Home daycares offer a warm, comfortable environment for children and are sometimes preferred over day care centers for various reasons. Whether you are planning to send your child to a home daycare center or exploring the possibility of starting one yourself, understanding the requirements is the first step in the process.
Home daycares offer an affordable alternative to a live-in nanny who can be very expensive or a relative, which may not always be practical or preferred. Home daycares offer a fulfilling career option to those who enjoy caring for kids and have the qualities necessary to do it for long hours day after day. The requirements for a home daycare depend on its size, the number of children in it and the state in which it is run.
There are over 280,000 regulated home daycares in the US. In many cases, home daycares are run in an informal manner, with a parent caring for a small group of children in addition to her own. These unregulated home daycares are run on a very loosely structured framework where parents trust a friend or acquaintance to care for their children. To start and run a regulated home daycare, most states require the centers to meet state licensing requirements for health and safety. However, if the number of children in the home daycare is lower, they may only be required to register with the appropriate local state agency for child care services. The state’s licensing agency will be able to tell you if you require licensing or only registration. The regulations vary by state and include for example, the recommended number of kids for a given area, the ideal care giver to child ratio and stringent sanitation requirements. For example, the licensing regulations for most states specify that the consumption of certain types of food such as shell fish and raw eggs is not permitted. They also have strict rules regarding the facility in which the food is prepared which needs to have been inspected and approved by a local health department. Some states require a background check to ensure that the care giver has not faced criminal charges in the past, especially related to children. The check also includes driving history, financial status, education and association with any groups or organizations. In some cases, care givers are required to undergo appropriate child-care training. A very few home daycares have been accredited by the National Association for Family Child Care, which is an expensive and time consuming process, but a sign of quality.
Licensing and other requirements for home daycare have an important role to play in ensuring the well-being of children. Several federal and state agencies are responsible for keeping children safe and healthy. These include the FDA, the Center for Disease Control and individual state departments of daycare licensing. They set standards and guidelines and enforce regulations to help ensure that children have safe environments, eat nutritiously and are protected from disease. The requirements that a licensed home daycare needs to meet are part of this larger responsibility the government has towards children.
A home daycare that meets the state’s regulations and licensing requirements is more likely to be considered safer and more reliable than one that does not. The licensing process involves extensive background checks, regulating child-care operations, inspecting and monitoring the daycare facilities, technical assistance and other ways of helping the care givers to be better equipped for the job. This benefits both the parents and the daycare. Parents feel more comfortable trusting a daycare the credentials of which have already been verified by the state. The daycare also benefits because, it can portray itself as a licensed home daycare, thereby attracting more customers. Licensing organizations and child care interest groups list the licensed home daycare among their child care providers and that automatically increases the visibility of the home daycare.
A licensed home daycare may seem like a safer choice when compared to an unregulated one and in many cases, it is. However, do not let the fact that a daycare is licensed prevent you from doing your research as a parent. Even if a home daycare has been licensed, do visit the site unannounced, inspect the area and make your own observations. A license shows that the home daycare owner has gone the extra distance to meet state requirements. But, that does not necessarily mean that it is the best option for you. If you are a care-giver or owner, you should remember that it is not merely enough to acquire the license for your home daycare. You need to follow the guidelines and meet the requirements consistently, failing which you may risk losing your home daycare license
Rupa Raman writes for ModernMom, Travels, RedEnvelope and other sites on intentional parenting, volunteering, travel, careers and holistic living and has published articles for the United Way. She has over six years of writing experience. She holds a master's degree in communication from MOP Vaishnav College, Chennai, India.