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I am a 28-year-old married woman living in the District of Columbia. After working as an office manager for a local University for the last 10 years in order to pay my way through college, I will finally graduate this May with a BA in American Studies. The problem is, over the last 10 years I've learned enough about myself to know that I do not want to work in office or do research for the rest of my life. After giving my future employment goals a lot of thought, I've decided what I'd really like to do is provide day care out of my home. Can any of your readers give me suggestions on how to pursue this idea? Ideally I'm looking for a how-to-get-started type of book and information on licensing and zoning requirements.
I used to work at the state office for day care licensing. Home day care also requires a license in many states to do it legally. Many things are required to meet the code. I would suggest the writer contact her county office of the state agency for more information.
First things first, you were right when you mentioned legal requirements. I live in the state of WA. When I decided to do daycare, I went straight to the phone book. Start with licensing. They will give you all the information you may need to make this huge decision. Zoning, how many children you may take and at what ages, how you can get help from the Federal gov. with food cost. And how much it will cost to make your home ready for children. First aid classes are required, CPR for children and infants is required. Insurance, will your home owners insurance cover you? Most in my state would not, I had to get a separate rider on my insurance.
Taxes are another fun area, get professional advice right away, you would be self employed, and this is an area where bookkeeping is a must. I was lucky in that dept. I had been a bookkeeper prior to starting this business. In the state of WA it was the Dept. of Social and health services that provided licensing. Classes were required, then a complete home inspection. Back ground checks with the state law enforcement agency, for anyone in your home over the age of 16. My best suggestion is to find someone in your area that is already doing this and talk to them, visit them, see how it works, ask them for the good, the bad and the ugly. It's very rewarding, but also very stressful. I would say that the best is the children, the worst is dealing with some of the parents. Check out everything before you start.
Heidi in Vancouver, WA.
I have owned and operated a daycare center for four years. I no longer do this due to my husband's job relocation, but it is the most rewarding career that I have had. Here are some tips:
There are some things that need serious consideration before embarking on this new endeavor.
Dealing with the children is a wonderful and exciting time. They open your eyes to many things that as an adult we tend to have forgotten, they see joy everywhere, and are constantly experiencing things for the first time - it's awe inspiring, fun, and exciting! And all the rest of the reality must be carefully considered.
Like I said, the hardest part is dealing with the parents. The guilt they may feel for having to leave their child will be dumped on you. When the child becomes attached to you, it may create feeling of jealousy from the parent.
Daycare is extremely important. Unfortunately, caregivers are not always treated with dignity or respect. Not only because of the bad publicity and illegal setups, but just because people don't recognize daycare as a "career."
Number one....follow all health code rules to the letter, they make spot checks and one violation can get you a citation or closed. Number two....Make up contracts for your prospective clients to sign...it should include a waiver (in case of injury), clear payment terms, vacation and any other specifics (closing time, late pick up fees, late payment fees, etc...) Don't get softhearted and babysit without one because you will be sorry later. Number three...Security...all children should be signed in and out and only release the child to the parent...if someone else is coming to get the child, require ID. I also keep a polaroid on hand and snap a picture of anyone authorized to pick the child up and keep a folder on each child with the pics..the contract...the medical release and insurance information, etc. In this regard you cannot be too cautious...and I haven't had any complaints about all the precautions I take. Also, check with your local childrens protective service and/or health agency..they will have classes and complete information on zoning and certification. Good luck.
For the reader that wanted to start an in-home day care, usually called a family child care home, one way to get information on licensing requirements, areas with greater need for child care, set-up advice, training, etc. is to contact the Resource and Referral office in their county. You can usually find the nearest one by looking in the phone directory, checking on the internet, or even calling a local day care and asking if they know it. I became licensed in September of 1997 and this organization has helped me considerably. Most offices even have a lending library of curriculum kits and books to help you provide quality care.
This is the most rewarding employment I have ever had. I get to work from my home and I touch the lives of children in a way most people don't get to experience. This is not without challenges as well, but I believe the payoff is too great to give this up!
I am an at home care giver, and from my experience, it is a difficult field to get into. My advice is to go to the local library and research what the laws are in your state. Start small. Take on one or two children and see how you like it. It can be difficult to watch someone else's child because people have different beliefs on discipline, etc. Call local child care agencies and see what the going "rate" is per hour. In NY, I earn about $3.50 an hour and that is very low. It can be an extremely fulfilling career choice. I love my job. It allows me to stay at home with my two children and earn a few dollars extra for my family.
Betty in Long Island, NY
I have been providing care for 15 years, and I have learned a thing or two. There are two main things to be done in the early stages. First, find out which arm of the local government regulates child care, and learn all the pertinent rules. Second, write or call Redleaf Press and ask for a catalog. They have a wealth of books and helpful products. Their address is:
450 North Syndicate, Suite 5
St. Paul, Minnesota 55104-4125
To save money in the beginning, I bought as much equipment and toys as I could at garage sale and thrift stores, and made sheets, curtains, pillows, doll clothes, etc. myself. Then I gradually bought new items as I could afford them.
T does not state whether or not she has a spouse with an income. If she is depending on the new business as the sole source of incame, I would suggest she work at a job long enought to save sufficient funds to keep her afloat for six months, while she builds up her clientele. While the pay is not great, working in a childcare center for a while can offer invaluable insights.
The trickiest part of setting up a childcare business is setting rates. Check out the current rates at both centers and private homes, and also calculate what you need to live on. I originally had parents pay each Friday for the previous week, but after a few years switched to a monthly fee paid in advance. This prevents a lot of problems. It is harder for parents to skip out with unpaid bills, and it makes my budgeting easier.
Please pass on to your reader wanting to start a day care center to attend a meeting of the local business women's club. Besides getting some valuable advice concerning startup costs, loans, etc she can network to pick up some ready clients when her center opens. Also, one tip I have is to be sure to have a dishwasher and 3 (three!) sinks in the kitchens. This is required by the health department. It is also helpful to have some sample menus made up in advance. The health department and children's protective services will be impressed with her forethought. She needs to also investigate how much it will cost to install video cameras in the day care center. Believe me with all the problems day care centers are having with lawsuits it will reduce the cost of her insurance if she is willing to install the cameras. If she hooks them up to the computer for internet access so parents can check on their kids during their stay that will be a big plus. That information can be obtained by visiting a local computer store. Or do like I do with some of my computer problems find a local kid who is the areas genius computer nerd. Usually for a small fee these kids are happy to help you out just to get the practice.
I work part-time, and our two small children are cared for by a woman in her home during my office hours. She is more expensive than the average day care situation, but we are glad to pay her. Here are a few things we appreciate and which make the higher rate worthwhile.
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