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How to start a home day care

Abbi Perets lives in Houston, TX, with her husband and five children.






Make money at home

You love being home with your little one, but the stress of one paycheck is starting to get to you. Or you're worried about your child never learning to play with other kids. And all of a sudden, starting an in-home day care seems like the perfect solution. Here's the info you need.

Mom with Children at Daycare

Starting a home day care business is a natural move for some moms. Once you've got the baby care routine under control, you might feel ready to tackle this challenge. But there are a few things you should know before you take the plunge.

A home day care center offers several advantages over larger centers: fewer children generally means more personalized care for each one. Parents like that, but they also worry about whether you can provide the same quality of service that a larger center can offer. Your job is show them that you can.


First things first

Before you start advertising your business, contact your local licensing agency and request a copy of the child care regulation. You want to be an informed provider. Not only will the preparation be good for you and your program, but it will show the licensing specialists -- and prospective parents -- that you care about the law. Consider joining the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) or any of the other reputable national organizations to promote quality child care.

Next, think about the age group you want to host. Most likely, you're looking for companions for your own child, so that will be a factor. Age also has an impact on how many children you can care for. Do you really think you could tend to six infants? Would you want to? Start small.

The NAEYC recommends the following guidelines:


Age     Max. Group Size Adult-Child Ratio0-18 months      6 infants                    1:3
18-35 months 8 children                   1:4
Three years         16 children               1:8
Four-six years 20 children                 1:10

Unless you're planning on hiring an assistant, stick with the lower number, and be realistic about your abilities and the space you have to work with.

Are you experienced?

Now, it's time to consider your qualifications. You might laugh -- you're a mom, right? So you obviously know how to care for children. But think about what you'd look for if you were a prospective parent. Child Development Associate certification is sponsored by the Council for Early Childhood Professional Recognition (http://www.cdacouncil.org/) a nationally recognized program that seeks to improve the quality of child care.

The cost is about $350 for a three-year certification. Not all states require that home day care providers maintain CDA certification, and it may seem like a lot of effort to invest-especially if the point is to be at home with your own children. But it makes good sense. If you were looking to place your child in a home day care, you would want the provider to have these qualifications. Your children will benefit from the skills you learn as well.

You don't need to have all of this right off the bat, but if you can tell prospective parents that you are actively working towards this certification, that's something.

Professional and personal rewards

Most day care providers find the job personally rewarding, but many admit that they're rarely viewed as true professionals. Think about your own needs, and if you're a person who requires professional validation. On the other hand, you might be someone who finds a child's hug to be priceless. It's a personal decision -- and there's no right or wrong answer.

A home day care can be fulfilling and financially rewarding. Have you started your own business? We'd love to hear from you in the comments!


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