Building an at-home daycare? You may need a fence
By Cris Carl, Networx
While there are many practical and legal considerations to having a day care in your home, nearly all are "not unreasonable. It's a lot of hoops to jump through, but as a parent I would want all of these needs to be met," said Lorian Lamuniere, of Bernardston, Mass. Lamuniere decided in recent months after completing her teaching degree that she wanted to open her own day care. "I wanted to be my own boss, but also be able to spend more time with my son," she said.
The US Department of Education oversees individual state DOE's in many regards, one of which is the standards set for opening a day care in your home. State laws may vary to some degree, but are all essentially similar. The very first thing you would do if you wanted to open a day care in your home would be to contact your state's Department of Early Education and Care. Lamuniere said that DOE's will provide the applicant with intensive information, lists of what needs to be done to qualify, and inspection of the area you will use for the day care. "Despite the many requirements, it can be done inexpensively if you have an appropriate space to use and you don't want to have more than a couple of kids to take care of," said Lamuniere.
Modifications to your home in order to open a day care
Lamuniere said that the most basic requirement to opening a day care in your home is square footage per child (indoor space). In Massachusetts for example, you need to have 150 square feet for one to two children, 225 square feet for three to six children, and so on.
Other modifications and special requirements for the indoor space in MA include:
- Having at least two separate hazard-free exits.
- Exit signs posted.
- Installed and working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- No peeling or flaking paint inside or out.
- Windows must be securely screened, barricaded, or open from the top.
- The home must have a lead certificate or been built after 1978.
- Electrical outlets and wiring must be child-proofed.
- Cabinets, stoves, and appliances must be child-proofed.
- Stairways must be gated.
- Children should not have access to any chemicals or hazardous products.
- It is preferable to have a restroom on the first floor in order to allow for constant visual contact with the children in the day care.
- Adequate lighting.
Modifications to the outside of your home when opening a day care include:
- Fencing of your property if you are close to a road.
- Age-appropriate play structures. "For example you don't want to have a rock-climbing wall if you only expect to be caring for 3-year-olds," said Lamuniere.
- Lamuniere said that there are requirements involving how much shade vs. sun your property has that the children have access to.
- If you have water outside whether it is streams, pools, or a pond, the area needs to be blocked from the children having access.
- Play areas must be clearly visible to the day care provider at all times.
Licensing and inspections of day care facilities
Again, while there are some variables between states, in general, you will need to have your day care fully set up with modifications, clean toys, etc. and a daily schedule, curriculum, or plan prior to inspection. "You can get a license in a day if you have everything together. Otherwise, you will be advised of changes that need to be made and they will come back to re-inspect," said Lamuniere.
You will also need to have inspections by the local building inspector and health department.
Requirements of family members and pets in and outside the home
All family members will have criminal and sexual offender status checked. All members of the family must have appropriate immunizations and documentation.
Pets and livestock will need to have proof of licensing, vaccinations, or other local health department regulations. In general, the children are not to have contact with your family pets or livestock and must be prevented from accessing the animals.
Lamuniere said that over the years more has become required of day care providers, such as the amount of time children are allowed to watch television as well as the programming. "Education folks (departments) recognize now that it's not just babysitting, its early education," said Lamuniere.