THINK LIKE A BUSINESS OWNER
It is often hard to think about your family childcare program as a business for many reasons:
• Your childcare is conducted in your home
• It may include caring for your own children
• You may care for family member’s children
• You often form close relationships and even friendships with the families of the children you care for
• You may care for close friend’s children
All businesses have rules and regulations they must abide by. Just like any other business, there are many regulations you have to obey.
• State licensing regulations,
• Some have regulations from their condo association or landlord
• Zoning regulations
• Whether you are allowed to put up a sign
• Fire department regulations
• Contractual regulations with other programs such as the CACFP food reimbursement program
• Your business contract with parent
• You written policies and procedures.
In order to operate your business successfully and in a way that minimizes potential problems, you need to operate within the contractual and regulatory rules for your business. In some cases, family members or close friends can take exception to the fact those same rules may apply to them. Issues such as infant quota, enrollment numbers, timely immunizations, required childcare records, a signed contract, and supervision requirements can all result in situations that may create tension. For many providers this comes down to a problem of saying, “No”.
For example: It may be difficult to tell your best friend she cannot bring her child to care until she has submitted the child’s health records.
Once you make an exception and violate a regulation in order to accommodate a friend or relative you are setting yourself up for potential problems. Often the other clients who have children enrolled in your program do not readily accept the premise that your friend or relative should get special treatment. As a result, they can file a complaint, be resentful and/or become uncooperative. There are also cases where a friend or relative, once you have compromised the regulations, will hold this over you as a way to assure that you will continue to make exceptions. When and if you stop, you may find that a complaint has been filed against you.
It’s in your best interest to be consistent in the way you operate your program. It is certainly your right to enroll whomever you choose, however, you are less likely to be on the receiving end of a problem, if during childcare hours all your customers (parents and children) are treated the same. It is important for anyone enrolling children with you to understand that, like any other business, you have requirements you need to meet and consequently everyone who has a child enrolled must meet certain requirements, as well.
For example: If you are visited by a licenser and you do not have completed childcare records, you could be cited for it. You have to abide by the rules of your licensing contract, and therefore so do you friends and relative.
As with any other reliable business, professionalism goes a long way. How you view yourself will affect how others view you. As a result, something that you may feel is inconsequential, such as your appearance for example, may have a very important impact on how others perceive your childcare business. There have been occasions when complainants have included comments such as “she was in her pajamas when I dropped him off in the morning and she was in the same pajamas when I picked him up at the end of the day”. Although your appearance may not pose a major regulatory threat, your appearance does say something about how you value what you do. It also provides a context regarding how seriously you take your professional responsibilities.
That old expression ‘business is business’ is an important adage to keep in mind. Developing a contract, signed by all of the parents, that clearly states your expectations and your limitations as defined by your childcare regulations, can go a long way in minimizing problems before they begin. If the impression you leave with individuals, who are in a position to observe you, is that you don’t take your business very seriously; it becomes no great stretch to believe you’re a person who might not take ‘breaking rules’ very seriously either.