A career that will help you make a real difference in the lives of whole communities or individuals is no other than community services courses. When thinking about whether or not to open a home-based or centre-based child
care facility, give the following two questions considerable thought. The fact
is, child care is an extremely demanding business with long hours a high level
of stress. So, before you go any further ask yourself:
- Can I handle taking care of children for large blocks of time each day and dealing effectively with parents?
- Is there a need for child care services in my area?
The answers to these questions will tell you whether or
not you can handle the profession, especially when you are your own boss
and in most cases are isolated from adult contact and conversation
throughout most of your day, and if in fact, there will be enough
interest in your services to make your business work. So, if you’re
certain this is the business for you, then the following sections should
guide you through the basic steps in starting a child care business. Keep in mind that these steps are condensed and are the absolute basics.
- If you decide that you can certainly handle owning your own child care business and there is a definite need for your services, you should obtain a copy of your state or provincial licensing regulations and application. There are currently many locations where you do not need to be licensed to operate a home child care facility. It is in your best interest to find out from your local licensing office. Quite often you can actually download a copy of the licensing regulations, saving you time and the cost of purchasing the publication. Still, you are well advised to call and talk to someone in the licensing office first to get specific details and suggestions. Keep in mind that becoming licensed gives you a lot more credibility in the eyes of the parents you are hoping to attract, and it may also entitle you to work with parents who require subsidy. Of course there are many more reasons for being licensed, but this gives you some indication of the importance of taking your business to the highest level of professionalism.
- Your next step should be to contact your city business licensing and planning departments to inquire as to whether or not you need a business license and if you can in fact operate a home child care facility in your local. You’d be surprised at how many people go to all the trouble of setting up their business only to encounter a zoning bylaw officer telling them they have to shut down because running a child care business is prohibited in their neighbourhood. Or they find out after the fact that there is a clause in their home owner act that doesn’t allow for this type of business in their subdivision.
- After you receive the go-ahead from the city planning department, register to take an Infant/Child CPR and First Aid training program if you haven’t already taken one. Your local Red Cross can recommend a course, or check with your Child Care Resource and Referral Agency for referrals. If your licensing office requires you to have any additional training, get booked into those programs as well. You can be working towards your certification while you set up the rest of your business plans. Contact your local community college or university for available Early Childhood Education courses (E.C.E.) or Child Development Courses (C.D.C.). Many colleges offer night courses if you can’t attend during the day. Your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency may be able to recommend course programs as well.
- You’ll also want to call your insurance company to upgrade your homeowner and car insurance to include your child care business. In some instances you may actually have to purchase a plan specific to home child care business. Your local licensing office should be able to give you some idea as to who can offer you the proper insurance. If they can’t, contact your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency or local child care support group to get their advice.
- A good, nay professional child care business, whether it is home-based or center-based, operates under well developed policies, contracts and day-to-day procedures for things such as administering medication, discipline, parent communication and so on. In fact, your licensing regulations may stipulate you have some of these policies and procedures in place before you can be licensed. The good news is you don’t have to rack your brain trying to come up with all the forms and policies on your own. You can find professionally developed business forms and other valuable startup-information at Childcare.net’s Online Catalog. All profitable child care business have a well-defined set of operations from starting and closing times, to program planning for every day occurrences such as activities, menus and so on. A general calendar noting such things as breakfast, lunch, nap, and other regularly scheduled activities can be used as a guideline for parents to know what their child will be doing at a given time. It also serves as a planner for you to insert weekly reading, free play, outdoor times, etc. possibly with a theme. Menu planning can be done for a six week period and rotated so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel ever week.
- For some reason most new business owners find setting their rates one of the most challenging components of their start up. After all, you don’t want to charge too much that no one will use your service, and you certainly don’t want to offer basement bottom prices that leave you in the red and attract a clientele you’d rather not serve. To learn more about how to determine your rates check out Chapter 6 in Start & Run a Profitable Home Daycare.
- Setting up your facility to accommodate the number of children you will be able to care for is actually the fun part. You’ll require enough space for play both indoors and out, appropriate sleeping arrangements for the number and ages of the children in your care, etc. Your licensing regulations will have all the specifics you’ll need to have in place. This will probably entail contacting your Fire Department and Board of Health to get inspected. And, you’ll want to do a complete room-by-room childproofing of your facility, if you haven’t already. In any event, it certainly doesn’t hurt to go over every room where the children will be just to ensure you have everything safety-proofed, including your outdoor play space.
- Toys, books, art and craft supplies, child size furniture, and office equipment are just some of the items you’ll need to acquire for your child care business. These items can certainly be purchased at discount outlets and thrift stores. Be aware however, that any secondhand items, especially baby or child furniture and apparatus you purchase through garage sales and thrift stores, will need to be thoroughly inspected, cleaned and checked for possible recalls. For recalls visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Web site, or Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Website.
- Next you’ll need a good way to keep track of your income and expenses. There are two ways you can go about setting up your record and bookkeeping system. The first is to get you a good file cabinet or portable file storage system and all the fun stuff that goes with it. You’ll want to ensure you have a file for each child, for all your forms and policy materials, and for your personal files. Setting up a good bookkeeping system at the onset will help you see how your business is doing at a glance, as well as save you a lot of time and heartache, not to mention money, at tax time. The second way to get you on the right track where your records and accounting are concerned is a child care administration software package. Such software can streamline your business making it, and you, more efficient and professional. Most people don’t realize it, but child care administration software will pay for itself in three to six months. More importantly, not only can you deduct the cost of any books, forms, supplies, equipment, etc, from your income tax, you’ll save a lot of money at tax time not having to pay an accountant to do the work for you. Such software is certainly worth the consideration.
- If you live in the U.S., you are eligible to apply to be reimbursed for a percentage of your child care food costs through the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Your licensing office should be able to provide you with the details, or you can learn more by visiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Website.
- There aren’t many people out there who enjoy sales and marketing. Aside from actually obtaining your license, you’ll likely find this to be one of the toughest parts of running your business. But there are simple and effective ways to let people know you are open for business. A great resource for more information is the international best seller: Start and Run a Home Daycare, (Self-Counsel Press).
Starting your child care business with the valuable resources available at Childcare.net’s Online Catalog.
Committed to your success!
Catherine Pruissen is the CEO and Founder of http://childcare.net and the author of the “International Best Seller”, Start and Run a Home Daycare. Catherine has studied and written extensively on the child care/daycare field for over 20 years.
Her published titles include The Daycare Centre Business Plan Guide, and too many others to list here but can be found in her online catalog:
http://childcare.net/catalog/catalog/index.php, and in her Learning Centre:
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