This is the 2nd part of a two part article. Be sure to read How to Open a Daycare part 1 if you haven't already.
Your Time Schedule
Assuming you are wanting to open a daycare as a fulltime business the ideal will be to occupy all of your spots with fulltime children with consistent hours. Doing so however may require some patience. Many parents will contact you asking for a day here and a day there. This may be tempting at first but before long you may end up with a complicated schedule with lots of gaps. Filling a spot with a child who only needs a spot on 3 days a week will often mean leaving a spot unfilled 2 days a week unless you are lucky enough to find another parent who needs those exact 2 days. Doing things this way you may end up quite busy with kids coming and going each day but due to the staggered schedule end up making less than you would if you simply had all Monday-Friday children.
Think about what your hours and your policies about your hours will be. 24 hour daycare is
rarely provided but something to think about if you would be willing and someone were to ask. Most parents however will probably need you to be open by 7 in the morning and to remain open until at least until 5 in the afternoon. Will you be willing to go beyond those hours? If so will you charge extra for that? How much extra? What if a parent shows up late to pick up their child? What kind of a grace period will you allow? For most parents this may happen now and then due to traffic or other problems but some parents may test your limits and even take advantage of any flexibility you show. You have your life outside of daycare and they need to respect that. Because of this a policy of extra charges for late pickups is something worth establishing up front. With most parents you may never need it but it's a lot easier to establish before a problem develops than to wait until one does.
What to Charge
Average daycare costs can be hard to estimate. Ask around to see what others in your area may be charging. You'll likely find quite a range of prices but probably somewhere between $25-$35 a day. It's important that you don't price yourself out of the market on one hand but don't short change yourself on the other. Making a price difference between a fulltime spot and part time arrangement can also be important to help offset the loss of possibly having a spot left open on other days. If a parent only needs four days a week it may be to their advantage to go ahead and pay for a full time spot and have the option to use that 5th day now and then. You’ll encounter a variety of situations and requests but it’s best if you can try to be consistent with all of your clients.
What You’re Charging For
Unless you are doing "drop in" care where a parent only arranges and pays for care on a day to day basis you are charging a parent for their child's regular spot in your daycare. Consequently, they need to pay for that spot each day whether their child is there or not. Otherwise every time a parent has the day off and keeps the child home or has a relative in town who is willing to babysit you will lose money that day on the spot you have reserved for them. It's essential that you explain this to a parent up front so they understand. It may seem unfair to them at first but they have to realize that this is your business and that you need consistent payment for each spot you hold in your daycare just as much as the parent needs consistent payment for their time at their job.
Establish a payment schedule from the beginning, such as having payments given to you on the first day of each week, for that week. Some parents will be great about paying but once in a while you may have a parent who tries your patience. It’s important that you insist that the parents respect you and be responsible with their payments just as you respect them and are responsible with their children. You may love children but this is still your business, not a personal favor.
The IRS and Your Daycare
Many home daycare providers operate under the table but they do so at their own risk. Furthermore parents are allowed to deduct their daycare expenses from their own taxes but only if the daycare provider is operating above the table. Many parents who are new to daycare don’t understand this. Be sure to explain this to them whenever they first consider your daycare so they realize that a cheaper daycare provider may end up costing them more in the long run if they cannot deduct their payments with them. To operate above the table with your daycare you will need to give receipts to the parents for their payments. To do this you will need to get a receipt book, easily found in any office supply store and a Tax ID number which you must request from the IRS. You can use your social security number but of course that would be a bad idea. A Tax ID number is a different number altogether and is used for this very purpose. Just be sure to write it on each receipt that you give out.
Finally we consider a few special areas for consideration that you need to understand in order to open a daycare.
How to Find Clients for Your Daycare
Spread the word among friends that you are going to open a daycare. Advertizing on Craigslist is often a must. The local classifieds can work too but they cost. You can also put up flyers around a neighborhood or at apartment complexes but this is more work and won't reach nearly as many people. Still, it might be worth a try. There may also be a childcare provider association in your community which can end up getting you leads. Even if they don’t you still may want to become a member simply for support.
You no doubt love children or you wouldn't be considering this sort of work in the first place. Still, you will be tried in a way that may have never happened with your own kids. It's important that you are in control of your temper. You are going to have to try to control different kids with different personalities all while being restricted in just how you can control them. Some ideas you'll just have to come up with as you go as to what works with each child. Some kids will be harder than others. Most kids seem to be worse on Mondays. Babies who are used to being held a lot at home won't be held as much in your daycare because you have to divide your attention. Sometimes both infant and mommy are not happy with this but it’s the reality of daycare. There are some small children who will scream their heads off unless they have constant attention. You will have to do some training with the children to help them learn how to function in a daycare environment which, although takes place in a home, is not their home. Firmness, encouraging good behavior, and clear boundaries are essential.
A policy should also be established from the start for every client regarding sickness. Keep in mind that the issue of sickness isn’t only about the child who is currently sick but also about the other children whose parents would just as soon they weren’t around a sick child and their germs. You probably won’t like being exposed either. How sick does a child have to be before you won't accept him or her into your daycare that day? That’s up to your discretion but a good standard for fever is 100.4F. Be warned however that some parents will load their kids up with Tylenol just to get their temperature down long enough to drop them off and say that they’re fine. What about coughing? A slight one is probably okay but a croup-like, barking cough, probably not. Sometimes small children can choke a bit and incidentally vomit but repeated vomiting, especially accompanied by diarrhea is definitely a situation where the child needs to stay at home or be sent home if it develops while in your care.
Letting a Child Go
Once in a while, if you do childcare long enough, you may come across a completely defiant child who is disruptive to your business and even dangerous to other children. If so you may have to let that child go. This can be a hard situation which the parent will never take very well and may accuse you of exaggerating. Don't be intimidated. This is your business and your home. It's just not worth hanging on to a troubled child if the parents of the other children start leaving you because they don't like having their children being bit, scratched and beat on.
Sometimes, someone besides the parent or anyone else you've met will need to pick up a child. In this case be sure to require that the parent always tell you beforehand, give you a name and description of the person will be doing the pickup and that the person doing the pick up show you some ID. Remember, there are child predators out there and you are responsible for keeping the kids safe. Also, trust your senses if you ever have someone asking about childcare who seems suspicious. For example, if someone calls and is vague about their situation and just seems eager to come by and check out your set up during childcare hours, that's a red flag.
Writing a Set of Guidelines
Finally it is highly recommended that you write out all of your guidelines so that you can go over them with parents during the interview process. This way the rules can be established up front and you will also have the printed word to refer to should an issue ever arise. Good luck!