Home Daycare is a business that can be completely free from oversight in many provinces and states. In most cases, like in Ontario, a Provider can choose to be licensed or not. There are huge advantages to be licensed: the ability to accept clients that are subsidized, resources and training you may not otherwise have access to, even toy exchanges and substitute Care Givers for when you’re sick. Knowing that a daycare is licensed by the province can also be a reassurance to parents.
But there are also many reasons to remain unlicensed: not having to submit paperwork to receive pay, having the freedom to plan your own day and what you will and won’t do during it, and not having regular inspections which can be a disruption to the day.
I chose to keep my own home daycare unlicensed. But just because I wasn’t licensed didn’t mean I didn’t have laws to follow. Those laws included caps on the number of children I had in my care at one time. I also chose to follow the Day Nurseries Act (the legislation that deals with Private and Public Daycare in Ontario), as closely as I could. I concentrated on things like curriculum and planning, menu choices, diaper changing procedures, evacuation plans, etc. The details of legislation will differ between provinces and from state to state, but I believe it’s so important for us, as home daycare professionals, to do our best to educate ourselves, and to do as much as we can to operate within the law. In Ontario, that comes down to the number of children in your care. We can watch 5 children at a time under the age of 10, in addition to our own children. Other provinces allow more, but in Ontario the magic number is 5.
Here’s why I chose to follow the law:
1. It shows that I have taken the time to get to know the law. Knowing and following the legal limits demonstrated that I was invested in my business and protecting myself and my daycare families from a forced closure and huge fines if someone found out I had too many kids in my care.
2. It shows that I operated “above the table”, and that I prefered to do things openly and honestly. Believe me, when it comes to the person that is taking care of your child, you want someone who doesn’t hide anything and is as honest as possible.
3. I had a good legal reason not to take extra children. When a parent who wasn’t normally scheduled for a certain day needed last-minute care, I was able to avoid overtaxing myself (and my patience) by politely declining with legal backing.
4. It protected the children. We did evacuation drills regularly, but if we had needed to leave quickly during naptime, I would have had 5 sleeping children to carry out on my own. That’s a huge task right there, but if I had decided to go over my numbers by a few (or more)? Far more opportunity for tragic results in the event of a fire or other crisis.
5. I’m only one person. I only have two eyes and two hands. I can only watch so many kids on my own without sacrificing the quality of care. Hiring a helper in Ontario would be fine, but it wouldn’t enable us to watch more children — the cap of 5 would still be in effect.
I know how hard it is to look at all of the families that need care and to know that someone down the street is taking way too many kids. And I know what it feels like to have to turn down someone, knowing that they’ll head straight to that daycare, possibly endangering that child. My only recourse was to make sure that all of the parents I was in touch with knew the law. When parents begin to demand legal daycare, more providers will see the value in following the law.
Do some research, find out what the laws are for your area and do your best to follow them. If nothing else, you’ll notice a difference in the type of families that seek out your services. They will be the kind of parents that are looking for quality care, who will prioritize their child’s daycare costs, and who will appreciate what you do for their child each day!