One of the most critical pieces of information needed when you’re opening your own daycare business is the number of children that can be cared for by one trained adult caretaker. This number is referred to as the child-to-adult ratio, and it varies depending on where you are located and age groups.
To answer the question—how many adults per child do I need for my daycare/childcare business?—we have to look at some general guidelines for different age groups.
One adult can care for the following numbers of children:
- 6 years and above: 10-12
- 3 to 5 years: 6-10
- 2 to 3 years: 4-6
- 1 to 2 years: 3-6
- 12 months and under: 3-4
There are reasons for the limits that have been set for the child-to-adult ratio. There are also group restrictions, where “group” means the number of children in one room or class. We’re going to look at this topic a little further and explore more about this ratio and why it is so important.
The Child-to-Adult Ratio
The child-to-adult ratio was borne out of a need to provide a safe and healthy environment for children to be cared for in a way that nurtures them and makes them feel confident and comfortable. Time spent in daycare or other childcare programs shouldn’t lead to a child feeling insecure, neglected, or insignificant.
The governments of states and cities are responsible for setting the restrictions for the number of children you can have in your daycare to be cared for by one adult at the same time. As was stated above, there are different limits set for different age groups. This is because there is usually more time and attention required to care for an infant than there is for a school-age child.
There’s a safety factor here too. The fewer children that are in the care of an adult, the less likely it is that there will be someone who gets sick or hurt. The adult who is with the children in the daycare will be able to spend more one-on-one time with each child so there is less time for an incident to occur when the adult couldn’t focus on that child.
The group limitations are a little bit different. This number indicates how many children can be in one room or class at one time. For instance, the maximum number of infants (0-12 months old) that can be in one daycare room together is 6-8. When the whole group is present, there must be two trained adults in the room to care for them. That is where it cuts off also. There’s no higher number that is allowed in one room together. You can’t have 9-12 infants in one room, even if you add another trained adult. The group limit only goes to 6-8 as a maximum.
How Many Children Per Adult in a Home Daycare?
In a home daycare scenario, the rules are different. That’s because this type of childcare option often has a group of children that varies in ages. The best thing to do is to check with your state’s government and see what the regulations indicate for restrictions. Most states will limit the number of infants that can be cared for in your home daycare. There may also be limits on older children or an overall limitation.
Children of the Caretaker
We have found that some people think that their own children don’t count with regards to the child-to-adult ratio. Understand that this is incorrect. If you have a daycare facility or a home daycare and your children are being cared for by you or someone else along with the other children, they absolutely do have to be counted in the number of children as part of the ratio. It’s important that you account for them as you could get into legal trouble with the government, child protection agencies, and parents of children if you take on more kids than you’re permitted to.
Adults That Count
Sometimes there will be other adults on the premises that you don’t get to count for the child-to-adult ratio. A trained adult who should be counted is someone who has experience with and knowledge about caring for children. The person also needs to be an active participant in the care-taking of the children in the daycare center.
This is especially important to note in the case of a home daycare. Because childcare is being performed in your personal residence, there will likely be times when another adult, like a spouse, is in the home. That person does not count as an adult in the child-to-adult ratio because they are not actively caring for any of the children. The same is true of any other kinds of staff members in a facility. Any janitorial staff, anyone who only prepares food, or any dedicated receptionist cannot be counted in the ratio number either.
Why Are There Limits In Place?
There has been a lot of research surrounding the limits of how many children should be cared for by one person, as well as regarding the number of children that should be in one care room at one time. It’s important that children get the care that they need to feel safe and secure.
A lot of harm can come from an overcrowded daycare or classroom. Children can get hurt. Kids can feel alone, overwhelmed, neglected, and unimportant. It’s not good for a child to have to fight to get any attention just because they attend daycare. It should be a place of development, growth, and nurturing.
Children are all very different. So they may all have very different needs. If the caretaker isn’t able to see that because he or she is too tied up with all of the other children, then none of the children will get what they need from their time in daycare. Growth should not stop just because the parents both work outside of the home. They should be able to rely on the childcare providers in your daycare to help them with the continued development of their child while they’re in your care.
The Benefits of Smaller Groups and Child-to-Adult Ratios
There are some benefits that have been proven by research of having children in daycare or other programs in small groups. Children get more one-on-one time with an adult who is caring for them. That alone can boost a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence.
Many of the studies show that the younger children are, the more benefit they get from individual time with a caretaker or teacher. And the benefit doesn’t just hit the children. The caretakers also get positive effects from having smaller groups of children to care for because they don’t feel so overwhelmed trying to figure out the needs of many children. They have better morale so their energy is good. The energy is felt by the children so the cycle is a positive one.
Coping skills are learned at a young age. Well, they at least start at a young age. They can continue to be learned on into adult life. One of the benefits of smaller groups in daycare is that time with their care provider allows the children to feel like they can cope with things. One-on-one interactions teach coping skills in children at a young age.
There is a greater opportunity for learning in a smaller group. Children in daycares that have fewer kids per adult get to sit down with a caretaker and do one-on-one activities with them. There is a much greater amount of attention paid to the children so they can have the time to learn something new with direct supervision. Children who learn in environments with fewer other children early on tend to do better academically throughout their school journey because they learned to cope and focus early on.
Remember the Ratio for Part-Time Children, Too
In your daycare, you may decide to take some children on for only half of the day. That’s ok, but you have to remember to work those part-time children into your ratio and schedule your staff accordingly if that applies to your setup.
One thing that will help is to pair up morning and afternoon children when you’re tracking the number of kids you’ll have throughout the day. Basically, one morning child and one afternoon child together is equivalent to one whole child for that day. It will make things easier when you’re doing your planning and scheduling.
You also need to remember to look at your ratio of children to adults when you have a request to take a drop-in child. This may not apply to you if you aren’t planning on accepting children on an as-needed basis, but if you are then you definitely need to make sure you’re keeping track of how many kids you are taking in.
Possible Punishments for Being Over Capacity Set By Regulators
Punishments handed out to daycares for violating any kind of legal requirement set by the governing agency vary with the level of severity of the violation. In some cases, it may be decided that the violation was minor.
However, in other cases, the violation will be found to be more severe and there are a number of punishments that might be doled out. One violation that is usually found to be severe is continuously being over the number of children allowed per caretaker. If you do it once and are discovered, it’s likely there won’t be any action. You might get a warning from the governing agency. But if you continue to care for more children than you are legally allowed to, the consequences can be quite serious.
You could be denied a license that hasn’t been issued yet. Your facility could be closed because you didn’t have a license yet. Your operating license could be suspended. Or they could revoke your license entirely. Thereafter, you would likely have to close the daycare. It’s important that you adhere to your state’s regulations.
The number of adults you need per child in your daycare/childcare business is very important. Children do not develop well in settings where they get lost in the mix. The guidelines have been set for the age groups based on what has been found to be appropriate for the developmental level children are functioning at for those years.
Research has been conducted that has lead to the numbers that are typically seen in the guidelines of each state. You need to stick to the standards set in your state so that you don’t end up getting into trouble and possibly having to shut your daycare’s doors.
Do I need a college degree to open my own daycare?
In most states, you will not need a college degree to be allowed to open a daycare. That being said, there are some states that, depending on the type of daycare you want to open, might require that you hire a director for your center that does have a degree in something having to do with child development, early childhood education, or something similar. If that’s the case, then you can either wait to open yours and get the degree yourself, or you’ll have to find someone to appoint as your daycare’s director.
How old does someone have to be to qualify as a trained adult caring for children in a daycare?
This could be different from state to state also. However, usually, a caretaker can be as young as 17 years old. If this is the case though, it will likely have to be a 17-year-old who has already graduated from high school and has their diploma. Alternatively, they could have obtained a GED, and that will typically be accepted as well.
It’s not likely that you’ll find many 17-year-olds working in daycares that haven’t had experience with caring for children. If you do decide to hire someone just out of high school, make sure you ask about their previous childcare experience and look into their references.
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Learn more about starting your daycare business by taking a look at our startup documents here.