Owning a Day Care Center
Posted Spring 2008
“Day care” is defined by the Department of Health and Public Services as being care provided by an adult, other than a parent or other adult living with the child, on a regular basis of less than 24 hours per day. This care can be provided during either day or evening hours. This definition pertains to children as young as 6 weeks up to the age of 13. In this setting the “care giver” is “licensee, registrant, employee, aide, or volunteer who is responsible for the direct care and supervision” of the children enrolled in the daycare they are working at.
There are many different classifications of daycare. There are day care centers, day care facilities, family day care home, and group day care home.
A day care center is defined as “any out-of-home place” where care is provided for thirteen or more children on a regular basis. A day care facility is defined as “a person, association, or place, incorporated or unincorporated, that provides day care on a regular basis, or a place licensed or registered to provide day care on an irregular basis for children suffering from illness.” The definition includes a family day care home, a group daycare home, a day care center, or a facility providing care in the child’s home “for the purpose of meeting registration requirements for the receipt of payments.” However, this does not include a person who provides care limited to relatives or those whom they have legal guardianship for; unless they are registered in order to receive payment. It also does not apply to any facility that is “established chiefly for educational purposes” and limits it’s enrollment to children three years of age or above. A good example of this would be a Montessori school.
A “family day care home” is a private residence that provides day care for three to six children on a regular basis. The term also limits care to no more than three children under the age of two years old unless providing care for infants only. If the day care is providing infant care only it is defined as a “family day care home” that provides “supplemental parental care” provided for up to four infants. It definition specifically states that “No other children shall be in attendance.”
A “group day care home” also refers to a private residence or location that provides care for seven to twelve children on a regular basis with no more than six children being under the age of two years old, unless care is provided for infants only. If it provides infant care only it is said to provide “supplemental parental care…for up to eight infant. No other children shall be in attendance.”
As you may have noticed in this brief summary of definitions, the daycare business can be very confusing.
There are many controls that serve as safeguards for the establishment and operation of a day care center, whichever type it may be classified as. One of the basic controls is the state’s ability to regulate, depending on how you define your daycare, of how many children you are capable of supervising/providing care for and what ages those children should be as well as how many children in which age group. The state also determines if there is adequate staff to serve the number of children (this is referred to as the ratio), whether or not there is enough space for the number of occupants, and if there is any other health or safety concerns.
Any “individual, agency, or group” may apply for a day care license, although if you are an Indian living on an Indian reservation you must follow a completely different set of guidelines (52-2-722, MCA). If the day care is in a private residence that also serves as a foster care home they must apply and be approved for dual licensure or registration by Child and Family Services. One of the confusing restrictions states that “children attending the facility for day care shall not come in contact with other persons who are receiving care in the facility” unless it can be proven that the “other persons” do not pose a threat to the health, safety, or well being of the children in the daycare.1
The burden that these Juridic controls leave on the owners of day care centers lies mostly with the expenses that a day care center incurs. To start a day care in a personal residence you must purchase/acquire material items such as toys for the age groups you will be serving in your home such as highchairs, cribs, swings, puzzles, art supplies, nap mats, cleaning materials, child safety locks, eating utensils, first aid kits, outside play equipment, and so on. In addition to this there will also be the costs occurred when trying to hire employees as well as advertising for parents in search of daycare. You may also have an increase in your home owner’s insurance because of the added liability.
One of the best alternatives I found is a grant for people wishing to open a new daycare. These grants can be for as much as $30,000. The problem that needs to be overcome is who gets these grants and how many are there. Another alternative to help with owners of home day care settings would be to ease some of the restrictions on how many children of which age group can be at the center at any given time. A lot of the children in day care have siblings that are in school but need after-school care. This creates a problem for the provider who, because of the restrictions placed on mixing age groups, has to turn a family with three children away.2
Revised Fall 2008