Before You Accept the Responsibility of Child Care
The welfare of a child is tantamount to most anything in society. The process of starting a day care center includes adhering to state and local regulations. Your first step will be deciding if you are ready to become a licensed child care provider, which depending on your state regulations will allow you to practice the care of six to 12 children or more. Some states will allow you to care for fewer children without a license. Consult the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (http://nccic.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm) Administration for Children & Families as a resource to find individual state regulations. If you have very little professional child care experience, outside of the care of your own children, start with caring for the maximum number of children allowed for non-licensed child care providers first to determine if you are capable of handling the care of more children.
The Basic Essentials
Choose a name that will be attractive to parents and children that also suggests your philosophy on child care. Hire a student to create a simple and playful logo for your day care business. Start with a basic business plan that you can constantly refer back to. By the time you actually launch your day care, you will have updated this plan several times. Include in the business plan your concept of educating the children, ideas for discipline, what differentiates your services from other child care available to parents, your expected expenses and potential profit.
Your business plan should answer all the questions that a parent will ask in their initial inquiry call about your services. Determine your prices, payment and other policies, hours of operation, meals and snacks, and what kind of first aid or medical emergency assistance will be available in case the unexpected happens.
Create a record-keeping system that includes parent consent forms, financial records and medical information for each child who will be in your care. Collect emergency contact information from each parent when you start accepting children and keep a file for each child for easy reference. Find the essential forms that you will need, including registration form, field trip permission, policy and procedures for parents to read and sign. Also, download or pick up the forms the state agencies require you to fill out and return to them for their approval.
Decide on fees. Get on the phone, pick up fliers, and ask around about what other day care services are charging for the care of infants, toddlers and school-aged children per week or by the hour. Set your fees so that they are comparable and competitive but allow you to cover expenses and turn a reasonable profit. If you plan on offering overnight or weekend services, consider hourly and special weekend rates to add to your fee sheet.
Final Preparation and Getting the Word Out
Find entertainment for the children, including toys, books and movies they'll love. Thrift shops and garage sales are inexpensive and you can find some great deals. Amazon.com also has inexpensive entertainment solutions for children and often offers clearance items that will allow you to stock your playroom very quickly.
Finally, get the word out to parents, teachers, community organizations and churches in your area and let them know that you offer competitive child care services. Pass out and post fliers in laundromats, churches, elementary schools, playgrounds, theme parks and anywhere else parents frequent with their children. Post a sign in front of your day care facility and make it as colorful and inviting as possible. Allow the children already in your care the fun of creating signs to post throughout the neighborhood. If you have the capital, print your logo and contact information on T-shirts, business cards, stickers and buttons.
Continue to update your day care center business plan as your on-the-job experience dictates your limitations and future possibilities.