Start a Home-Based Daycare Service
by Tim Parker
Starting an in-home daycare business doesn't require a lot of start up cash or other resources, but to be successful you need to do some research and planning. Find out how to start a home based child care service here.
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You love kids but do you love a lot of kids? If the answer is yes, and you’re looking to start a business of your own, maybe a home-based childcare business is perfect for you. What do you need to know? How do you go from dream to opening your doors for business?
Daycare vs. Childcare
First, decide which type of business you would like to start. A daycare center is often a commercial facility that provides care for a larger amount of children. Services are provided on a set schedule—often 6am to 6pm with meals, activities, and other structured activities throughout the day.
Babysitting is supervising a small amount of kids, often on demand rather than a set schedule, and doesn’t include set activities. A daycare business requires licensing of facilities and people. As a home based childcare provider, you can have a certain amount of kids without a license but after that, you may have to be a licensed provider. Even if you do babysit a larger amount of kids and need a license, it’s cheaper than opening a daycare business.
Because of the nature of the business, start by babysitting the maximum amount of kids you can before your state requires licensing. If, after 6 months to a year, you still enjoy the job, start to grow your business. The next step might be home-based, state-licensed childcare.
Working with children means a lot of rules. Each state has numerous laws designed to protect children but those laws differ greatly from state to state. Contact your appropriate state agency to find out how to become licensed. In California, for example, it’s the California Department of Social Services. Here’s how it works in that state if you want to provided licensed home-based childcare.
First, attend an orientation. There’s a $25 nonrefundable fee. To be eligible, you must live in the home where you will provide the care. You will likely have to make home modifications, submit to a background test as well as a Child Abuse Index check and take 15 hours of preventative health and safety training. You’re required to keep detailed records for each child, have your home randomly inspected for compliance, have a fire safety inspection, and have somebody with CPR certification on site at all times children are present.
The maximum amount of children in a home-based childcare facility in California is 12 children—no more than four of whom may be infants in most cases. Other circumstances may change the maximum number.
The licensed caregiver (you) must be home 80 percent of the time children are present. A substitute adult may care for children up to 20 percent of the time. Smoking is not permitted during normal hours of operation.
After the $25 orientation fee, a $73 application fee for 1-8 children and $140 for 9-14 children applies. Other fees may apply.
Also make sure that you have appropriate insurance like fire and theft in addition to homeowners insurance. You may also need general liability coverage.
Laws and regulations in your state will differ but expect to spend a considerable amount of time learning about the many requirements before opening your doors. Although there are a lot of rules, startup costs are minimal unless significant home modifications have to be made.
If you outgrow a home-based business, the next step is a daycare facility. These facilities often operate in commercially zoned areas and have additional licensing requirements. You may need a foodservice license since you will serve meals, occupancy permits, and space requirements.
In Florida, rooms occupied by children must maintain room temperatures of 62-82 degrees, have 20 square feet of indoor space for each child, and 45 square feet of outdoor fenced-in play space for each child. In addition, a designated area for napping, and each individual must complete a 40-hour childcare training session.
Because of the strict requirements for a daycare facility, you will need a large amount of children to be a profitable business. Consider partnering with a local church or other similar facility. It might already have an unused facility large enough for such a business. Many can’t afford to pay a staff so a revenue sharing plan with you could be the perfect solution for both parties.
If you have the startup funds, a commercial space, located on the right side of the road when traveling into a city and a detailed sign that lays out your offerings are two of the keys to gaining business fast. A drop-off area where busy parents don’t have to get out of their car, and after hours and weekend services will make you a standout among providers.
Finally, carefully screen all workers. Make sure that they absolutely love children and aren’t easily frustrated. Kids repeat everything said to them. If one of your workers says or does the wrong thing, your reputation for loving care could be tarnished, spelling doom for your business.
Start small. A home-based childcare or babysitting service with less than a handful of children will quickly show you if this is the right business for you. From there, scale your business. Become a licensed home-based facility and if you continue to grow and want to become a professional daycare provider, there are plenty of opportunities in your community.
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