ENTREPRENEURSHIP / MAR. 29, 2014
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Eight Steps to Starting a Home Daycare

Young mother feeding two kids
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If you love kids and have adequate space in your home, a career as a home childcare provider might be a good match.

Parents constantly seek quality childcare for their children. And since some parents prefer home daycares over large facilities, finding clients shouldn’t be an issue.

Starting a home daycare, however, takes more than buying a few playpens and toys. There are steps to getting your business off the ground, plus you have to consider whether you have what it takes to run a daycare from home. 

Here are eight steps to starting a home daycare center.

1. Evaluate your home

Consider whether your home can accommodate a daycare. Children need space to move around and play. Therefore, if your home is smaller, or if there isn’t room for cribs, swings, playpens and other equipment, a daycare business might not work with your space. Ideally, you’ll want to dedicate an entire space to your business, such as a spare bedroom, a finished basement or a converted garage. 

Also, you’ll need to consider whether your home provides a safe place for children, and then make any needed adjustments. For example, you might remove sharp-edged furniture, or install safety gates, carbon monoxide/fire detectors, fire extinguishers, and well as cover electrical outlets. 

2. Research licensing information

Licensing requirements for home daycare centers vary by state; and some states do not require licensing for home providers. 

ChildCare Aware of America provides state-specific licensing information. Visit the organization’s website to familiarize yourself with rules and regulations for your particular state. Here, you’ll receive information regarding the number of children you can have in the home, safety regulations and food regulations. 

Starting a home daycare center doesn’t require a degree, although early childhood experience or a degree in early childhood education can provide valuable skills, such as teaching skills and patience. Additionally, credentials may give parents added confidence in your ability, which can help grow your business faster. 

Check with a local community college and enroll in early childhood education classes, or consider a Child Development Associate Credential through organizations, such as the Council for Professional Recognition. 

Also, contact your local health department or the Red Cross and enquire about certifications in infant/child CPR.

3. Determine your hours 

Your hours must accommodate working parents. With that said, it’s not unusual for home daycare centers to open as early as 6 a.m. and stay open until 6:30 or 7 p.m. Also, consider whether you’ll provide night or weekend care. 

4. Set your rates

Since you’re running a business, your prices will be higher than babysitting prices. Rates for childcare vary greatly depending on the age of a child and your location. 

The average cost of center-based daycare in the United States is $11,666 per year or $972 a month, according to National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA). After researching home daycare facilities, I discovered that parents pay slightly less - anywhere from $125 to $175 a week, per child. 

5. Buy supplies

Supplies will probably be your biggest start-up expense. However, there are ways to snag low cost equipment. For now, only buy what you need, purchase secondhand items and carefully compare prices. Items you’ll need include:

  • Toys/games
  • Books
  • Blocks
  • Crayons and other crafts
  • Cots/cribs
  • Baby swings and bouncers
  • Music
  • Food

6. Create a contract

Do not accept a client until you have a detailed contract. This agreement is for your protection and should outline all terms. These include your weekly rate and late fees, when you’re paid, hours, vacation time, sick kid rules and notice of termination rules. The contract should also list parent and child information, such as full names, addresses and contact numbers. You can write your own contract or download a free online template.

7. Advertise your business

After setting up your business, it’s time to advertise and get clients. There are several ways to accomplish this, such as word of mouth, a website, an online ad or flyers. Always conduct face-to-face interviews with prospective clients. This way, you can meet the parents and children, and the parents can tour your home. 

Do You Have What It Takes to Run a Daycare?

Unfortunately, getting started is only half the battle. Running a home daycare has its challenges. Therefore, you need to consider if you’re the right person for the job.

Can You Handle Long Workdays?

The typical full-time workday is eight hours; but if you run a daycare in your home, be prepared to put in longer hours. You’ll probably need to open your daycare doors about 30 to 60 minutes before the parents have to be at work, and remain open until they get off and arrive at your location. With the afternoon commute, it might take some of your parents up to an hour to pick up their children.

To illustrate, if the majority of your parents have to clock-in at 8 a.m., and they don’t get off until 5 p.m., you might have to open your daycare doors as early as 7 a.m. and stay open until 6 p.m. — that’s an 11-hour workday, five days a week. You might be able to handle this schedule if you have an assistant. However, you may not be able to afford help in the early stages. Therefore, consider whether you have the energy and patience to care for children 55 hours a week.

Can you handle staying inside the house all day?

Those who work outside the house can go to lunch with a coworker or run an errand on their break. This isn’t the case if you run a daycare in your home.

The children in your care need constant supervision. The truth if, if you don’t have an assistant or a relief person, you’ll probably be stuck in your home for at least 11 hours each day. This can be a real challenge if you need to run to the bank, schedule a doctor’s appointment or take care of other business during the workday.

Are you prepared to deal with demanding parents?

It doesn’t matter your educational background or whether you have a set teaching curriculum each day, some of your parents may view you as nothing more than a babysitter. And unfortunately, they may not give the respect you deserve.

Although most parents are a joy to work with, you might deal with a few difficult personalities, outlandish requests and unfair demands. Additionally, some parents may not respect your business hours, and insist on dropping off and picking up outside your established times.

Your daycare is a business, not a babysitting service. Therefore, you have the right to determine rates, establish rules and set boundaries.

Are you organized?

Since a home daycare is a real business, you need to maintain accurate records for income and tax purposes. For example, you’ll have to record how much you’re paid by each client, complete bank deposits, retain receipts for daycare supplies, give parents year-end tax forms, and pay your income taxes quarterly. This takes good organization, an effective record-keeping system and an accountant.

Final Word

As an entrepreneur and kid-person, caring for and educating children might be your ideal career. However, don’t jump into home childcare blindly. Weigh the pros and cons, and then consider whether this is the right move for you.

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