So, you’ve decided to start a family child care business. Awesome! Running this kind of program comes with many benefits and responsibilities. You can provide care in a comfortable home environment, have many resources available, and reap financial benefits.
However, it takes thoughtful preparation to ensure you can fulfill all the regulations and guidelines that come along with it. Family child care is an extension of learning for all children enrolled, and it is vital to their development to ensure your program is top-notch.
Trusting your child with someone during the day can be hard. We’ve all been there, as a parent or former child, being dropped off on the first day at an unfamiliar place. It’s scary putting your faith in someone to provide the same kind of care to your child that you would as a parent. This can make deciding on child care a difficult process. The ultimate decision usually comes down to interests, needs, and preferences. Sifting through the many options, styles and programs can be time-consuming and overwhelming.
The beauty of family child care programs is that they have fewer staff and children enrolled. Some families enroll their child in a family child care program due to these smaller ratios and flexibility of hours. Offering care for mixed-age groups can also be appealing since there is the possibility of siblings being together. Family child care is a win-win all around – for the provider, the children, the parents, and the community.
To start off your endeavor, here are 5 proven ways to create an effective family child care program.
1. Safety first. The first way to create a high-quality family child care program is to focus on health and safety. There are many guidelines that a family child care provider must follow to provide a safe learning environment, which vary depending on the state you’re in. A best practice is to check with your local licensing agency to ensure you meet all the required standards.
A few areas to consider creating in policies and procedures to make sure each child is receiving safe care may include:
Injuries/Illness - There should be a specific policy and procedure if a child is injured or becomes ill. Come up with levels of care along with steps outlined for a child that displays moderate discomfort but is not in need of medical attention (i.e. elevated temperature or vomiting).
Reminder: Have steps in place to notify and communicate with the child’s parents or guardian about any illness or injury.
Medications - Keep medications away and inaccessible to children. Ensure all medical forms are up-to-date if a child is to receive any sort of medication. There should be medication authorization in addition to consent/signatures from all mandatory parties. Even for something like ibuprofen.
First aid kit - Keep a kit in a central location in the home and inaccessible to children. Maintain adequate supplies in the first aid kit. There should be a first aid manual, directions on the use of universal precautions for handling blood and bodily fluids, bandages, disposable rubber gloves and a cold pack at the very least. Consider any other first aid items that are essential to administering first aid to a child in need and add them to this kit so you are fully prepared.
Animals – Potentially harmful/dangerous animals must be safely secured in areas not accessible to the children in your care. Follow your state’s rules and regulations regarding vaccinations for pets and animals. Even a kitty’s sharp claws could hurt a child.
Inaccessibility to Pools – Safety precautions are essential to eliminate the access children have to pools or other bodies of water. Pools should be inaccessible to children to prevent accidental drownings. Follow your licensing requirements for securing the perimeter to in-ground and above-ground swimming pools.
2. Creative Learning Environment. Creating the learning environment for your family child care business is so important and fun. The environment should be one that allows children to explore and engage. It should provide a variety of learning experiences through various equipment and resources.
The ideal learning environment should allow enough space for children to explore with toys and materials that are displayed on low, open shelves. Having equipment that encourages large and small muscle development makes for a dynamic environment for children!
Keep in mind that a family child care environment can also make hazardous materials accessible (i.e. large and small objects that can cause choking). To help minimize risks, ensure toys, materials and resources children have access to are age-appropriate and free from sharp edges along with easily removeable small parts that can cause injury. Envisioning a room through a child’s perspective can help!
Reminder: Keep the equipment and toys clean, free from hazardous conditions, and secure all furniture and equipment to prevent and or minimize accidents and injuries from tipping, falling, pulling, or pushing.
3. Age-appropriate Curriculum. Mixed age groups can make child care very interesting. As a provider, creating a program that executes the implementation of age-appropriate activities and lessons is a major factor to ensuring children within the mixed-age groups receive support to match their developmental levels and abilities.
An example of this would be creating indoor/outdoor large and small muscle activities that meet the abilities of all children in the program (i.e. if the older children can run, allow the smaller children space to walk or crawl, or if some kids can throw a ball, others can roll one). Having range in the ability and developmental levels within the activities offers a balance and includes all children.
4. Record keeping system. Getting all your files in order can be key. Utilizing a consistent record-keeping system can help your center stay organized and prepared in case of an emergency. The system should assist with confirming all required documents and records align to remain in compliance with state and local accreditation rules and regulations. For a family child care program, creating a system that is manageable will help you remain consistent and well-organized. There are online record keeping systems that are worth investing in that can make staying up-to-date and compliant with essential records and documents so much easier.
If a provider is unable to use an online system, creating an in-house record keeping system is still an option. The in-house system should include manageable practices that allow the provider to keep track of program required reports, files and certifications along with all mandatory forms needed for each child enrolled. In addition, the system should include a process to communicate with families to notify them of program related information pertaining to the family responsibilities (i.e. upcoming payments, signatures needed for authorizations, or upcoming expiring documents).
5. Family Connections. Establishing relationships and creating ways to connect with the families in your program is essential so you can build trust and understand the care needed to support a child’s individualized growth and development. Inviting parents to express their thoughts, concerns, and ideas through ongoing communication allows them to feel involved and respected.
In a family child care environment, suggestions of ways to partner with families and collaborate on ideas and resources may include:
o Conversations during pick up and/or drop off
o Individualized child daily updates
o Weekly/monthly program newsletters
o 1:1 conferences
o Connecting with community agencies to provide resources
Partnering with parents provides a sense of empowerment a feeling of being comfortable, involved, and included with program their child attends.
We hope these ideas can help you get started on a rewarding career in family child care. If you want more information on how to develop a successful family child care program and/or make your program even better, consider the Family Child Care Business bundle. You’ll get access to 10 hours and 1.00 continuing education units (CEUs) for only $59. Get started today.