- Find a Location
If you are planning to open a child care center, you may already have a building or location in mind, or you may still be searching for the right place. Similarly, if you are planning to open a family child care home, you may be considering using your own home for the business, or you may be looking to buy or rent a separate residence. Either way, make sure that you have completed a community needs assessment to confirm that there is a need for child care in the area you are considering. A realtor may be able to help you find suitable buildings or residences to look into using for your child care program. Ensure that you understand the licensing requirements for child care structures and that you are aware of certain factors that may influence where you can locate your child care program.
Zoning laws may limit small businesses in your community. Zoning ordinances can set restrictions and charge fees for permits for the businesses that they do allow. Local governments pass zoning laws to make sure businesses fit in with the community. They are used to keep most business activities out of residential areas. These laws may affect where you can locate your child care program.
If zoning laws do not allow businesses where you plan to open your program, you cannot open a business unless you get an exception. This is true even if your child care meets all state or local licensing requirements.
Check with the office that regulates zoning in your city or county (often this will be called the Planning office, the Zoning office, or Development Services) to get information about zoning regulations, or call your local CCR&R for assistance in finding this information.
Restrictive Covenants and Homeowner Association Regulations
If you want to locate your child care business in a residential setting, check to see if there are any restrictive covenants before you rent or purchase the property. Housing developers can include restrictive covenants in deeds and Homeowner Association (HOA) agreements. These restrictive covenants may limit business activity in the community. The HOA will have information on any restrictions. If you rent your property, you will need to check with the property owner or the community’s HOA about any rules.
If covenants do not allow businesses, you cannot open a business unless you get an exception. This is true even if a child care program meets all state or local licensing requirements.
- Evaluate the Space
Once you have found a potential location, you need to evaluate the space and surrounding area to make sure it is suitable for child care. Check with your local Child Care Resource & Referral agency (CCR&R) and your licensing office to ensure that the space you have in mind will meet licensing requirements as well as the needs of your business.
Think about risk management in the physical space. Consider each area from the point of view of adults and from the height and level of children. Make a note of any current or potential hazards that you can think of, both indoors and out. Look for places where staff, families, or children could possibly suffer an injury or become trapped. Check for openings or blind spots that could lead to a child being left unattended. Think about situations that could allow a child to gain access to hazardous materials or objects. Your inspection and evaluation must include general care areas, hallways, bathrooms, storage closets, eating areas, outdoor play spaces, sidewalks, parking areas, and any other places that staff, children, or families could access. Plan for how to consistently minimize the risks noted. You should do this initially and again once all areas and equipment are set up for daily operations.