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Tuesday, July 22, 2008
3 Steps for Starting a Daycare

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By Grace Chen

So you love kids, and maybe you even have a few of your own. Your finances dictate that you need to have employment. What can you do? One option is to start your own daycare.

Starting a daycare is not something that should be undertaken lightly. After all, you would be taking care of what most people consider to be their prized possessions – their children. Plus, a proper daycare requires a lot of planning, forethought and sacrifice. Here are some general tips for starting a daycare that can get you on your way.

  1. Decide What Type Of Daycare You Will Own. There are several options for running a daycare, and different advantages and disadvantages to all of them.

    • Independent Home Day Cares – these are most common for moms who already have kids and are willing to take on a few more. Often informal and almost a baby-sitting service. Depending on where you live you may or may not need a license to run, and payments are often made in cash or check form.

    • Licensed Home Day Cares – these are still in your own home, but require a license. You may be allowed to take daycare vouchers from the state as well as checks and cash and will more than likely be required to have inspections for safety and quality.

    • Day Care Centers – these are in a separate building from your house and are run like a business. You will more than likely have multiple employees, set hours, meal plans, special education programs, etc. You will be required to have special licensing and inspections, and can often take all forms of payment.

    • Child-Watching Services – these are often run in conjunction with a community center, gym, church, or other business. You are often only watching the children for brief periods of time instead of a full day (such as the hour mom is using the fitness equipment), but will still be required to meet state guidelines.

  2. Define your daycare policies and procedures. Once you have decided on the type of daycare you prefer to work on, you will need to go on to think about defining the basics of your daycare. For instance, will you work alone or will you have support staff? Are you planning on catering to a certain age group? Will you have regular 9 to 5 hours or will you cater to parents that work second or third shift? Will you offer part time or hourly services or full day only?

    You will also want to consider where you will have your daycare. Many people choose to work directly out of their homes; however, you may have to have special inspections to make sure that your home meets state requirements for child safety. Some remodeling and special child proofing may have to be done before you can even begin operating.

  3. Get the details worked out. Another aspect to consider about running a daycare is the business end of things. After all, you need to make sure that you have all of your paperwork in order so that you know your business is legal. You also need to find a way to charge for your services so that you are not out pricing the market but are also still turning a profit. Things to consider:

    • Paperwork. Do you need a license, registration, or any forms from the city to get started? What about an employee handbook? Do you need to fill out any forms to apply for loans, get insurance, or rent a space?

    • Money. Do you need a loan to cover startup costs? What will operating a daycare cost you financially when you consider utilities, food, toys, cleaning products, etc.? How much do you plan to charge and how do you plan to charge (hourly rates, daily rates, monthly rates, etc.)

    • Rules and Guidelines. What exactly do you expect employees to do? What services will you provide for the children you care for, and what warrants an extra charge? How do you want parents to handle absences, sick children, or late and early pickups?

By planning ahead, you can make sure that your daycare facility gets off the ground smoothly. Understand your customers and what they are looking for in a child care center so you are prepared to provide all of those things and answer questions from prospective parents.

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