Posted in Business Practice, ECE Information, Legislation, Opening a FCC

Grant Program to Help Child Care Businesses Start or Expand Announced

July 6, 2022 ~

Governor Mills Announces Launch of $10 Million Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan Grant Program to Help Child Care Businesses Start or Expand

Awards could support more than 3,500 new child care slots, helping 2,000 parents pursue career and educational opportunities

Governor Janet Mills announced today that $10 million is now available through her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan to help child care businesses launch or expand. The awards, which utilize Federal funding through the American Rescue Plan, could support more than 3,500 new child care slots across Maine, enabling 2,000 parents to work or take classes while their children receive quality care.

The Child Care Infrastructure Grant Program is part of a $25 million child care initiative in the Governor’s Jobs Plan that includes $15 million for early childhood education. The grant program will help Maine people open child care businesses in their homes, transform existing buildings into quality child care spaces, and construct new child care facilities. Existing child care providers can also use the funding to expand the number of children they serve. Priority is given to sites in rural areas, that care for infants and toddlers, and participate in the child care subsidy program.

An additional $5.4 million for this Program was included in the supplemental budget and will be distributed this fall.

“Maine’s current and future workforce depends on accessible, affordable child care. Not only do working parents need a safe place to send their kids during the day, but research shows that successful early care and education programs can boost academic outcomes and even high school graduation rates,” said Governor Janet Mills. “Through the budget and the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, we are expanding access to child care and giving working families what they need to provide healthy, safe care for their kids that allows them to go to work, bring home a paycheck, and strengthen our economy.”

“These grants will help families across Maine find quality child care in their own communities,” said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) Director Todd Landry. “Jumpstarting new child care businesses and creating new child care slots will enable parents to take new jobs or pursue their education knowing that their children are safe and well cared for.”

OCFS is administering the Child Care Infrastructure Grant Program through a partnership with Brunswick-based Coastal Enterprises, Inc. The funding may be used for new construction, renovations, outdoor spaces, indoor furniture and fixtures, educational materials and working capital.

“Finding child care is a challenge for most working parents,” said Keith Bisson, President, Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI). “Lack of child care keeps parents out of work, affecting a family’s economic well-being and causing a ripple effect of lower participation in Maine’s workforce. CEI is honored to partner with the State of Maine to help administer this grant program in support of our child care ecosystem.”

Applications for new family or home-based child care businesses are opening first, to encourage new providers in Maine’s rural areas, beginning today through May 2024. Home-based child care businesses may apply for 75 percent of their start-up costs, up to $8,500. Applications for new construction of child care centers and expansion of existing child care providers will be announced by August 2022.

New family child care businesses licensed by September 30, 2023 are also eligible for a one-time $2,000 stipend.

“Governor Mills and her Administration have recognized that child care is essential to Maine’s economy,” said Tara Williams, Executive Director of the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children. “Investing in child care infrastructure grants reduce cost barriers for start-up child care businesses and program expansion. These investments in child care businesses and recent investments in the child care workforce continue to grow Maine’s child care system and are beneficial to Maine’s families and economy.”

“A high quality child care system is important for the future of Maine. The ongoing investments of Governor Mills and her Administration recognize the importance of supporting all parts of the system,” said Jennifer Wescott, Chair of the Family Child Care Association of Maine. “FCCAM appreciates the recognition of the important role that family child care providers serve in a high quality child care system. We appreciate the effort to support existing programs to expand and improve quality of care, as well as providing start up support for those new small businesses entering the profession.”

Governor Mills is making these and other historic investments in accessible child care in Maine as part of the first-ever Child Care Plan for Maine (PDF) developed by OCFS that invests approximately $120 million in American Rescue Plan funds to help Maine’s child care system recover and to improve quality, accessibility, and affordability over the long-term. Maine was one of the first 12 states to release these American Rescue Plan funds, with more than 1,500 providers receiving the payments to date. This investment also includes helping low-income parents who receive subsidies by waiving their contribution to child care fees.

Additionally, Governor Mills included in her supplemental budget, signed into law in April, State funding to continue $200 monthly stipends to more than 7,000 child care workers, continuing stipends that the Department began providing last year as part of a larger effort to attract and retain people to work in this valuable profession.

As a result of these investments totaling more than $100 million, child care providers have been able to maintain, and even build, capacity despite the pandemic – from 47,819 licensed slots in February 2020 to 48,940 licensed slots in June 2022.

OCFS additionally maintains the Child Care Choices website, which allows families to locate and connect with providers in their area.

The Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan is the Governor’s plan, approved by the Legislature, to invest nearly $1 billion in Federal American Rescue Plan funds to achieve three goals: immediate economic recovery from the pandemic; long-term economic growth for Maine; and infrastructure revitalization. It draws heavily on recommendations from the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee and the State’s 10-Year Economic Development Strategy, transforming them into real action to improve the lives of Maine people and strengthen the economy.


Maine State Child Care Infrastructure Grant Program (all this material has been gathered from the CEI website) ~

Priority Areas

Priority will be given to applications from Aroostook, Franklin, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset and Washington Counties. In addition, applicants committing to the following will receive bonus points:

  • Increasing their licensed capacity by 6 or more children
  • Providing care for infants
  • Providing care for toddlers
  • Providing care for families income-eligible for subsidy
  • Participating in the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program

Funds Usage

Grant awards are expected to cover a portion of the total expenses required to open or expand a child care business. Funds awarded may be used for the following purposes:

  • Purchasing educational materials
  • Acquiring indoor furniture and fixtures
  • Creating an outdoor learning environment
  • Procuring health and safety supplies and other materials required to be licensed
  • Having sufficient working capital on hand for the first few months

Applications are currently being accepted for:

* as permitted by Family Child Care Provider Licensing Rule and Day Care & Nursery School Requirements

Existing family child care providers interested in expanding their licensed capacity* are encouraged and eligible to apply for up to 50% of their expansion costs, up to $4,000. Up to $25,000 is available for those adding a room on to their home exclusively for their child care business. Grant awards received may be used for the following purposes:

  • Renovating a home to expand licensed capacity. Selected examples include adding a window to allow for egress and to add natural light, removing a wall to increase the size of a room and adding an accessible ground-floor bathroom.
  • Purchasing educational materials. Selected examples include books, musical instruments, developmentally appropriate toys and consumable supplies, such as paper, paint and chalk.
  • Acquiring indoor furniture and fixtures. Selected examples include tables, chairs, cribs and sleeping mats.
  • Expanding an outdoor learning environment. Selected examples include installing a fence, building pathways, gardens or activity centers, such as a mud kitchen.
  • Buying playground equipment. Selected examples include swings, sandboxes, shade areas, playsets and energy-absorbing material.
  • Procuring health and safety supplies and other materials required to be licensed. Selected examples include first aid kits, electrical outlet covers and gates.

Application Process

There are three steps to the Family Child Care Growth application process:

1) FCC Growth Application 1 : Submitting the required documentation to expand the capacity of your family child care. You must submit this application first, and it is anticipated that this application may take up to two hours to complete. Applications will be accepted until all funds are awarded or through August 31, 2023, whichever occurs first.

Apply Now!

2) Meet with your licensor to understand your maximum capacity with renovations or expanded activity areas for children. In some situations, the fire marshal may need to be involved; your licensor will determine if that is required. Upon completion of FCC Growth Application 1, you and your licensor will receive an email notification to meet to discuss your expansion plans.

3) FCC Growth Application 2: Describing your expansion plans (number of children, hours of operation, and services provided) plus a list of your expansion expenses. You will receive a link to FCC Growth Application 2 after you meet with your licensor. It is anticipated that this application may take a few days to complete. Applications will be accepted through July 31, 2023 or until all funds are awarded.

Posted in Business Practice, Opening a FCC

What’s It Mean to be a Family Child Care Provider?

The answer to that question is as varied as family child care providers are, but we do have a common foundation.

We know that family child care providers are in this business because of the children, but it’s more than just taking children into our homes. Family child care providers are first and foremost small business owners. We have chosen this career path to financially provide for ourselves and our families. If you question if we qualify as a small business, look at the process we all go through to open and to remain open. The regulations are covered in our 62 page FCC Licensing Rule that we must meet. These minimum health and safety regulations cover everything from how to store breast milk, to the annual professional development we need, to the temperature we need to maintain within our program.

As successful small business owners it is essential to build a business plan, look at branding and marketing, and cover benefits like health insurance and retirement. Without considering how we will run our small business we cannot do what we opened our doors to: support children and their development.

The purpose of our small business qualifies us as early childhood education and care professionals. When most hear “educator” they immediately think of public school teachers, but educator has a broader meaning: a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue. Family child care providers, in fact all in the child care workforce, are educators.

Family child care providers are more than just educators.

We are…..

Food service managers:

  • Order food and beverages, equipment, and supplies
  • Oversee food preparation, portion sizes, and the overall presentation of food
  • Inspect supplies, equipment, and work areas
  • Ensure that employees comply with health and food safety standards

Property managers:

  • Keep the property in safe and habitable condition.
  • Responsible for the physical management of the property, including regular maintenance and emergency repairs.
  • Quality improvement efforts

First aid responders:

  • Specialized training
  • First to arrive and provide assistance at the scene of an emergency, such as an accident, or natural disaster

Bookkeepers:

  • Perform payroll functions in an accurate and timely manner, and submit payroll taxes
  • Conduct reconciliation of all accounts on an as needed basis
  • Maintain and balance the general ledger in an accurate, complete, and up-to-date manner
  • Perform all activities related to the accounts payable function
  • Perform account receivable functions including invoicing, deposits, collections, and revenue recognition
  • Prepare financial reports through collection, analysis, and summarization of data

Housekeepers and house cleaners:

  • Dusting, vacuuming, sweeping and mopping the floors in all rooms.
  • Cleaning the bathrooms, including mirrors, toilets, showers and baths.
  • Cleaning the kitchen, including wiping down appliances, counters, sinks and cabinet doors.
  • Washing and drying dishes and putting them away.
  • Changing bed linens and making the beds.
  • Washing, folding clothes.
  • Cleaning interior windows.
  • Removing garbage and recycling.
  • Restocking personal items such as toilet paper, tissues, etc.
  • General tidying of the rooms. This includes putting away toys, decluttering and light organizing.
  • Running errands.
  • Caring for pets.

We might also be employers and be responsible for all the tasks involved with hiring, training, evaluating, and firing.

Most importantly we are educators!

We:

  • Maintain a safe and comfortable environment
  • Provide age-appropriate active supervision and behavior guidance
  • Develop schedules and enforce routines
  • Plan and implement lessons
  • Observe, gather and document child’s growth and behavior
  • Gather and communicate observations with child’s parent/legal guardian, providing supporting resources as appropriate
  • Address cultural and/or special needs. This includes emotional, physical or educational. Let’s just look at food for a couple of examples: If a child has a food allergy, the provider must be aware of the content of the food the child is offered or is eating. / If a child’s culture or religion doesn’t allow certain foods we offer acceptable substitutes.

As family child care providers we have chosen an incredible career. It is both challenging and rewarding. When someone asks “What do you do for work?” Proudly answer: “I’m a small business owner. ~ I’m an early childhood educator and care professional. ~ I operate a licensed family child care business.”

Posted in Business Practice, Opening a FCC

Opening a Family Child Care: Part 3 ~ Equipment

In Part 1, we discussed if fcc was a good fit professionally for you, the need for developing your policies and meeting the requirements of licensing. In Part 2, information was provided on the need for a business plan to get a handle on what a sustainable budget would look like for your small business. In Part 3, we are looking to provide some direction to type of equipment that has continually shown it’s value in meeting the developmental needs of children. You might be surprised with how easy it is to provide a nurturing, developmentally responsive environment for the children you are looking to provide care for. 

Every family child care is unique and thus it’s impossible to say “Here get this….” or even “You need this….”.  Deciding – what equipment works for your program and space / what is really necessary / and what can be put on the future purchase list – is only a decision that you can make.


Now it’s time to focus on preparing your space for opening?

This starts with being sure your space is safe. That information is well covered in the current Family Child Care Licensing Rule. You should read the Rule over carefully, noting areas of concern and address those concerns before moving items in.

Following are some questions to consider before you acquire any specific piece of equipment:

  • Is it sturdy, well-designed and built to last?
  • Is it safe? Does it meet current safety standards?
  • Is it easy to keep clean?
  • Will it retain children’s interest over time?
  • Can it be used in a number of different ways, by different ages?
  • Can it be used by children of all abilities?
  • Does it fit well with what I already have?

Starting out you will probably have limited funds, so let’s look at some ideas for acquisition of the equipment you might use in family child care. 

  • Find DIY directions. You’ll just need the skills and materials to complete the DIY project.
  • Is it available through local online yard sale sites?
  • Can you find at local thrift store?
  • Do you need long term or can you borrow?
  • Can you purchase local and transport? Or is it best to purchase with delivery?

Reminder: Not all equipment will be used by all ages, but much of it is adaptable across the ages.

While the aim of a nurturing child care environment is to encourage children to freely explore, choosing independently from a variety of activities, it also needs to be safe. You also have to think about basic furnishings and equipment that will support the daily routine care activities such as food preparation, cleaning, personal hygiene and paperwork, that will be part of your unique program. 

Let’s look now at equipment recommendations thinking as a family child care provider whose program services mixed ages. Mixed ages is a program that provides care for infant thru school-age. There are providers who will specialize in infant/toddler care, preschool programming or after-school care, but a majority of providers service mixed ages. Those that specialize can also get ideas from our equipment listings.

General Program or Routine Equipment:

  • Office: It is important to have a secure place for you to keep information, first aid kit/emergency bag, notice board for parent information…. This can be as simple as a file box, tote bag and a bulletin board.
  • Maintenance: vacuum cleaner, general cleaning supplies. Since you are doing business from your home you should already have the equipment needed for general maintenance/cleaning. 
  • Bathroom Equipment: sink, toilet. Again it’s your home and Licensing requires a working bathroom facility, but let’s look at what else you might need:
    • liquid soap dispenser – Easier for children to handle, cleaner 
    • paper towel dispenser or individual cloth towels for each child – The dispenser does not need to be a commercial dispenser. You can have a simple paper towel hanger or use a basket for bulk folded paper towels. The children can easily grab single paper towels. The cloth towels will need to be designated for each child and laundered.
    • potty chairs – Floor setups need to be cleaned between uses. The toilet seat adaption seat will need a stool to access the toilet height.
    • toilet tissue dispenser – You probably also already have one of these as part of your home setup. For young children and to save on toilet tissue you might find a small basket you can place on the back of the toilet that holds tissue length you have pre-pulled works easily and saves on overuse of toilet tissue.
    • changing table or changing mats – This is a provider preference. It is ok to change children on the floor as long as you have a cleanable surface, such as a changing mat, under them. Changing stations require a designated space.
    • container for soiled diapers as needed – Again preference, but needs to be covered and secure from children.
    • sturdy step-stool – 1 stool can be used for both sink and toilet.  If using a changing table you will probably want another step-stool for that.
  • Kitchen: drinking cups – Whether you provide snacks and meals or not, you need to have water available for children at all times. They each need their own cup.
  • If providing food you will need: cutlery, refrigerator, trash receptacle (closable), sink, stove, liquid soap dispenser, paper towel dispenser, cooking utensils, pots and pans, baking pans, mixing bowls – All this should already be part of your home environment. 
    • You may want to consider unbreakable plates, bowls, cups that are sized for children.

General Child-sized Furnishings: 

  • a cot or foam mattress with waterproof cover for each napping child (non-infant)
  • a crib for each infant – These need to meet current safety standards. Pack and plays are acceptable.
  • child-size table* – These do not need to be special child tables, or a certain shape. It does not even need to be high enough for child size chairs to fit under. It can be a low table that children sit around on the floor or on pillows. It really the stable flat surface you want.
  • child-size chairs* – One for each child if want them at a table high enough to fit chairs.
  • chair/rocker – You want something an adult can sit in.
  • child-proof gates – Only if needed to secure stairs, or close off doorways for safety.
  • large wall mount mirror (shatterproof) – All children love having mirrors available, but especially developmentally important for infant/toddlers. 

*child size tables and chairs are ideal if you have the space, but they are not necessary. If you use your regular table and chairs you will need to be sure seating is safe/secure.

Storage: Your storage space will have a large impact on both the amount of and size of the equipment you have within your program.

  • Daily storage: open units to store toys and equipment, and cubby or other private storage area for each child (e.g. individual coat hook with drawstring bag or plastic bin). 
  • For toy storage you can use baskets, purchased storage tubs, recycled cardboard boxes, etc. If your space is shared with family or designated for child care alone might impact how you handle storage. There are many creative ideas for storage options online.
  • Plan on larger storage needs for additional supplies and/or for “Rotating” sets of toys. Rotating toys avoids crowding and overstimulation within your program space. Rotation adds a degree of surprise and enjoyment when unfamiliar equipment replaces the all-too-familiar. 

Soft Spaces/ Private Places: This is not necessarily an area that you would think is a must have for equipment, but children frequently need the assurance of a soft, comfortable, safe place. Small, quiet retreats allow for times when children want to be alone, or one-on-one with a caregiver.  

  • Bean bag chair, oversized pillows, or multiple older pillow recycled into one large pillow case. Be sure covers are washable. 
  • Fort – oversized boxes, fabric forts  
  • Plenty of blankets
  • Washable stuffed animals.

Additional Equipment Needed for Infants: playpen/play yard fencing, high chair, infant play seat/chair – This is not one per infant, but within your program. 

Now that you have an idea of the heavier general equipment you will need to set-up the structure of your program, let’s look at the equipment that most families will be noticing when they visit and see what type of program you will be offering……. the play equipment – toys!

Providing both indoor and outdoor activities that encourages the development of large and small muscle skills is important for all ages developmentally. It also helps children regulate behaviors. In order to develop large muscle coordination and balance, children need to use their legs, arms and back muscles in activities such as crawling, climbing, throwing and catching. Small muscles are developed through activities which require finer coordination, for example, grasping rattles, constructing with blocks, and art activities. Ideally, neither your indoor or outdoor play should be limited to either small or large motor activities. 

Toys are best when they are ‘open-ended’. Children use their imaginations and problem-solving skills to find many different ways to engage with this type of toy.  Research is also indicating that children do not need as many toys as we think they do. More is very often not better, but actually is overstimulating. TOYS ARE FOR DEVELOPING IMAGINATION and problem solving skills, not to entertain. Toys for children are about being able to “explore” their world. Anything which they can feel, look at, hold, shake and bang will work.

Open-ended toys include:

  • blocks 
  • balls 
  • cardboard boxes 
  • Arts and craft materials – like: coloured paper, stickers, crayons and markers 
  • Everyday household items like pots and pans, plastic containers, pegs, clothes baskets and blankets often make great open-ended toys. 

If this is all you were to start with you could provide lots of learning opportunities, but we know for most of us we would be looking at having more pieces of equipment, so let’s look at more focused equipment options.

Include “loose parts” such as boxes, planks, fabric pieces, log sections, etc. in both inside and outside play spaces. There is little to no cost, just what odds and ends you can gather for children to use within their creative play. Having sets (like stones, shells) within your “loose parts” also adds to the play potential.

For Large Muscles: 

  • Climbing Equipment:
    • Infants & Toddlers: cushioned area where infants can safely pull themselves up; tubes/tunnels to crawl through, in and out of; slide; rocking toys 
    • Preschool Up: add in planks; tires; balance beam 
  • Wheeled Equipment:
    • Infants & Toddlers: small push/pull toys; non-pedal riding toys 
    • Preschool Up: tricycles; wagons; scooters 
  • Games Equipment: 
    • Infants & Toddlers: assorted balls, bean bags
    • Preschool Up: add assorted sets of special games equipment like: floor hockey, bowling, ring toss; jump rope; parachute; hula hoops 

Small Muscles: 

  • Manipulative Toys:
    • Infants & Toddlers: squeeze toys; containers and safe objects to fill and dump; dolls
    • Preschool Up: Add in: shape sorters; stringing beads/sewing cards; small world toys ( vehicles, animals, and people (multi-ethnic))  

General Toy Categories:

  • Blocks: Blocks are important at all ages. Ensure that there are enough blocks for groups of children to complete projects. Blocks do not need to be wooden or squares. You can use tin cans, recycled smaller boxes from crackers/cereal, pvc pipe sections and even sponges.
    • Infants & Toddlers: large, soft and lightweight washable blocks of varying sizes, shapes and colours 
    • All Ages: love loose part accessories like cars, animal sets, and miniature people to expand play with blocks.
  • Games and Puzzles: Help children develop skills for remembering, sorting, predicting and reasoning.
    • Infants & Toddlers: simple 2-8 piece puzzles
    • Preschool: 5+ pieces puzzles; picture dominoes; memory games
    • School Age: 30+ piece puzzles; playing card;, board games
  • Art Equipment: Cutting, painting, and drawing develop small muscles.
    • All Ages: playdough; crayons; paper. Add in markers, colored pencils, tracing shapes, scissors and glue after infant age. With infants it’s about safety with items going into the mouth. 
  • Developing the Senses: Think supplying soft and contrasting textures throughout the environment. Do this through varied floor surfaces, floor pillows/blankets, play doughs, and toys.
  • Sensory Materials: One of the best sensory experiences for all ages is play doughs with cookie cutters, rolling pins and small loose parts.
    • Accessories for dry material bins (sand, cornmeal, rice or pasta): digging tools, containers for measuring and molding, funnels and sifters, 
    • Accessories for wet material bins (water, snow, ice): boats, items that float or sink, squeeze bottles, pumps, sponges, containers to fill and measure with, funnels
  • Cooking Equipment: Cooking helps children to learn concepts in math science, socialization,and expands language. Have measuring cups, mixing spoons, pots, pans, chopsticks, spatula, cookie cutters that can be explored while really cooking. 
  • Science Equipment:
    • Living things: plants and animals which can be adequately cared for plus cages, tanks, and accessories as appropriate 
    • Nature collections (e.g. cones, shells, rocks, wood slices) 
    • Sets of plastic wild animals, farm animals and dinosaurs 
    • Magnifying glasses 
    • Magnets and items made of metal 
    • Materials for Classifying, Ordering and Sequencing: Sets of toys which can be sorted or put in order.
    • Infants & Toddlers: nesting and stacking toys, sets of safe objects of various sizes and colours 
    • Preschool Up: objects to sort and classify (geometric shapes, small blocks of different types, buttons, cylinders, rocks, shells, marbles), sorting boxes/cans/ trays, materials to string (beads, pasta of various sizes and colours) 
    • Environmental Understanding: outdoor green space and also bringing it indoors with nature collections (such as shells, rocks and seeds), bird feeders, and wind chimes
  • Spatial Relationships: Children need to develop visual perception and recognition of objects as well as an understanding of spatial relationships. Toys in a variety of colours and shapes, pictures/posters/artwork at eye level, toy storage at eye level
    • Children at all ages need activities and materials that encourage creative endeavours such as music, art, movement, imaginative play, storytelling and construction. 
  • Art Equipment and Supplies: It is important to have enough art supplies for several children to use at one time. Have markers, crayons, sidewalk chalk, paint, finger paint supplies, paint smocks, gluing supplies, scissors, and watercolours.
  • Music, Dance and Movement: Instruments and dance props help children develop rhythm and creativity.
    • All Ages: simple rhythm instruments (rattles, drums, cymbals, tambourines, wooden blocks), selection of music from various cultures and tool to play it on, scarves
  • Dramatic Play: Dramatic play provides materials that allow children to fantasize and practice role-playing.
    • All Ages: multi-ethnic dolls and accessories (both genders), play kitchen (dishes, pots and pans, play foods, food containers), puppets, small world figures (doll house, farms, airports), and capes
  • Books and Storytelling: Books should include stories and people from various cultures and races, people with disabilities, and should show men and women, boys and girls, in a variety of roles.
    • All Ages: books, flannel board, puppets

Ok, now you’re thinking about everything you need and want within your space. The question is how you are going to get it all working together? Whether you are just starting up or well established, a proven way to discover best usage of your space is by drawing up a floor plan.

Make moveable paper pieces that are close to scale of your floor plan for all the larger pieces of equipment you need in the space. Now you can move these paper pieces around until you get the flow you want to meet the expected needs of the children you will be providing care for, as well as, your family. This is a handy tool to keep as you will often find your space needs to change some as the child in care also change developmentally.

Posted in Business Practice, Opening a FCC

Opening a Family Child Care: Part 2 ~ Business Plan – Budget

In Part 1 of this series we asked if fcc was the right fit professionally, looked at what is needed to become licensed and the basic policies you will need to have in place as a small business owner of a family child care. 

So let’s look at the budgeting – cost of doing business – now.

A sustainable small business meets the needs of their community with the services they provide. For family child care providers our challenge is to figure out how to run a quality program that parents in the community can afford to use and that provides the salary we need in supporting our family. 

A simple business plan will:

  • help you think through what you want in your program, rather than only what you can afford.
  • show that your business will generate enough revenue to cover your expenses and make a satisfactory return (your salary).
  • develop your marketing strategy
  • help set long-term goals. Having long-term goals will guide you in making some hard decisions moving forward, while supporting the type of program you establish.

Don’t let the idea of a business plan scare you. It’s really just looking at questions that pertain to what you hope your business to be and honestly answering them.

Here are some questions to consider as part of your business plan:

  • What does your salary need to look like? minimum income, benefits
  • What age group(s) do you want to serve?
  • What is the greatest unmet need in the community?
  • What is the maximum capacity of your space?
  • What is your desired capacity?
  • Do you need staff? This will mean looking at their wages, taxes, benefits, trainings… as well as, policies just for staff.
  • What is the current market rate for your community?
  • Do you want a particular curriculum or to present a specific educational philosophy? This will have implications on your training and what kind of equipment and other materials will be needed.
  • What hours will the program be open? Many parents work nontraditional hours and may need a program that opens earlier and/or closes later.  
  • Will breakfast, lunch and/or snacks be provided, or will children bring bag lunches? Providing food at the program can ensure that the children receive nutritious food and that all children have equal access to adequate food. Providing food will be an expense vs having children bring lunch. CACFP (Child and Adult Care Food Program) can cover some of the cost. CACFP reimbursement is considered income. Food purchased is a tax deduction/business expense.
  • Who is your target audience and how best to reach or market to them?
  • What level of parent involvement do you want in the program?

Budget Time!

Include a pre-opening budget in your plan. This includes your set start-up costs, any capital expenses related to meeting licensing requirements and financial coverage for the period before you reach your minimum capacity of children attending the program. Wait, minimum capacity?

Tip: Work your operating budget without a need to be at full capacity. Best practice for a sustainable child care business is to budget for 85% full capacity. That relieves you from ongoing financial stress, as well as, providing a built in contingency fund when you are at full capacity.

Being your own boss means remembering to pay yourself first!

What is the minimum capacity, at your community’s current market rate, that will provide you a living wage? Your salary is your #1 expense line. To often providers just take what is left. No, you are working to support your family. Pay yourself first!

Then think about the additional food costs if you are providing snacks and meals. The increase you might see in utilities because of operating a business full-time within your home. The cost range you can handle for additional equipment/supplies that are only about the child care program (art supplies, extra blocks, puzzles).

Tip: equipment/supply costs can be kept low by thinking outside the box – books from the local library, used toys from yard sales/thrift stores, DIY toys and equipment from recycled/repurposed materials, and natural materials. Everything does not need to be new.

As part of your business plan figure in how you will build your contingency fund. Remember that 85% full capacity? This fund ensures the continued operation of your small business despite the problems that do arise (ie. late receipt of payments, unexpected equipment problems, under-enrollment, year-end taxes). Every dollar counts in this. Even $5 a week adds up: 5 x 52 = $260 in a year. Or maybe $1 per child per week – 8 children means $8 per week = $416 a year. Better is 1 full-time care slot: example: 125 x 52 = $6500 a year. Best is 2 full-time care slots: $13000 a year at $125 per slot.

Let’s look at an example: capacity of 8 children full-time. You charge $125 per full-time slot (6 slots) and $80 for 2 school-age slots. Total weekly: $910. If you remove 2 full-time slots to use for a contingency fund – $660 remains. Working off a sixty hour work week to figure your hourly wage you are getting $11 an hour. Now remember you have supplies and utilities that also need to come out of the $910 total. So, taking a third off for the business share of supplies, utilities, taxes, etc ($220) you are paying yourself $440 a week, plus the contingency savings of $250 a week. Remember when you worked out of your home your salary used to pay to support your home. Now many of those items come under business costs and are tax deductible.

Monthly: salary – $1760  / contingency – $1000  / business share supplies – $880

Add your salary with business share = $2640 per month / $31,680 per year (52 week) (for 8 children at $125 per week)

A big area to consider while building your budget is that adequate furnishings and equipment are essential components of any quality child care program. As a family child care program you have both the pluses and minuses of working in an established environment. You already have a working kitchen and bathroom. As you move forward 2 questions to consider:

  • Are you working within your family living space or do you have a dedicated child care space?
  • What equipment do you really need to effectively run your program supporting children’s development in all areas? Furnishings and equipment in any type of child care program need to stimulate all aspects of children’s development in a variety of ways. Set-up of the space influences how children respond directly to the environment and the kinds of activities they will engage in. For example, a climbing structure encourages use of their large muscles. If the platform holds multiple children, it encourages socialization.

Many family child care providers learn to be frugal. That does not mean doing without, but being mindful, creative and resourceful. Before you rush out to buy any expensive piece of equipment or a set of supplies, consider these possibilities:

  • Are there parents/friends/family members who might have what you want, and would be able to give or lend it to you?
  • Can you buy a “nearly new” version of the item by advertising in your community newspaper or checking out second hand stores and garage sales? 
  • Can it be borrowed? Is there is a toy or equipment lending library in your community.
  • Make your own (or get a friend or parent to help). Items like musical instruments, puppets, games, felt board and figures, puppet theatres or playhouses can be built from many different materials with very little skill.  Online is a wealthy of inspiration. Be sure to check out the DIY Boards FCCAM has on Pinterest.
  • Recycle. Parents and friends are usually delighted to collect supplies such as collage materials, dress-ups, and props. Tip: this can also save on storage space needs. Ask a week or two before you will need the supplies, or as you use up what you always have on hand for the unexpected usage.
  • What about an “equipment swap”? Think of arranging a toy, book, or tape swap with friends, neighbours or other care providers.

Your Business Plan is being built.

You can access the yearly market rate to help settle on what your community can handle for child care costs. You might also want to read this previous FCCAM post on Setting Your Rate.

The next big cost is equipment for the program.

Part 3 explores Equipment

Posted in Business Practice, Opening a FCC

Opening a Family Child Care: Part 1 ~ Is FCC a Good Fit and Where Do I Start the Process?

Becoming a small business owner as a family child care provider is not for everyone. When you welcome children into your home providing a nurturing, safe environment supporting their development, you are not “babysitting”. Not really sure what being a family child care provider really entails? Check out this FCCAM post: What’s It Mean to be a Family Child Care Provider?

Providing child care in your home is an important job that many find to be a good fit for themselves and their family, a sustainable small business and a fulfilling career choice.

Here are some questions to consider about family child care as a career choice:

  • Do you enjoy spending extended time with children?
  • Is there an age group that you prefer engaging with, have more experience with, or knowledge about?
  • Are you comfortable working with families, having open communication on their child’s emotional, physical, and mental growth?
  • Are you comfortable working by yourself or do you prefer to work with other adults?
  • Are you comfortable being within your home as your work environment?
  • What skills do you have that will help you care for children and run a small business (for example, patience, energy, organizational skills, musical talent, etc.)?
  • Have you had personal experiences with child care? What are your feelings about those experiences?
  • Does your immediate family support the proposed usage of their home?

I don’t have an degree in education…….

To be a licensed family child care provider in Maine you need to be at least 18 years of age with a high school diploma or equivalent degree. You do not need a special credential or degree. To maintain your license you will need to participate in a minimum of 12 hours of professional training each year. There are many options available to secure these hours of training in areas that will support your professional growth and the ability to provide quality care to children served in your program.

I don’t own my own home…..

You do not need to own your own home. You do however need to reside in the home that will hold the program. If renting you will need written permission from your landlord.

You will also need to provide documentation of zoning/code approval from the municipality where the program is physically located. Some towns are very tight in regards to zoning. You need to check with your town office on whether a family child care program is allowed where you live. Do this at the very start of looking at the possibility of setting up a family child care business.

Still thinking operating your own small business as a family child care provider is what you want to do for a profession? GREAT! The remainder of this post along with Parts 2 and 3 will provide you with information, resources and links to help you through the process.

If you are thinking that an in-home program might not be the right fit, CCIDS has information on their website about considering the option of a small facility or center.


Understanding that operating a family child care business is like operating any other small business is important.

You need a business plan, an understanding of the regulations you need to meet on the state and local level, and an awareness of the support services available to you. As a potential family child care provider, you must apply for a license to operate your family child care. Meaning you have to comply with the Licensing Rule currently governing family child care programs.

Let’s start with the first information you need to know:

  • How many children you want to care for (capacity)

Your license fee covers a 2 yr license no matter how many children you care for. Your capacity will be determined by your space, ages of children in care and even your personal physical health. You also want to consider what your homeowner insurance will cover and liability insurance. Maine does not require liability insurance, but without it you are putting your family at risk. Any cost of insurance is considered a business expense and thus a tax deduction.

  • Your water source

If on public water, you only need a one time first draw water test for lead. If you have private water, you will need to get an annual general water safety test, as well as, a more extensive test every five years. You will also need to get a one time first draw test for lead.

  • Year your house was built

Homes built prior to 1978 will need to be checked for lead. Licensing specialists perform lead hazard surveys.

DHHS will not review an incomplete application, so submit all your materials at once.

The Family Child Care Checklist for Initial License will help you navigate the process of obtaining a family child care license. This checklist is for your use only and should not be submitted.

What are those materials?

  • Documentation of current certification in adult, child and infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid. Both American Red Cross and American Heart are accepted.
  • This requirement change with the 2022 FCC Licensing Rule. A floor plan is no longer required for licensing. However, drawing up a site plan of your premises that includes: indication of all areas where children will be served (floor plan) and the location of any businesses co-located on the premises will help you both plan your space usage and allow you to figure your total square footage. Your square footage is important for figuring your taxes – Time/Share %. This drawing does not need to be a professional scaled plan, but you do need measurements of areas children will be in.
  • water test from a designated lab
  • Pre-licensing training offered through Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network (MRTQ PDN)
    • Getting Started in Family Child Care (for new family child care providers)(6 hours) – Required by Child Care Licensing in Maine for new family child care providers. Covers the basic aspects of operating an in-home child care program.  Training is offered online.
  • You will need to clear a background check. Any adult living within your residence will also need to clear a background check. (done by the State of Maine through Licensing)
  • Fire Marshall inspection of premises. They can place restrictions on the ages of children or limitations on the use of basements, specific rooms within the property, or floors above the ground level. There is no cost for this inspection.

Here are the application materials that you must submit to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Here is the current Family Child Care Licensing Rule adopted May 27, 2021. Providers are able to decide how their program will meet or work within the requirements of the Rule.

So you’ve submitted your application……

It’s time to think of what you need to operate a sustainable family child care business, while complying with the Family Child Care Provider Licensing Rule.

You need a business contract for clients and a handbook of policies.

Licensing requires some policies, but many providers include additional policies that are specific to the operation of their small business. Let’s look at the required policies in place. When additional requirements are added by Licensing they can be found under “Licensing Rule“, but this post is the place to start.

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Parents/Legal Guardians need to sign off that they are aware of these policies:

  • Child guidance practices
  • Parental visitation at the child care site
  • Expulsion and suspension practices
  • Management of child illness
  • Emergency preparedness for natural disasters and human-caused events, including but not limited to, fire drills
  • Release of children to non-custodial caregivers
  • Mandated reporting/Abuse and Neglect
  • Serious injury and child death reporting.

FCCAM has examples and templates for all these required policies/forms available for members.

As part of your contract and registration to attend your program you will need to maintain information on the children in care, their legal guardians, and any staff or volunteers in your program.

  • Child’s name, birth date, street address and mailing address
  • Name, street address, mailing address and telephone number of the child’s legal guardian(s)
  • Places of employment, telephone number, and street address of the child’s guardian’s employers
  • Method of contacting the guardians while the child is in care
  • Name, street address and telephone number of an emergency contact other than the guardians, for use in the event of an emergency, if the guardians cannot be reached
  • Dates of enrollment and termination
  • Immunization records;
  • Names, addresses and telephone numbers of the child’s physician (Many providers also include dentist and hospital preference.)
  • Written authorization to obtain emergency medical care for the child
  • Records of all serious injuries and reportable incidents sustained by the child while in care. These need to be recorded on the same day of the injury and include the date and time of the notification of a guardian, and signed by the guardian within 48 hours of the incident.
  • Names of individuals who are permitted by the guardians to remove the child from the premises
  • Notation of any known significant changes in the child’s appearance, hygiene, health or behavior including, but not limited to, aggression, withdrawal, sexual acting out and prolonged tantrums
  • Child’s known allergies and other health conditions, including any related health plans
  • Written permission or denial for use or distribution of images or personal information of the child on any publications, social media or promotional materials
  • A complete record if suspected child abuse or neglect is reported to the Department’s child protective intake
  • Any professional developmental assessments of the child provided by the parent, if available
  • Any relevant documentation of medical necessity
  • Written permission from the child’s guardians before allowing the child to participate in any high-risk activity.
  • If any information is missing from the child’s record, licensees must include a written explanation in the child’s record that states why the information is missing

Personnel records must include:

  • Name, street and mailing address, birth date and telephone number of the individual
  • Documentation of training, as required by Licensing rule
  • Dates of employment and termination of employees. (Documentation regarding the reasons for termination must be kept in the personnel record for at least one year.)
  • A comprehensive background check report initiated prior to the date of hire
  • Documentation of any disciplinary action.

Provider records:

  • Records of hours worked by providers (including self), including the arrival and departure time for each provider
  • Record of any volunteer hours.
  • Immunizations

General Records:

  • Daily attendance list that includes all children served, including the arrival and departure time(s) for each child.
  • Record of monthly fire drills, available for inspection by the Maine Department of Public Safety, Office of the State Fire Marshal and local fire inspectors.

This might look like a long list, but it’s all important in the operation of your business.

FCCAM has examples and templates for all this material available for members. In these examples you will also see additional areas other providers have felt were important to have in their handbooks to support their businesses.

Now, you’re a licensed provider, where do you go for support?

You’re here so you’ve heard of FCCAM, a statewide professional association that is all about supporting family child care providers. We have members willing to mentor, public and member only resources, professional network and ece training links. FCCAM is also the state affiliate for the National Association of Family Child Care (NAFCC).

In Maine, you are lucky to have Maine Roads to Quality PDN. You have access to trainings, technical assistance/on-site consult and regional peer networks. Many of the services they offer are free.

There are small, local networking groups throughout the state, as well as, an online statewide Community of Practice just for family child care providers that meets by zoom on the second Monday each month.

Your Licensing Specialist is also there to answer questions and provide resources materials or sources.

Quality for ME (Maine’s QRIS) where licensees can work on advancing the quality of their program.

MaineAEYC is the state affiliate for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Family Child Care providers are welcome to join this national early education association.

The CACFP food program has local sponsors throughout the state. A national program to check out if you are going to be providing snacks and meals.

A local tax specialist or accountant that works with family child care providers. Many are happy to provide information on what is and isn’t a valid business expense.

What about your Cost to start up?

(2021 expenses)

  • Licensing: $160
  • Pre-licensing course: $30
  • water test (maximum cost is for private water source): $300 range
  • CPR training: $75 range
  • liability insurance: 8 children – $500 range
  • homeowners insurance: does not usually change much from current cost
  • **membership in FCCAM $25

Remember all these costs of doing business are deductible.

You probably have most of the general equipment and if not can repurpose free or low cost materials for much of it. You do not need all new or even a large quantity.

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This series is being written to inform and inspire those who are considering opening family child care programs. Material for this series has been pulled together from a variety of resources by members of FCCAM. We have done our best to have quality sources and valid links. Please feel free to contact us at any time with specific questions. 

Next ~ Part 2: Business Plan – Budget 

Posted in Business Practice, Opening a FCC

Liability Insurance? Why?

Why do we need liability insurance when we have homeowners insurance?

Liability Insurance is not required to be licensed in Maine, but it is strongly encouraged.

Why is it encouraged?

Homeowner insurance policies generally exclude coverage for any business operation. Although some Homeowner insurance policies allow endorsements to be purchased that protect your business. For ones that do not allow endorsements, Liability Insurance provides the insurance protection for the child care business.

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While DHHS in Maine does not require family child care providers to carry liability insurance, you may find that your homeowners insurance does. Do not expect that your homeowners policy will cover you for liability charges or property damage stemming from your home business. You may even find that your insurer may refuse to renew your homeowners policy if you are not willing to carry liability insurance.

Family child care businesses are not immune from liability lawsuits. The cost of defending yourself can be significant. Liability insurance is structured to cover the legal fees associated that arise from a covered event.

  • General liability: coverage for property damage or personal injuries suffered by third-parties while they are in your place of business. If a child sustains an injury that requires medical attention, your business may be liable for the expenses.
  • Premises liability: coverage for the area surrounding your child care facility including the parking lot and play areas. If an injured is found to be due to failure to properly maintain a safe environment, the business may be held liable incurred medical bills or property damage.
  • Non-owned or for hire auto liability: covers privately owned vehicles when they are being used to transported children for the purposes of field-trips or other outings.
  • Professional liability: covers yourself and any professional staff. Think mental, physical or emotional abuse of the children.

How much insurance is needed?

For most family child care providers, specialists suggest carrying Liability Limits of: $1,000,000 per occurrence / $3,000,000 aggregate.