posting a review of a different type of business than what was requested, or posting a complaint about the original question or its responses. 

  2. Replies that are not based on the author's first-hand experience. Please post advice and reviews only about situations that you have direct experience with. 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.  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 teens posted by parents whose children aren't teens yet.  

  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.  See Advice about Medical, Legal & Financial Issues for more information.

  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 is 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.  
  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. The Teens newsletter contains only the questions that have this box checked, and they are not included in the Parent Q&A newsletter.
  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, and 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 newsletter, click "Respond" under the question you want to reply to, or
  • Click on the title of question you want to respond to, whether 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 are never included on your post unless you type them into the body of your message, which we don't recommend.  Your post will be signed with the username you have chosen unless you check 'Hide username' when you post.  If you choose to hide your username, your post will be signed "Anonymous."  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. More importantly, other parents will be able to send you a private message 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 is not anonymous enough.

How can I contact the person who posted?

Parent subscribers can send a private message to another subscriber using BPN's messaging system, which relies on your username (not your real name or your email address.). To send a message, scroll to the end of the post and click their username. Note: If they elected to hide their username on their post, you will instead see "Anonymous" and you cannot send them a message. 

Note that usernames are not displayed in the newsletter.  If you are reading the newsletter and you want to send a private message to the poster, click the title of the post to view it on the website (you must be logged in to your BPN account.) Scroll to the end of their post and you'll see their username, as long as they did not elect to hide it when they posted. Click their username to send them a message. 

Can the moderator forward a message for me?

Please don't ask moderators to forward a message for you or say in your post "Contact the moderators for my email address."  It's time-consuming for moderators to look up your post, find your email address, and then forward a message for you. Our moderators are volunteers with jobs and families and they are working on BPN in their "spare" time. Instead use BPN's messaging function. The BPN website is specifically designed to allow subscribers to contact each other privately via usernames.  As long as you don't check the box to hide your username on your post, other subscribers can contact you directly.  You can change your username if it is not anonymous enough for you to feel comfortable about signing your post.  Thanks!

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 as well as 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 (i.e., 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

Some 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:

  1. Don't post a question that is asked frequently and is well-documented on the website, such as "Piano teacher" or "Pediatrician."  Few parents reply to questions that already have a lot of advice on the BPN website.  Look at the previous discussions on the website first. If you still want to ask your question, make it more specific, such as "Piano teacher in Richmond" or "Pediatrician at Kaiser Vallejo."

  2. Looking for a doctor or other medical professional?

    • Check the website of your insurance plan first to see who's available, then look on BPN for reviews. Most pediatricians and Ob/Gyns in the Bay Area are part of larger practices, and these practices, especially in the East Bay, most likely have many reviews on BPN. So check those first.

    • ​Don't ask for doctors who accept a particular type of insurance (except Kaiser, but say which Kaiser). Most parents do not know all the insurance plans their doctor accepts, so they can't recommend their doctor to you unless they happen to have the same insurance plan you have. Instead check the website for your insurance to find out which doctors accept your insurance.

    • Don't ask for doctors who are accepting new patients. Most parents do not know if their doctor has current openings.  Instead please check the website for your insurance or phone the practice to see which doctors are available.

    • Be specific. If you have Kaiser and you live in San Francisco, don't post a question asking for "Kaiser Pediatricians" unless you are willing to travel to any Kaiser in the greater Bay Area. Your title should be specific too, such as  "Seeking a Kaiser SF Pediatrician. "

  3. Remember BPN's demographics when you ask a question. Subscribers live all over the SF Bay Area, so if you are looking for a preschool, include the specific neighborhoods you are interested in, so you don't get reviews of preschools in faraway 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 or no reviews for preschools in Danville or San Jose.

  4. Make sure the title on your post is specific enough that people reading it know what you're looking for without having to read the entire text of your question.  Readers tend to scan the titles to find questions they are interested in reading. A short general title such as "Problem with son" is less likely to draw the reader's attention than one that's more specific, such as "8 year old son refuses to dress himself."

  5. Don't post a question that is too vague, such as "ISO a great preschool"  or "Seeking a pediatrician."  Make your question specific enough that readers will be inspired to give you their own inside information on the topic. Questions that get the best responses are those asking about specific features that aren't easy to find, such as a "Preschool with lots of male teachers" or  "African American pediatrician"  

  6. 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 specific daycare that only accepts 6 children at a time.