Six years ago I retired from running our Family Daycare, for over 16 years I was honored with the task of caring for other people's children. Tears flowed on my last day and they didn't come from the children's eyes, they came from mine. I couldn't have imagined how much I would miss them, but I did and still do. Our little troupe of 7, were always busy doing something. They like most kids, were so eager to learn, they would surround me with their endless hugs, gooey hands, wet noses and millions of questions....."Monique, how do you make sand?", "Monique when is music time?", "Moneeeeque, can I use my banana like play-dough??". My brain would be saying...oh my, this will be interesting...and messy! My heart would say, "Sure, I have to clean up anyways and look at that enormous, adorable, smile." "And after all, he must be learning something... how it feels, the smell and oh, how easily banana's turn to mush!"
I also learned amny things along the way, somethings I wished I had known before starting and that is my reason for today's blog. I hope to share a bit of my experiences to help you make the process of opening your own Daycare a fast and enjoyable one.
I will be adding information in parts because there is just so much information to share, from how to write up a contract and policies handbook, to crafts, snacks, planning field trips, routines and more.
I thank you for reading and welcome your questions and comments any time.
Things you'll need to know before starting your Daycare:
1) - First, ask yourself, do I have the patience to care for other people's children? If you find yourself plugging your ears in the line up at the grocery store when you hear a child shrieking because mom or dad didn't let them put the eggs in the cart, then maybe Childcare is not your thing. If you find yourself thinking of funny ways to make that same child smile, then hop to your nearest Childcare Centre. Ummm maybe not too fast, first you might want to ask them if you can volunteer a few days. It's a great way to see if it's something you might like doing on a full or part time basis. Childcare is not for everyone, the current burn out rate is 2 years, so knowing in advance that it's something you really want to do, will help guide you to your new career.
2) Keep in mind Childcare does not pay much. There were days I was only making $2.25 an hour, so be prepared to set aside a small amount every month to help balance off the slow days and months, because chances are there will be months where you're not making a dime and having that back up cash will really help your family's financial planning. People who enter into Childcare definitely don't do it for the money, for most it's a way of staying at home and raising their own children, that's how I started many years ago and I'm so glad I made that decision. For me it was the right one, for other's it may not be, you need to find what makes you happy & go with it. As a child you would always find me around the nearest baby, I knew at an early age that carrying for children is what I wanted to do and made sure I learned as much as I could about child development and how to properly care for a baby. You could say I was a wee bit obsessed (no pun intended), but in a good way. I wanted to make sure I knew how to handle situations in a caring way, just like my grandmother who was an amazing roll model to her 12 children and many, many grand-kids. She nurtured with compassion and a constant gentle vibe, she listened to them, children were drawn to her caring nature. I'm very fortunate to have a mother who also has this gift and if I have even just 1/4 of what they have, those kids would be truly loved and well cared for. I gave it my all and enjoyed the ride, I think my own kids and those I cared for liked it as well, because they still talk about their experiences and asked me to promise them that I'll start up again when they have their own children. Personally I think we had a wondrous 16 years because of the children, their constant curiosity and imagination kept me wanting to do more, it made teaching them a fun and rewarding experience and I hope you experience the same.
So back to volunteering, most centres will probably say yes, (which business wouldn't like free labour). As long as you have your criminal records check, TB test, Dr's note (that states you're sane enough to care for children) and references, then they may say yes. If after your wonderful Childcare experience, you're still excited to start, then let the researching begin....
3) Next, ask your family how they would feel having other children in the home. Depending on the hours you choose to work, your significant other and your own children will be sharing their home, items and time with mommy for up to 12 hours a day (max. 13 hours - BC licensing regulations) with other children. They have a right to voice their opinion, some may say yeah and one or all may say no, as long as you are respectful of their feelings, listen to their concerns and spend some quality alone time with each family member, things should run relatively smoothly, cookies can help here to! = )
4) Set your families guidelines, what rooms will be off limits. If you can, I highly suggest having one room you can use for Daycare use only, that way, you can shut the door and leave work behind on those really hard days. Talk to your kids about sharing their toys and which are too special, it's a good idea to put those away until the end of the day. If they insist on bringing the items around their playmates, then they should be expected to share when they're done, which can be incredibly hard for some kids. That's why I had the rule, if it's here, it's here for all. Special toys were brought on 'Show and Share' days, I'll get into that subject in a future post.
Now is a good time to think about how many kids you want to care for. LNR or License Not Required Centres are allowed 2 children not related to you, so if you have 3 of your own children, then you can care for 5.
Each province has different regulations when it comes to Licensed Facilities, in Ontario and British Columbia, Family Centres can have up to 8 children, but they have strict guidelines when it comes to ages. I will post more info and a link on this soon. Make sure you are clear on the regulations, otherwise you'll be forced to give notice to a family because you're over your age numbers.
5) Find out from your city/municipality if you're zoned for a Family Daycare, some are not or have very strict bylaws and regulations. In our area, you must have at least 6 parking stalls on your property, which is very rare for most homes, luckily we had a long driveway on a culdesac and there were more than enough parking. I've known of a few ladies who were denied based just on that one regulation. Don't wait to find out until after you're all set up, because by then you'll have spent money you can't recoup and it's just not worth the heartache and stress.
6) If you are renting, double check with your landlord to see if it's ok with him, if he's ok with it, make sure you get that in writing. Most town house complexes, apartment buildings and co-ops do not allow Family Daycares, so knowing in advance is critical.
7) Contact your local Fire Department, they will come and do a small preliminary inspection (make sure you get a copy of the written inspection to submit to your licensing officer). He/she will go over your home, ask you about your fire escape plans, make sure you have a working fire extinguisher (depending on the size of your home you may need 2). Each Fire Department will have rules regarding the preferred extinguisher size, most are 10lb, before buying any, check with them first as some are not CSA approved for a Daycare setting. Even if you decide not to go ahead with opening a Daycare, having at least one fire extinguisher on each floor is a good idea, you never know when you might need one.
8) Read your home owners insurance policy, some will not cover homes with Daycares. If you have a local Child Care Resource and Referral, they may have a list of places they can suggest. Phone around and make sure you understand their rules. Some Insurance carriers will only cover homes if you have 6 children or less and most Family Childcare settings have 7 - 8 children, so check with them first.
Vancouver Island CCRR - http://www.islandfamilyinfo.ca/
Mainland - http://www.ccrr.bc.ca/
9) Talk to your neighbors, I highly suggest baking them some yummy cookies and giving them while you tell them your plans. That way they won't find out the hard way (cars coming & going in the early morning and at dinner time). Most will be on board and support you, some may even ask you to watch their children. Personally I think it's what a respectful neighbor does, if they're not ok with it, then oh well, at least you asked and who knows you might have wooed them with your yummy cookies.
10) Once you've got the ok from all the important people, now it's time to contact your local Licensing Office, in our area it's known as VIHA (Vancouver Island Health Authority), they police both Group and Family Daycare Facilities and most have Childcare packages (last I checked they were $25.00). Inside you will find all the Daycare regulations and questions needed to open your Centre. You'll need copies of your Dr.s note, TB test results, criminal records check (which can take up to 2 months, sometimes longer) and reference letters.
They will want your emergency procedures written out along with a house map showing your emergency exits, square footage and room usage. It doesn't need to be fancy, just a basic drawing of the inside of your home.
I'll elaborate on Licensing Requirements on another day, for now I need some much needed shut eye, tomorrow is my 17 year olds Winter Formal and I know I'll be up all night waiting for her to come home. So this is me planning on not getting any sleep and about to bank some sleep coinage.
Time for some shut eye!