Legal requirements for operating a daycare service

States (and provinces) have passed laws and regulations that daycare service providers must adhere to. You must learn what these requirements are during the planning stage of your business so that you will be prepared to meet the minimum requirements imposed by your state or provincial authorities.

Before we examine the legal requirements of operating a daycare service, we need to point out that some states differentiate between a daycare service and a babysitting service. Usually, the number of children attended determines whether it is a babysitting service or a daycare service. Legal requirements for a babysitting service are much less onerous than the ones required for a full-fledged daycare service. Again, check the laws and regulations of your state so that you will know if the service you intend to provide is a babysitting service or a daycare service. Many states require that daycare service providers register with the state's daycare authority -- even be licenced -- while babysitting services do not.

The first thing that we need to realize is that the legal requirements for operating a daycare service are not imposed just to make life difficult for the service provider. They are there to provide protection to the children, reassurance to the parents, and to provide a pleasant, fun and safe atmosphere for the children. By meeting the legal requirements, a daycare service provider should be able to feel somewhat shielded from potential lawsuits launched by disgruntled parents. Because you have met (or exceeded) the minimum requirements set by the governmental authority, unhappy parents would have a far more difficult time proving malpractice on your part.

One of the key requirements concerns staff. Because of the presence of pedophiles, many states require that owner/operators of daycares undergo a criminal background check. In fact, many states require that staff members of daycares also pass a criminal background check. This would include checking the names of staff members against the sexual offenders list. Having to undergo such a check is important -- for the safety of the children and for the peace of mind of the parents.

Regulations also determine the maximum number of children that are to be supervised by each individual. In other words, the regulations will determine how many staff members you'll have to hire once you become successful. This number often varies by the ages of the children involved. The regulations assume that it is more difficult to properly supervise and attend infants and toddlers than it is to supervise pre-schoolers. To start, you may only be tending 3 or 4 children in your daycare service, but unless you're satisfied with that number as a maximum, you'll want to expand your business, taking in even more children. You must bring in and train new staff members before the number of children exceeds the legal maximum. You don't want to find yourself in violation of the regulations -- especially if the authorities decide to perform a surprise inspection on your business.

The training requirements for staff members are also regulated by the various daycare laws and regulations. Many states require that staff members be certified in first aid and in CPR. Some states require that staff members and operators of daycare services receive training in early childhood development and education, in order to ensure that the daycare isn't merely a "warehouse" for kids, but that it will help nurture them and prepare them for when they enter school. Additional courses may be necessary in treatment of illnesses and injuries as well.

Many authorities have regulations that dictate the minimum amount of "play space" required for each child. This rule is in effect in order to prevent unscrupulous daycare providers from keeping 6 or 7 kids in a small room for 8 hours a day. There are also requirements dictating how much outdoor playtime is required, and the types of apparatus (swings, sandboxes etc.) that are permissible.

As you can see, starting a daycare service is a lot more than just deciding to babysit neighborhood kids and posting notices in the local supermarket. The daycare service industry is regulated by government to protect and nurture children, and to reassure parents that minimum standards are maintained. You can find out what the legal requirements for daycare service providers are in your area by contacting the government department responsible for families and children, or by visiting your government's website and doing a search for daycare (sometimes spelled out as day care) laws and regulations.

The onus is on you, as a potential daycare service provider, to do the necessary research and to know the legal requirements before you start your daycare business.

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