Starting a daycare center in Florida is a rewarding and exciting business venture, a process that is set by the Florida Department of Children and Family Services. To legally operate a daycare service in the Sunshine State, you must follow these important steps:
Steps to open a Florida daycare center:
- Obtain the required credentials
- Meet the minimum facility requirements set by the FDCFS
- Complete the Florida licensing process/ paperwork
- Advertising your services
Obtaining the required credentials
The state of Florida, like most states, has its own set of required credentials that all daycare workers must meet if they wish to continue operating as a licensed daycare center.
There are three main credentials that every daycare worker must meet to be legally allowed to work at a daycare center in the state of Florida.
- All workers must complete the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitation Services approved introductory training course
The Florida Department of Children and Family Services, a course specifically designed for anyone who wishes to be employed at a daycare service provider.
- The Introductory training course exam
Following the course in step one, you have to successfully pass the exam at the end of the course to receive the acquired credentials.
If you happen to take the course but fail the exam, you will not receive your course credentials which are required to be employed by a daycare center in the Sunshine State.
- Take part in 10 hours of in-service training annually.
Every year, the State of Florida requires that every person who works at a daycare center must take part in 10 hours of in-service training.
This training is aimed to ensure that daycare workers understand all the necessary ins-and-outs of working with children.
What are the requirements for home daycare services?
When it comes to operating a home daycare center, the requirements are very similar to those required to operate an out-of-home daycare center.
The main difference between the two is that an in-home daycare center only requires a 30-hour training course instead of a 40 hour one.
Other than this small difference, the two are nearly identical.
Just like the training for an out of home daycare service, the training for an in-home daycare service also has a competency exam at the end to ensure that those taking it have learned and can effectively work with children.
Additionally, those who are operating an in-home daycare service are required to complete 10 hours of in-service training yearly to keep their skills sharp.
Meet the minimum facility requirements set by the State of Florida
The Florida Department of Children and Family Services has a list of set standards and requirements that every daycare center in the State of Florida must meet if they wish to operate.
These requirements are for daycare services that are operating both in private residences and in those which are operating out of a commercial building.
What are these requirements?
- The first requirement to operate a daycare center in the State of Florida is that the facility must have at least 20 square feet of floor space for every child that the daycare center plans to care for.
This first requirement is to ensure that a daycare center has enough space so that the children of the daycare center have enough space to be sufficiently taken care of.
This should include enough space for the children to take naps, learn, eat, and take part in any other necessary activities.
- The second facility requirement is that the outdoor aspect of the daycare facility should have 45 square feet of space for every child who is using it at one time.
The key to this aspect is the “at one point” portion.
If a daycare center has 25 children, but only has 10 children outside at one time, then they are only required to have 450 square feet of outside space.
- Obtain the required licensing/paperwork
Before you can legally operate a daycare center in the state of Florida, you are required to obtain a certain license and complete certain paperwork.
To find the needed information, head over to the Florida State Department website
Obtaining a Florida childcare license
In the state of Florida, you are required to operate with a childcare license
Thanks to the technological advancements of today, you can file for this license online.
Once the form is completed, you simply have to send the form to the Florida Department of Children and Families.
The form is self instructing and fairly simple to fill out, detailing everything you need to do and how every aspect of the form is meant to be filled out.
The form can be accessed here.
Completing state-required paperwork
After completing the required license, you must next fill out the Florida state-required paperwork
This paperwork will entail important details about the type of daycare you plan on operating, how many children you plan on taking care of, and any other necessary information.
Advertising your services
Like any business, a daycare center does have to advertise if it wishes to continue to gain customers.
As such, it’s important to understand the forms of advertising available to you, including those which are specific to Florida and the childcare service industry
These advertising services include:
- Utilizing the Florida Department of Children and Families resource website
This website is filled with a list of childcare service providers throughout the state.
By filling out the enrollment form on the Florida Department of Children and Families resource website, you can include your daycare center on this list for others to find when they are searching through the list.
- Obtaining the Gold Seal Quality Care Accreditation
This award, which is given by the Florida Department of Children and Families, is a perfect way to prove to potential customers that your daycare center is of the highest quality.
This award can be a fantastic way to advertise your daycare center to families and parents, giving you a potential leg-up on the competition.
- Local parent groups
Every community throughout the state of Florida has online parent groups.
Finding a way onto these groups can be an incredible way for a daycare center to advertise their services, almost always in a way with no cost what so ever!
Advertising to these groups can be a fantastic way to target the specific groups of the community, mostly parents, who will be the ones looking to hire your services.
- How many employees need to be working at a daycare center?
To ensure you are following Florida state law, there is a minimum number of employees that need to be on staff at any time per child at the daycare center.
This number, however, changes depending on the age of the children who are being taken care of.
As such, a small table detailing the list of ratios that are required to meet the legal standards set by the state of Florida will be detailed below.
Child/provider ratio based on age:
6 weeks: 4:1
9 weeks: 4:1
18 weeks: 6:1
3 years: 11:1
4 years: 15:1
5 years: 20:1
6 years: 25:1
7 years: 25:1
8-9 years: 25:1
10 years and older: 25:1
All of these ratios, which must be met if a daycare center wishes to continue operation, have been made by the Florida Department of Children and Family Services to ensure the safety of all of the children are being met.
The maximum number of children in a daycare center at one time often will depend mostly on the size of the building itself, as there is a minimum space requirement for every child that is in the care of the daycare center.
- How much does it cost to start a daycare center in Florida?
As with any business, the start-up cost for a daycare center in the Sunshine State will vary depending on quite a few factors.
However, on average, it will cost anywhere between $10,000 and $50,000 to cover all the potential costs when opening up a daycare center in the state of Florida.
- What do the costs consist of?
The most significant potential cost for starting a daycare center will be the physical location.
If the daycare is being operated out of the home, then this is of course not something to be accounted for.
However, if you are aiming to operate a daycare center out of a separate building, it will be the cost of said building that is going to drive the cost up.
It may also cost you to renovate your home or the commercial building you are planning to operate to ensure that it meets the necessary standards set by the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Next, is the cost for equipment, which on average, costs about $60 per child.
This equipment consists of things such as books, furniture, teaching equipment, toys, and any other possible items that children may need.
Purchasing all of the equipment necessary for a large number of children can be a fairly costly aspect of opening a daycare center in the Sunshine State.
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.
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