For many people, their children are their most valued treasures, and when they have to be apart from them while they're at work or running errands, they want to know that the environment in which they leave them will be a place that's safe, secure and fun. Likewise, the parents' desire to attend weekly religious services shouldn't be at the expense of other parishioners having to endure a toddler who just can't keep still or keep quiet. If you've always wanted to start a community daycare program, perhaps your own church is a great place to start one. Here's what you need to know.
Survey the members of your congregation on their interest in your plan for starting a daycare program.
Consult with the minister of your church regarding the availability of space that could be used as a daycare facility. For instance, a Bible study classroom that isn't being used during weekday mornings might be ideal. If there isn't a space available on the actual church grounds, your minister may be able to recommend possible sites and/or place a notice in the church newsletter to help locate one for you.
Check with your city and county administration offices to determine what type of licensing you will need to operate a daycare facility. At a minimum you will need to have a business license since you will be operating as a business entity and accepting payments for your services. If you plan to operate strictly on a volunteer basis, be sure to let them know this since there may be exemptions that apply. You'll also want to talk to your insurance agent about the type of liability coverage you'll need to have in the event of accidents while the children are under your care.
Develop a business plan for your daycare operation. The website of the Small Business Administration (URL at end of this article) can give you ideas on how to set this up. At a minimum, you'll need to determine the age range of the children you will accept, the number of children you plan to accommodate, the hours of operation, the types of activities you will offer, whether snacks will be provided, and how many assistants you'll need to ensure that every child receives enough attention.
Take classes in basic first aid and CPR. It's also advisable that anyone who will be working with you in running the daycare center has these skills as well.
Make sure that the space you plan to use is adequately child-proofed prior to each session. If there is access to a backyard, make sure that it's one the children can't wander out of.
Recruit assistants from among the members of your congregation. Those who have older children may be able to recommend babysitters to you who might like to help.
Identify what types of games and activities you will be providing for the children. (See URLs at end of article.) In many cases, a church that provides the space for your daycare program may request that Bible study be part of your mini-curriculum.
Provide mats, pillows and blankets for nap time.
Provide each parent with a questionnaire that will help you get to know something about the child you'll be taking care of in the program. If you plan to provide snacks, it's important that you be aware of any food allergies or restrictions the child may have.
Continue to advertise the existence of your daycare center through church bulletin boards, flyers, and newsletters.
Carefully screen the individuals who will be assisting you and always make sure to get references. If you live near the church and plan to operate the daycare center out of your own home, you will need to check first to make sure that you are zoned by the city or county to run an onsite business.
Never take your young charges off the facility grounds unless you have the parents' written permission to do so. Never tolerate inappropriate behavior (i.e., violence, bad language, temper tantrums). Advise the parent that unless and until the child can learn to play well with others and not create a disturbance, he cannot attend the center.
- Photo by Christina Hamlett