Not all parents need full-time daycare for their children. Some of them just need short term daycare every once in while so they can go to the grocery store, make a hair appointment or take a much needed break. So, instead of paying the hefty price to enroll their children in full-time child care programs, these parents opt for drop-in service.
Drop-In Daycare Location
Location can make or break any business, including a daycare. You want a location that is convenient to the clients you are marketing toward, as well as one that keeps costs affordable for you. Consider whether you want to run your drop-in day care service in your home or in a separate building.
Running a drop-in day care inside your home will limit the number of kids you’re allowed to care for at one time because drop-in child care regulations stipulate the square footage required per child, as well as the number of children each adult can supervise, but your overhead costs will be minimal.
If you choose to run your drop-in day care outside of the home, you can have as many children as the square footage of the building will allow, but will also pay more in overhead costs, which you must pass on to your clients in higher rates.
Licensing and Background Checks
All daycare facilities must obtain a license in order to legally operate. You will need to check with your state licensing agency to find out what the requirements are to run a drop-in daycare in your area. Typically, they are required to meet the same standards as full-time day care programs. For instance, like traditional programs, drop-in child care regulations require you to have adequate smoke detectors, follow certain hygiene protocols, meet building code, and adhere to other rules about location, background checks, training and business licensing.
In addition, most states have specific regulations about nap time areas, food preparation areas, bathrooms, emergency exits, children per square footage and per adult. These rules and regulations apply to both traditional daycare centers and short term daycare centers.
As part of the licensing process, you will be required to get a criminal background check through your state before opening the drop-in daycare center, and then at least every five years after that. All adults who volunteer or work in your drop-in daycare facility will also need to pass this background check that includes an FBI fingerprint check, sex registry search, and ensures that you have no history of child neglect or abuse charges. You must pass this background check in order to get your license and everyone working in your facility must pass it prior to working in order for you to keep your license.
Education and Training
Most states' drop-in child care regulations require daycare workers to obtain specific child development training, as well as pediatric cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first-aid certification. Although most states don't require a college degree to own or operate a day care center, you may be required to have a certain number of child-development training hours to open your doors and then participate in continuing education programs yearly in order to stay open.
Child-development training hours can be obtained through workshops in early childhood education or through local community college courses. Depending on your educational goals and past academic history, scholarships, grants and student loans could be available to help you with this process. Pediatric CPR and first-aid training can be obtained from your local chapter of the American Red Cross and can be completed in-person or partially online. Your state will probably require you to take refresher CPR courses every few years and re-certify.
Prepare to Open Your Doors
Once you meet requirements for location, code, education and background checks, the fun starts. Now, you get to set up your short term daycare environment with lots of things to keep the children happy and entertained. Your state will likely want to see that you have enough age-appropriate toys and equipment to accommodate the number of children for whom you are licensed to care. Include things like books, child-size tables and chairs, and a variety of indoor and outdoor toys. Large children's consignment sales are a good place to find bulk items at a reasonable cost.
After your final inspection, you can advertise your business to connect with your ideal customer. Consider passing out fliers and business cards at events, meeting up with mommy groups, placing an ad in your local newspaper, and putting a sign on your car or in front of your day care. Remember to build a social media presence, too, especially through Facebook and Instagram. Family members and friends can follow your social media pages, as well as provide reviews that vouch for your integrity.
Your advertisements get the word out, but relationships are what will help your center thrive. Once you build your clientele, the word about the quality of your drop-in service will spread quickly, especially maintain your reputation by the loving quality of your care, following regulations and providing children with a safe, clean and comfortable place to spend their days.
- Childcare.gov: Background Checks: What You Need to Know
- North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Childhood Education: Article 7: Chapter 110 of the North Carolina General Statutes: Child Care Facilities
- North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services: Child Care Criminal Background Check
- Childcare.gov: Ratios and Group Sizes