Today I thought I would give you a sort of cheat sheet and address several things childcare licensing doesn’t tell you but are need to know things for the child care provider.
When I start just about anything, I like to find a guide. A book, course or workshop that covers all the basics. I like a road map just so I can be sure that I am doing it right.
So when I decided to start my childcare it was no different. One of the first things I did was to get a How-to book for child care. I still have that book today.
Of course, when you begin the process to becoming a licensed provider it is mandatory for you to attend a licensing orientation*. Now you would think that just about everything would be addressed at that orientation. Well, guess what? It’s not! Many things will have to be revealed over time and with experience. So …
Here are 6 Things You Need to Know but Childcare Licensing Doesn’t Tell You!
1. It’s Your Business
I started with this one because I think so many providers truly don’t realize they are running a business. Yes, your childcare is a business. And with that comes quite a few responsibilities. I liken it to a person who wears many hats. As a childcare provider, you are the director, cook, housekeeper, customer service, marketing director, and lost management among many other duties.
It’s a lot!
Over time, I have developed many systems to help me keep all of my hats on. But the first thing I had to do was to remember my childcare was a real business.
Licensing will not tell you how you should run your business. They don’t have a sample contract or policies to give you. They won’t necessarily tell you what to feed the kids, what to put on your website or how to get those 1st clients. It’s on you.
One of the best things I did was to reach out to my local CCR for help. Unlike licensing, they have many resources for the new provider including a referral program to send you clients. Most CCR’s offer quite a few workshops and programs for providers so that you don’t feel like you are all alone.
2. Regulations! What Regulations?
One time I counted all of the regulations that FCC providers needed to adhere to in my state*. I believe it was in excess of 80! There are a lot of rules we have to follow. Rules that parents are unaware of. Rules that you need to enforce or risk being cited, fined or even losing your license if you don’t.
That being said, when you need a good reg. it’s nowhere to be found (like a potty learning routine). Anyway, although there are quite a few mandated regulations for FCC’s, there tend to be more information and resources for center-based facilities.
It helps to have a community of providers that you can bounce things off of, especially if you are new to childcare. Seasoned providers have seen it all and they can tell you what works and what doesn’t. Believe me, I could have used some of that advice when I started.
3. Analysts Like to Pop-In
For the first five years of my provider life, I saw my analyst twice. Yep! I said twice! Once to give me my initial license and one other time when I wanted to increase to a larger license.
That was it!
Apparently, our state* was underfunding licensing so there simply were not enough analysts to go around. At least not enough to follow through with the mandatory annual visit. When I would ask about when I could expect a visit, I was told that licensing had to give priority to violations before annual visits.
Well, either they found some funding or realized maybe some problems could be avoided if those annual visits actually happened. Fast forward to a few years ago and now I can expect to see my analyst just about every year or sooner.
Yes, I did just say SOONER!
Last year my analyst knocked on my door a full four months earlier than the previous year. I was surprised (to say the least). It went fine but it did put me (and now you) on notice that analysts can just show up whenever.
In an upcoming series, I will address how to be prepared for licensing anytime, but today let’s just say you have been put on notice that that annual visit can come at any time. So be prepared.
4. Your Analyst May Not Return
I know! Right after I say that they can come at any time, here I am saying that they might not be back. That makes no sense right? Well, what I mean is the same analyst may not be back. In the many years, I have been a childcare provider, I have had no less than 9 to 10 licensing analysts. They must drop like flies.
So why is that important?
Well just when you think you have made a connection or developed a rapport with your analyst, boom they are gone. Apparently, their job is just as stressful as a provider.
All kidding aside, it probably is super stressful to see all manner of violations and possible abuses. So I get it.
Anyway, the point is, don’t get too comfortable with that nice analyst who came the last time. She might not be back!
5. Being nice goes a long way!
Speaking of nice, a provider would be wise to note when it comes to dealing with an analyst, being nice goes a long way!
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you have to bake them brownies or kiss butt or become to teacher’s pet to get all A’s. But what I am saying is being cordial and professional can get you through an annual visit positively.
So play nice!
It is important to remember that the analyst is just doing their job and for the most part really doesn’t wish you any ill will. So don’t get in your own way. Let them do their job so they can be on their way. So play nice!
6. You Have an Advocate
I don’t know when or where I found out that there is a state licensing child care advocate program*, but I am so glad that I did. Over the years I have hit them with questions from clarification of a regulation to how to appeal a negative outcome. Having someone on the inside that you can reach out too is very helpful.
This advocate functions as a go between the state licensing agency and the provider. Now that does not mean she (or he) is your girlfriend or colleague that you can call with any and every question (usually I will send an email if I can’t reach them by phone). But for the really sticky ones, there is someone to call. Even when you can’t reach your analyst.
Inquire if your state has an advocate program that you can reach in times of need.