Many parents depend on day-care centers to look after their children.
And that spells opportunity for those who open their own day-care facility.
Lynn White is the executive director of the National Child-Care Association.
She says many studies indicate a shortage of licensed child-care in the U.S.
But generally, the market matches demand.
"In general, the industry operates at around a 70 to 75 percent occupancy
rate, indicating vacancies. Generally, high-quality centers have waiting lists,"
Alan Simpson is the communications coordinator for the National Association
for the Education of Young Children. He says the demand for child care is
fueled by a higher number of families with two parents working.
"Sixty-four percent of mothers with children under the age of six are now
in the labor force, compared with 20 percent in 1960," he says.
There are lots of opportunities for day-care operators. But there's much
more to it than opening a door and providing children with a safe, comfortable
Potential operators must deal with licensing regulations, educational requirements,
legal requirements and health and safety issues. Other issues are long working
hours and low pay.
"I think licensing is a deterrent," says White. "When a prospective developer
begins to unravel the intricacies of laws, local ordinances, building codes,
health codes and licensing requirements, they sometimes decide it's just too
Licensing requirements vary greatly between states. In some regions, even
local government regulations must be followed.
Marci Young is the executive director for the U.S. Center for the Child-Care
Workforce. She says there is a wide variety of licensing regulations for all
types of child care in the United States.
"It really depends on where you are. It's done at the state level and varies
substantially," she says.
Regulations may be in place concerning such details as physical layout
of the facility, fencing, equipment, swimming pools, family pets, health and
safety, nutrition, criminal records, parental access, training, bathroom and
sleeping facilities, and discipline.
In Oklahoma, for example, reptiles such as crocodiles, alligators, poisonous
snakes and lizards, pythons and boa constrictors may not be kept on the premises
of a family day care. Fire and tornado drills must be held quarterly.
A license is required in Oklahoma for any care provided on a regular basis
that includes children other than relatives. But in Oregon, a person can provide
unlicensed regular care to up to three children, not including their own.
There's also a big discrepancy in the amount of specialized training required.
In some states, a family day-care operator may need only a few specialized
qualifications, such as CPR and first aid training.
Larger centers generally require an early childhood education certificate
or some other post-secondary degree.
Once all the necessary requirements have been met, a day-care operator
faces another set of challenges. These include long hours with no set breaks
and having very little adult interaction throughout the day.
Other issues are communicating with parents, dealing with low pay, trying
to take time off for personal reasons and receiving an erratic salary.
Wages are a concern for child-care providers all across North America.
"Expect low pay," says Young. "Typically a person, especially in...family
child care, is a business owner and a caregiver and their net income is very
Start-up costs for operating a day-care center vary greatly. They depend
on the location, size and type of facility.
White estimates the start-up cost of owning a 9,500-square-foot facility
licensed for 150 kids and servicing 225 full-time equivalent children could
be as much as $1.5 million.
"The investment total of $1.5 million plus equates to $10,434 per licensed
slot and $6,955 per student served. The profit margin of licensed centers
ranges between four and 10 percent," she says.
But the cost can be minimal if you open a small family day care in your
Despite the regulatory and financial drawbacks, operating a day care can
be a rewarding and fulfilling experience.
National Child-Care Association
Offers the latest information on legislation, grants and safety
Center for the Child-Care Workforce
Dedicated to upgrading wages, benefits, training opportunities
and working conditions for those who work with young children