I started doing child care in my home in August 1993, a few weeks after the birth of my youngest daughter. What began as a way to stay home with my children has grown into my career and now I can't imagine doing anything else. The first thing anyone needs to know who is considering taking care of children in their home-this is NOT an easy job! This is the most exhausting, challenging work I have ever done. It is also the most rewarding. I think people see providers doing this job (and the more experienced, organized ones make it look easy) and think that anyone can do it. Well, that's simply not true.
So, how do you know if it's for you? Well, you may not know until you try it out. But here's some things to think about before you get started.
- What are the regulations in your state? Are you required to be licensed? How many children are you allowed to care for? What kind of changes will you have to make to your home before you can become licensed? There is a website that has each state's licensing requirements listed. You can go to it, and find your state, and look at the regulations. The website is called "National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care" and the website address is: http://nrc.uchsc.edu/ On the left hand side of the page, there is a link called "State licensing and regulation information", click on that link to take you to a page that has a link to each state's regulations.
- Do you have a backbone? Are you ready to stand up for yourself and ask for payment when parents don't pay? Are you ready to stand up for yourself when parents don't pick up their children on time? Are you ready to send that sick child home, even when the parent tries to get you to keep him/her because they can't miss one more day of work? You will need a contract and policies in place to help you enforce this. A contract is basically a one page agreement between yourself and the parent detailing when and how much you will be paid. The policies should cover everything else, such as your sick policy, your late pickup policy, and anything else you want parents to be aware of before they start. There are lots of sites on the internet where you can look at other provider's policies and contracts to get ideas to build yours around. Each provider's contracts and policies will look different, based on what they believe to be important. Some helpful websites are: Child Care and Beyond (they also have a great message board where you can interact with providers from all over the world and get great tips and advice) http://childcareandbeyond.tripod.com/ Supporting Providers in Child Care Environments http://www.supportingproviders.com/ The Daycare Lady: Your Personal Online Coach http://www.thedaycarelady.com/
- How will your own children react? Most providers I know find that the most challenging part of doing child care in your home is your own children. Make sure that you have a place where your child can go to be alone and get away from the other children. Also, make sure that they have toys that are "just theirs" that they can keep in their bedrooms and go play with and not be expected to share them. (the rule at my house when my kids were younger was that if they didn't want to share it, they had to keep it in their bedrooms, if they brought it out for everyone to see, they were expected to share).
- How does your spouse feel about it? A supportive husband will make doing child care in your home much easier.
So you've thought about all these things, and you've talked to the licensing regulator in your area (if necessary) and you've decided you want to give it a try. What do you do next?
- Decide what's important to you and write your contracts and policies.
- Get ready to market your business. Make a flyer on your computer, print or buy your own business cards, check out the price of newspaper ads for your area. Word of mouth is probably the best advertising. Tell people that you are starting child care in your home, ask them to help you spread the word, and ask them to give your name and phone number to prospective clients. Tom Copeland from Redleaf Press has written a great book called "Marketing your Family Child Care". It has lots of great ideas for ways to market your business. The link to their website is: http://www.redleafinstitute.org/
- Tom Copeland is THE leading authority on child care finances and taxes. You will want to get his book "Family Child Care Record Keeping". It will tell you what items are deductible business expenses, and tell you the best way to keep records for your business. He also puts out a book each year that takes you through the steps of doing your taxes, you may wish to purchase that book. The tax book usually comes out in January of each year.
- What kinds of toys will you need? Simple, versatile toys are the best. Blocks, dolls, play dishes, toy cars, puppets, children's books, puzzles, dress-up clothes (this can be anything-old Halloween costumes, old clothes) etc. are great. For outside, balls, jump ropes, and hula hoops are good, and can be used in many different ways. Riding and push toys, a sandbox, and toy tractors and trucks are also a great addition for the outside environment. Garage sales and dollar stores (such as Dollar Tree) are often a great source for toys. You will also want some simple arts and crafts materials such as paper, glue, pencils, markers, and crayons. You can add more toys and arts and crafts materials as you go.
- Find out if there is a child care resource and referral office in your area. They can offer great resources for your business, and can list you in their database of child care providers. The one in my area also has a great toy lending library.
- Most important of all, be prepared to be professional. If you present yourself as a professional, parents will respect you more, and it will make your new adventure much easier.
If you have any questions, or would like links to more websites, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tracy Hinton/KiddoKare Family Child Care Provider since 1993