Starting and Operating a Family Child-Care Business

Starting and Operating a Family Child-Care Business

Does a job in the child-care business sound like the right decision for you? These tips will help you get started.

So you had a baby. Your intentions were to go back to your desk downtown soon after the baby was born.

But then your motherly instincts became overwhelming.

You have a second or third child. Paying for child-care is now eating away almost all of your income from your outside job.

You’ve been staying home with your child for a while. The need for an extra income is pressuring and is putting a strain on your everyday life.

Yet the thought of letting someone else do most of the raising of your child is less than acceptable to you.

Do any of these situations sound familiar to you?

After I had my first child I took a job in a public day-care to be near her. When two years later my second daughter arrived, I had seen enough of daycare centers and was too fed up to release my children into their care.

It just so happened that right before I became aware of my second pregnancy we had purchased a house. So the possibility of cutting down to one income was out of the question. After carefully examining my feelings, our family’s needs and the potential of our house “Heide’s Kinderladen” was born. “Kinderladen” is the term for a certain kind of nursery in my home country, which is Germany. The word means children’s store.

We finished off our basement, adding a bathroom, den breeze-way and a large playroom. I decorated the playroom with children’s posters, and filled it with donations from friends and purchases from yard sales: stuffed animals, books, toys, games, shelves, childproofing devices (gates, cabinet door locks, outlet covers).

All set? By no means! Before you get started, you have to…

  • get a license. Beware: it can take several months to get all the paperwork done! The requirements for how many children you may care for, varies from State to State, sometimes even from county to county. Where ever you live, contact your local child-care licensing office.
  • get first aide and infant/child CPR. Contact your local hospital for classes. Even if your county’s licensing does not require it, get it anyway!
  • get a first aid kit and fire extinguishers for upstairs and downstairs.

After you become licensed, your home becomes subject to a possible unannounced inspection. So keep it up to requirement at all times!

Contact Save the Children. It is a non-profit organization, sponsored by the United Way. It provides you with free nutritional workshops, a lot of good advice, fellow providers’ moral support, and above all reimbursement for your food expenses. Some people warned me that it was a lot of paperwork, but I found it well worthwhile!

You have to keep accurate attendance records for each meal, and you may have to prepare the menu for several weeks in advance. With your menu you have to follow strict guidelines. This ensures the childrens’ nutricional well-being. As for my personal benefit: I knew exactly what and how much to buy and never worried “What am I going to cook for the kids tomorrow?”

Not everybody takes you serious if you provide care for children. However, if you act professional you not only feel much better about yourself, you also earn more respect from others. And you DO deserve that respect!

Here are some suggestions:

  • give yourself a business name.
  • get a business checking account. This is also very important to prevent mix-up with your regular deposits and withdrawals.
  • write yourself a weekly paycheck. When paying yourself take into consideration how much you need to save for supplies, groceries and , yes, TAXES. Have an accountant show you once how to do quarterly taxes. Then be sure to use him/her again for your regular tax-return. Having a business in your home can save you a bundle, if you know how to do it right!
  • keep accurate book about your weekly income, expenses, mileage. Keep all your recipts. Number them, keep them separated by month. As a small business owner you are likely to be audited by the IRS at one time or another, so hang on to every receipt!!!
  • don’t let anybody call you a babysitter! My typical response to that was, “a babysitter is a someone who comes to your house at night, so you can go out. I am a daycare provider.” A very professional name is “Early Childhood Education Specialist”. Wow!
  • take extra classes at local colleges, even if you think you know all about children.
  • set prices (check for average prices in your area), and be firm. Expect payment on time, charge late fees, if parents do not comply. Put it in writing, and have parents sign it.
  • include times of service. Do not let parents pick up their children late without a late fee. If they do it once and you don’t stand up for yourself, soon it becomes a habit.
  • set a schedule and try to stick to it! Children do much better with a routine.
  • have illness prevention guidelines, such as DO NOT BRING YOUR CHILD IF HE HAS DIARRHEA!
  • provide a preschool program.

Search the net, go to the library, check out stores such as Meijers and K-Mart. They all provide a large variety of books to work with.

Some other pointers you might not think of until the situation arises, but they can become big deals:

If parents want you to potty train their child, remind them to refrain from putting their children into hard to remove clothing. And parents have to co-operate at home. We can’t do it all by ourselves!!!

Also, offer to change the children into a nice outfit shortly before they are picked up, if parents so desire. But PLEASE don’t let them tell you to keep their child clean all day. THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE FUN at your house.

There are many issues that come up throughout the time you operate your business. Take each one as a learning opportunity, and make sure you don’t repeat mistakes. Be firm with your requirements as you are professional with your services. Day-care provider is one of the most important jobs in the country!!!

Heide Kaminski is the mother of three teenage girls and one toddler boy. She has published a children’s book in her native country – Germany, and writes peotry, fiction and non-fiction.

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