Many parents enter the child care profession as a way to remain with their own children while earning an income by providing quality care for others' kids as well. And, many child care providers find the career so rewarding and enriching that they opt to remain in the profession even after their kids enter school and even graduate. But being a child care professional is not for everyone. Here are things to consider.
Do You Have What it Takes Beyond Loving Kids?
As any established child care provider will attest, being a good parent doesn't mean you're suited to being a child care provider. Your temperament, organization, the physical environment you offer, ability to work well with all types of kids, adaptability, and patience are a few things you need to consider. Do you have experience working with youngsters for an extended time? You might try that first to double-check your interest, and then consider financing options (if needed).
In-Home Care or Daycare Center?
There are many types of child care--prospective child care providers need to determine what type they wish to focus on. Day nurseries primarily focus on infants through preschoolers; pre-schools are typically toddlers and children often must be potty-trained (ages 2-5); and out of school care is tailored to providing child care of school-aged kids on a before-school or after-school basis or during school breaks, such as staff development or holidays. Faith-based care options also abound.
Child Care Provider Licensing Laws Vary
Opening a child care center is an opportunity to develop your own business while providing a much-needed service. Centers are licensed by the state, and requirements may vary but typically include that care professionals must meet educational/training requirements and be inspected on a regular basis. The facility must also meet certain building, fire and zoning codes. Specified adult to child ratios are enforced and background checks are usually required.
In-Home Care Regulations Differ
There can be a difference between being "regulated" vs. being "licensed" by the state, so check for details and differences. In Texas, for example, the Department of Family and Protective Services typically registers, rather than licenses, family day care homes although it does license in some circumstances with higher standards. Both types of care include inspections, minimum standards and maximum numbers of kids. Listed family care homes provide unregulated care and meet no requirements.
Is National Accreditation Important?
Several different organizations have developed accreditation programs to recognize excellence in child care and early childhood programs. Thes accreditation process typically requires higher standards than that required by state regulations. Accreditation is a voluntary process and involves extensive self-study, leadership skills, and validation as well as parent evaluation. Focus is on relationships, environment, health and safety, learning, and professional and business practices.
What Child to Provider Ratio is Best?
Ratios of children to providers is an important question to consider, and the answer depends on what type of care option is selected, whether it is in the home or a facility, involves more than one caregiver in the same setting, and even the age of the children themselves. Another consideration often factors in the length of daily care.
Are Child Subsidy Programs Available?
There are all types of subsidies and federal and/or federal assistance for child care. The key is to know where to work and also to consider what type of paperwork wrangling you're willing to go through to get aid. There is help for low-income parents, for providers who care for children in certain low-income areas and/or circumstances, and even for meals and snacks provided to children. Start with your state to see what options exist and whether the programs offered provide benefit.
Can You Work With Parents as Well as Kids?
Caring for kids is one thing; working well with parents can be another. Child care providers often confess to a "love-hate" relationship at times, where they adore the child but become frustrated with a parent's demands (food choices, time outside, nap arrangements, discipline, art time, and relationships in general, are some hot topics). There's also the liability and payment issues to consider as well.