Most articles about home run childcare centers are for the prospective parent looking for an appropriate setting for their children. This one is for anyone thinking about getting into the childcare business.
Some people can make a decent living or supplement a spouses income by running a childcare service of their own. Many get into it in order to spend time with their own children while still being able to bring in some money to contribute to the family budget. Others want to make a full time job out of it. Whatever your reasons be sure this is really what you want to do before you dive into it. You have to love working with children to run your own childcare business. If you don’t enjoy working with them it will show. Keep in mind these families are entrusting you with the welfare of their children. If you are looking to get rich, this is not the place to do it. It can be very rewarding but also, like any job, the home based childcare business can be very frustrating and stressful at times.
The general attitude towards childcare workers is still very archaic at times. It is not even considered a real job by many, which in itself is a consideration before going into this field. Don’t delude yourself into believing that it is easy. It can be very rewarding, but it is work. One of the toughest things was finding how little respect many have for childcare workers. Even some of the parents see this as glorified babysitting, but it isn’t. Also keep in mind that when going back to the outside workforce this is a field that is often not counted as work experience and gets very little respect . Considering you are taking care of and responsible for the most precious thing in most people’s lives, their children, this is a very underpaid and unrecognized job. The home based childcare business is both rewarding and frustrating.
Before You Begin
Find out if another home based childcare business is needed in your area. Some areas are very short on decent home based childcare businesses or any childcare service. Others have more than enough to go around. Already established childcare centers have more resources for advertising and connections to find clientele, but some parents prefer a more homelike setting in which to leave their children. Ask at city or county services or local schools and churches if they have heard of a need for childcare. Look for local postings in stores, work centers, the local newspapers or online. Ask friends and neighbors.
Get Licensed. Every area may have different requirements for running a home based childcare business, but this license protects both the children and yourself. You are more likely to find clients of you can show a license. It gives you more clout.
Most areas require a background check and/ or fingerprint check. Some require CPR/ first aid training which is available through a number of resources including The Red Cross, for a reasonable fee. It is a good thing to know even if you aren’t running a home based childcare business.
Your house will be checked by a licensing person .You may have to make major or minor repairs or adjustments to your home such as safety proofing any medicine or household chemical storage areas, adding a fire extinguisher, removing potentially dangerous items from the areas the children will be in. Some rules are more strict for the care of infants and toddlers versus school aged children. They will ask you what areas are specifically to be used for childcare and what areas will be off limits to them. They usually check any outside areas that will be used too. They will give you a list of anything that needs to be attended to before they will grant you a license. Make sure you complete all the required items before the inspector comes back again.
Be aware there are limits to how many children you can take care of in a home environment. Licensing for a home based childcare business, wants to make sure there is enough proper care and attention for a given number of children. If you have an assistant they have to pass certain requirements too. If your own children are under a certain age, they count in your head count limit so that lowers potential income, if that is important to you.
Any other adults living in the house, whether or not they work with the children, are often required to go through the same background/fingerprint check that you are, but not the first aid and CPR classes.
Expect periodic checks by licensing. They may get bogged down but they do like to make sure any facility they give a license to is still up to their particular rules and standards of practice.
Don’t put unrealistic expectations on this if this is to be your income. Once people get to know your reputation, the word may be spread by mouth that your daycare is a good place to bring children to, but this is an industry with ups and downs in available clients. Areas that are experiencing a large influx of people and jobs are more likely to need more childcare whereas areas where there are slowdowns or layoffs can severely affect the numbers of children coming to you no matter how good a childcare you run or how good your reputation is. Competition for available children can become very fierce when this happens.
Check your area for going daycare or childcare rates and offer a reasonable rate for the services you offer. Don’t undercut yourself though, while trying to get clients. Charge what you feel is fair for the services you offer and stick with it.
See what other home based childcare centers and larger commercial childcare centers are offering in the way of services, then decide what is right for you. For instance, you may or may not provide transportation to and /or from school. ( Make sure you check with your automobile insurance company to see if you need more coverage or not if you want this to be one of your provided services.) You may offer transportation to after school activities. One thing you might consider is adding a fee for gas usage. Don’t forget that special seating is required for infants and younger children, so baby seats or booster seats will be a requirement for each child, whether they are provided by the parents or by you. You may offer homework guidance or merely a place where school children can do their homework. Decide what services you will offer and be specific.
Snacks and meals are another consideration. Decide if you will offer food or not and again be specific. For instance you may provide a snack only or full meals. In some areas licensing will help you find available resources to help with food. Some give financial support to childcare centers but require fairly strict daily documentation to enable you to receive that, which can be good if it helps the budget, but it is also more paperwork for you to keep up with.
For infants, provide the parents with a specific list of what you will or won’t provide as part of your service. Diapers, wipes, etc. can be very costly. You also will have to have sleeping arrangements and changing areas for infants and toddlers.
If you care for more than one age group in your home based childcare business, i.e. infants, toddlers and school aged children, you may have to make sure there are areas that separate the older children from the younger ones. This is for times when sleeping, changing, eating, playing or homework is involved.
Be aware of any special needs a child may have like food allergies or handicaps, learning disabilities or behavior disorders. Don’t take on a child whose special needs you can’t attend to properly or just don’t want to deal with just to get another client. Be aware of what that need is and how it may affect the running of your home based childcare business. Be realistic.
Toys, equipment, books and play areas are another consideration. You may have sufficient amounts to keep the children engaged and entertained but you have to update and add to what you have or it gets stale for longtime clients. Sometimes you can trade around with friends or other childcare places or hit garage sales and flea markets.
The pets you have may influence whether or not you get chosen as a provider. You have to consider things like allergies and concerns about interactions with the pet or pets.
You may be able and willing to provide an occasional outing for your childcare children, but you have to be able to provide ample space for transportation and also consider bringing an aide or assistant or one of the parents along for special outings. A group of children within your home are usually a lot easier to handle than on an outing. Consider buying or getting each parent to pay for a brightly colored t shirt that matches all the other children so they will be easy to spot, maybe one with a logo on it with the name of your childcare service. Keep copies of emergency forms with you on any outings, also give parents specifics on costs, location, times etc.. They may or may not want their child to attend the outing.
Run a house full of children and you have to expect things to get worn out , damaged or even broken at times. If there are precious things you don’t want destroyed, keep them in other parts of your home or purchase things specifically for the childcare facility or with them in mind. Consider adding something in your contract about unreasonable breakage or damage caused by their children.
One nice bonus when running your own home based childcare business is, that for some, childcare provides a nice tax write off. Certain percentages of your mortgage and anything they use may be able to be used as a write off against your income. Keep in mind though if you use too many write offs you will pay no income taxes on that money and have no accrued social security benefits for your own future. Be sure to ask a tax specialist about the rules and regulations regarding childcare income and the various ways to handle it. They know the ins and outs of the tax aspect of your business.
A contract is very important for both you and the families coming to you. It tells all involved what is and is not required, acceptable etc. and gives you something solid to fall back on in case of any problems with pay, specific care offered etc.. It also makes the parents realize this is a business for you and not something they can manipulate to their will.
Check out other home based child care centers contracts to see what you want to include in yours. Talk to others in the business and find out what problems they have run into or what changes they have had to make. Sometimes you may go into this with specific ideas and then realize you have to adjust your own contract to fit your own needs as a childcare provider.
Some examples to be included in contracts are:
Hours of service. You may decide to be more or less stringent on available hours, pick up and drop off times. You may want specific hourly or weekly rates. Generally you can charge more for infant care but your limitations are greater in how many infants you are allowed to take care of at once. You may decide to charge for overtime if the parents or guardians run late in pick up times.
Be sure you include what days you will and will not be available. You may want the holidays or summers off. You have to decide if you will include any weeks of paid vacation or sick days.
There may be preset rules and regulations regarding the care of ill children or you have to make your own. For example if they have a fever, something contagious etc. you may not want them around you and the other children. Don’t forget this could affect your ability to work or not to if you catch something from one of the children. Then everyone involved is affected.
Get emergency and release forms for medical treatment for each child if it becomes necessary. You want contact numbers, medical preferences, family doctors numbers, dentists etc., alternate emergency contacts since sometimes it is not easy to reach a particular parent when you need to.
Whatever you decide to put in your contract stick to it. Sad to say many parents will knowingly or unknowingly try to take advantage of you .They may ask for things you feel are unreasonable or above and beyond the call of duty. A signed contract will give you leverage in dealing with these situations. They should be willing to respect those requirements.
Be willing to be flexible on some details with each family, if it is a big deal for them. You might be willing to give a family with more than one child in your childcare a small price break. You may be willing to keep one child a little later on certain days etc., but set these up in the contract and before hand so there are no nasty surprises to deal with. You want everything to run as smoothly as possible.
One final thing, is to think carefully how having this childcare business in your home will affect other residents or other family members. You may discover that the business takes over your home and your family if you are not careful . This is a constant invasion of your private space and maybe your family’s time. Not all families are suited to this occupation.
Even though you are able to be home for your own children, if that is a consideration for you in taking on this job, you won’t be able to give your own child or children your undivided attention all the time either. Running a home based childcare business can be a very demanding undertaking so make sure this is what you want to do before you give up another job or a possible career to pursue it. Once you have chosen it though, enjoy the experience. Children will keep you on your toes at all times. They are a constant source of wonder and renewal.