Having a daycare business can be a really rewarding experience. If you’re still reading, you likely agree and are thinking about opening your own someday. Before you can get started handing out fruit snacks and cartons of chocolate milk, you’ll need to research daycare centers as much as possible and create your own plan of attack. The most important part of any business, especially one as regulated as the childcare industry, is that you need to make sure you obtain the proper license and permits. Let’s start at square one and ask the important question.
Can I start a daycare without a license? Possibly. Different states and municipalities have different requirements for daycare businesses. You need to check the state and local laws for the area you will be opening a daycare center in to find out if a license is needed.
There are a few different things that factor into whether you’ll need a license or not. The area you intend to conduct business in, the size of your daycare, how many employees you have, and the physical location of your daycare are the frontrunners in determining if a license is necessary. The only way to know for sure is to check with your state to find out.
What’s Going to Determine if a License is Needed?
- Physical Location – Is the daycare center going to be in your house or are you going to have a place outside your home where children will be cared for? If you’re at home, you have a small operation and may not require licensure.
- Size of Daycare – It’s much more likely that you will need a license if you intend to run a larger operation. It will be important to focus on the ratio of caretakers to kids.
- Employees – If you are running a daycare that’s more than just you and a few kids at home, that means you will need some help to watch them and maintain a safe environment.
- State Government – There are quite a few states in which, regardless of the factors listed above, if you have any kind of daycare center, you will be required to obtain a license. On the other end of the spectrum, some other states will let smaller operations function without a license.
What’s the Point of the License Anyway?
Most of the time, when someone finds out they need a license or a permit to do something, they feel it’s more of a burden than it is a benefit. It’s easy to sink into that black hole, but just remember – if what you’re doing is governed by a permit or license, that means it’s important enough to be monitored. It’s likely someone, somewhere, at some time, screwed it up enough for a government office to step in and ensure it’s a sturdy operation. Nevertheless, play by the rules and do what’s necessary to be legal.
Are There Benefits To Being Licensed?
So many! Consumers pay attention to the people they give their money to. Licensed and insured is essentially the same thing as saying trusted and financially accountable to the adult mind…especially in this field, where parents are trusting you with their children. We aren’t talking about something small like deciding where to eat lunch that day. We’re talking about determining the place their children will spend many hours each week, the place where strangers will be caring for their children, and the place that will keep their children safe while attending. Parents take the decision very seriously. If it’s between two daycares, one licensed and one not, parents will go with the licensed option all day long.
Having a license enables your daycare to grow and eventually make more money. If you are in a position where because of your small size you don’t need a license – anticipate growth. If you intend to become larger than the four child operation you run out of your house consider getting licensure. By doing so, you ensure there will be no roadblocks with your state government when you do decide to become a larger operation.
Let’s circle back to the reason a license may be needed and see it as a benefit rather than a burden. To obtain a license in the daycare field, there are minimum requirements you must have. This means that in order to have income from your operation, you will need to satisfy these requirements first. Therefore, by the time you are ready to sign your first kid up, you will be well up to standard. Not that you wouldn’t have been anyway, but maybe there was something you didn’t think of or had no knowledge of. That’s where the governing body can step in to assist you and ensure everything is in place for a successful daycare center.
What You Need To Be Prepared For
To prepare yourself for licensure, start crossing things off the list that will be required. This is even important if you’ve found out that you’re in an area that doesn’t require a license. In almost all cases where licensing isn’t necessary, there are still other standards you will need to meet. Here are a few important ones to get you ahead in the game.
Childcare Training Course
There are courses designed for potential childcare center owners. Not a full semester course at the nearest community college, but a small program that highlights some of the important aspects of childcare. In areas requiring licensure, many of them require you to attend this course before you start taking care of children. If nothing else, any kind of program or place where you can talk to other people in the business will be extremely beneficial for you and your business.
Background checks will be needed for anyone caring for and providing safety for children. That means if you are going to have a partner or employees, they will all need background checks as well. As a business owner, you need to be very diligent in screening the people that work for you. It’s of the utmost importance that other people’s children are around the right people. A history of illegal activity is a critical fail in the childcare business. Even a small charge can hold someone back from working at a daycare center. Make sure you always have copies of your employees’ background checks on hand.
CPR and First Aid
In many cases, CPR and first aid certifications are required for childcare providers. To obtain certification, providers will need to take a course taught by a CPR instructor. They are widely available and will even come out to your location to conduct the training. The certification lasts for two years so it must be renewed. Make sure you plan ahead so there is no lapse! Being CPR and first aid certified will give childcare providers knowledge and confidence that they will know what to do in case of an emergency. Additionally, from the parent’s point of view, this offers incredible peace of mind to know that their child is in good hands. Make sure you keep copies of these certifications displayed somewhere that employees and parents will see them.
In A Nutshell…
The answer to the question “can I start a daycare without a license” will be answered by your state government. Spend a good amount of time researching and reaching out to specialists that issue the license. Speak to someone at their office, they will give you a clear, point-blank answer about your specific situation.
Can I start a daycare center without a college degree?
Absolutely. Daycare centers don’t require the staff that provides care to have a degree. You will likely need to have a high school diploma or GED. You may need to obtain a certification. This again, will depend on the area you will be working in and what the laws are. As previously stated, it’s usually a short class that goes over the basics of caring for children and how to ensure a safe environment for the kids. If you are working at a daycare center and will someday want to run your own, invest in yourself and work toward a college degree in early childhood development or something along those lines.
What is something I can do that’s similar but won’t be as regulated?
If you are looking to create a business centered around kids and developing youth, daycare centers aren’t the only way to do it. Consider starting a youth sports program where the kids are learning skills and values outside of the daycare environment. Children like to be creative as well, tap into that. A theatre, art classes, or musical instruction are also good ways to teach and develop children while creating income. Those are all options that likely won’t require a license however if they do, they will be much easier to obtain with many fewer standards.
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.
Ready for more information on how to start your own daycare business? Take a look at our startup documents here!