Child care is anything but a small business.
Child care is defined as the act of looking after children. However, the true meaning of child care is so much more. Research shows that a child’s experiences from birth to age 5 have a profound effect on their success later in life, from social and emotional intelligence to health to employment. In fact, 85% of a child’s capacity to learn is developed by the age of 5.
In Indiana, there are over 500,000 children age 0-5, and two-thirds of them need early care and learning so that parents can work. Yet, many children do not have access to the high-quality early care and learning they need as a result of systemic barriers related to access, affordability and quality. Only 32% of Indiana’s child care programs rank as high quality, and four out of 10 Hoosier children live in a child care desert where there is only one seat for every three children.
As a potential child care provider, you have the opportunity to own and operate your own business while engaging in incredibly rewarding work that not only directly affects the development of Indiana’s children, but also ensures the continued success of Hoosier families.
What is a child care program?
Child care programs provide safe, supervised environments for children in the absence of their parents or guardians. Daily care includes activities, learning opportunities and child/staff interactions, all in a safe, educational environment. A program can be run as a standalone business, as part of a ministry, or even out of the home. While child care programs vary in type, one thing remains the same for all: high-quality, safe care for children is the top priority of every child care program, no matter how big or small.
What benefits are there to this career path?
Early care and education providers play a critical role for families and communities. By offering quality care and education, you create a two-generational economic impact, helping parents go to work and support their families, while nurturing the next generation of leaders and thinkers. Meanwhile, you have leadership and decision-making opportunities about how you run your program.
- You are your own boss. The size and scope of your child care program is up to you.
- You get to work with children. Young children need a lot from their caregivers, but they also give back laughter, smiles and hugs.
- You utilize your creativity. Keeping children engaged in meaningful activities and learning experiences utilizes your creativity every single day.
- Your days are never the same. Just as each child is different, each day at a child care program is also different. The exciting work of new challenges and joys will keep you on your toes.
- You are always in demand. Families will always need a trusted child care program as they work to support their household.
- Your work is meaningful. While a child care program looks like a lot of coloring books, reading and playing with toys on the surface, you know these activities are teaching the children you serve and will set them up for success later on in life.
- You are providing an essential service that helps your neighbors to provide for their families.
- You play a role in educating the youngest members of your community.
- You may become a source of employment for teachers and add to the economic landscape of your area.
First Steps to Success
Child care is anything but a small business, but it is a business. It is a serious endeavor that requires a strong foundation to flourish. With the proper research and preparation, your dream of opening your own child care business can become a reality.
Not sure where to begin?
Contact the Child Care Resource & Referral Network for help getting started.
Begin with Research
Build your knowledge of the child care industry as you learn the ins and outs of starting your own child care business.
Types of Care
Child care regulations will vary depending on your program’s setting.
One important question to ask yourself before becoming a child care provider is about the need for child care in your community. If you live in an area that has more than enough child care centers, a family child care home might be your best option. If the reverse is the case, your most successful route might be opening a child care center. Whatever the case may be, understanding the child care landscape in your community will help you be more prepared for your new business.
See the dashboard below for more about the needs of your specific community concerning child care.
For more data related to your community or program, visit one of the following resources:
- Indiana Child Care Provider Type Definitions
- Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee 2020 Interactive Dashboard
- Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee 2018 Early Childhood County Profiles
- Indiana Kids Count Databook
- Indiana Youth Institute County Snapshots
- Hoosiers by the Numbers
- Indiana Self-Sufficiency Standard Calculator
Connect with the Child Care Resource and Referral Network
CCR&R agencies help individuals interested in starting an early learning program. By working with your local CCR&R agency, you can learn about the supply and demand for child care in your area. That includes information on the types of programs available and types of programs families are asking for. They can also help you explore the gaps between the two.
CCR&R agencies also operate cohorts for potential providers where you can learn about the industry and connect with leaders. Your CCR&R agency can connect you to excellent resource providers who provide great services and technical assistance support around serving infants and toddlers, school-age children, children with special needs and children whose primary language is not English, as well as training providers.
Create a Business Plan
Put your knowledge to work and write out your plan for starting a child care business.
Create a business plan
Making a business plan for your child care program will allow you to think strategically, from mission all the way to operations and marketing. Having a strong, well-thought-out foundation allows your dreams to become a reality and your small business to become anything but.
Child Care Aware of America provides the following sections to include as you create your business plan:
- Executive summary – a short overview of the child care business as a whole and your unique mission statement
- Company overview – an explanation of the business structure, services provided, and future goals and needs
- Service description – program goals; a detailed description of the program site and benefits, capacity, services and hours offered; needed equipment and furnishings; planned site layout and facility management plan
- Market and industry analysis – local family demographics and child care supply and demand metrics
- Marketing plan – what makes your program unique, marketing goals and potential strategies to reach clients
- Operations plan – management team, organizational chart, staff training and board oversight if needed
- Financial analysis – budget needed to get started, annual operating budget and financial projections
- Evaluation – benchmarks and key performance indicators for success
- Supporting documents – documentation of any of the above steps
Child Care Aware of America offers a great business plan template with detailed descriptions of required information, as well as formatting suggestions.
With a better understanding of the many types of child care programs and what child care program is most needed in your community, as well as your program’s initial business plan, your next step is to attend two required orientation trainings. During these trainings, you’ll learn more about the licensing process.
The first two steps of becoming licensed as a child care provider occur on the Indiana Licensing and Education Access Depot website (I-LEAD). To begin, go to the I-LEAD website and click “Login.” You will then be prompted to “Sign up now” for your own I-LEAD online account. Once you’re registered, you will want to sign up for and complete the following trainings.
Orientation 1: Training for Child Care Providers
Find the training by clicking “Start Your Indiana Learning Path”. During this training, you will learn the detailed start-up process for child care providers. This orientation is the same for all child care provider types and offers an excellent foundation of information on the basics of opening a child care business.
Orientation 2: Training for Various Child Care Providers Find this training by clicking “Start Your Indiana Learning Path”. This orientation is provider-type specific and will delve deeper into the specific details of your chosen business type. This information will be very helpful when building out your business plan.