Opening A Day Care Center in Texas
Steps to Starting a Day Care Center
You’ve decided to open a day care center in Texas. You have a long row to hoe to be ready to open your doors. The first thing you really need to do is read the state minimum standards for child care facilities. If you get through that thing and still have the courage to open a day care center, then you may have the right stuff needed to successfully get your license. Before that first visit by the state-licensing rep, you have to meet all those standards. If you aren’t up to snuff, it means re-inspections till you get it right. That delays your opening, often by weeks and can cost you a lot of money.
You’ll need to follow the steps below to set up your center.
I. Take the State’s Mandatory Pre-application Training
You may already have a facility picked out and a rough budget drawn up. You may even have a preliminary market assessment. But before you get any further into the process you should sign up for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)’s mandatory pre-application training. The class is designed to familiarize would-be child care providers with the state’s minimum standards for child care centers. DFPS uses the class as something of a prescreening for child care providers, familiarizing applicants with the requirements for child care centers. The class also covers issues related to location, city zoning regulations, fire codes, health department standards and city building codes.
II. Write a Business Plan
Go visit the US Small Business Administration in your area. The SBA can help you develop a comprehensive plan for getting your child care business off the ground. SBA not only offers you free consulting on your business plan, but may also be able to help you with funding. To prepare a business plan, you’ll need to complete the following tasks:
Study the local market, identify your competitors and analyze your potential customer base.
Identify potential locations that are near underserved or untapped markets. For instance, you might look for center locations near elementary schools that don’t have other day care centers nearby.
Create a startup and operating budget for the first two to three years of operation. You will need to calculate how much startup cash will be required and how much of a cash reserve you need to get through the startup period.
Create milestones against which the organization will measure it’s progress at each stage of the project.
Create a funding plan that identifies potential funding sources for your project, determines how much is needed at each stage of the project and calculates potential income streams.
Create a marketing plan that gets information about your center in front of the most likely groups of potential customers.
III. A Suitable Location
With your business plan in place, you’ll need to find a site you can rent, buy or build that has the space you need to meet minimum standards. You may already have identified a likely location in developing your business plan. You may be able to get the DFPS licensing officer, that will be your licensing representative, to come out and look over the facility you’ve identified as a potential center site. The representatives I’ve worked with were always happy to come out and do a walk-through licensing and point out potential problems. If your license rep is willing, a preliminary visit can save you a lot of time later. Also, if you’re building a new building or remodeling an existing one, get your contractor in on the walk-through by licensing. He can often suggest things that will meet standards and save you money and lost time.
IV. Equip the Center
As you complete the center itself, you’ll need to be buying equipment. Minimum standards will give you a good idea of what sorts of furniture, toys, educational materials, office equipment and supplies you’ll need. Some important things to remember are:
Toys will have to be age appropriate materials, furniture and toys for each age level room in the facilities.
You’ll have to equip your kitchen and dining areas with the necessary cooking equipment. Keep in mind that if you have meals catered (and many smaller centers do), you’ll still have to have acquire some basic serving utensils, plates, cups and the like, unless you use paper plates and plastic spoons. Even then, you’ll still need some basic kitchen serving equipment.
You’ll need to build an outdoor playground. The equipment, the playing surface under the playground equipment and the fencing around the area will have to meet state minimum standards. \
The center will need signage and street markings, proper doors and ramps to meet ADA standards and provide a safe drop off and pickup area at the entrance to the facility.
V. Secure Your Certificates
The state requires a set of very specific certifications by other agencies in order to operate your center. You will need the following:
An inspection certificate from the local health department indicating you meet health department standards..
An inspection certificate from the local fire marshal showing you’ve passed a fire inspection.
Documentation that you’ve registered as a business with the county tax assessor. You will file what’s know as a DBA (Doing Business As) with the name of your center.
If you incorporate your business (recommended), you must register your corporation with the Texas Secretary of State.
If you are a for-profit business, you will need to obtain an employer identification number from the US Internal Revenue Service. It’s the business equivalent of a social security number.
If you set up as a nonprofit corporation, you’ll need a letter from the IRS granting your company 501(c)(3) status. There is no such thing as a nonprofit number. The IRS will assign you an employer identification number (EIN) the same as they would if you were a for profit corporation.
You’ll need a permit from the local planning and zoning department of your city in most cases. If the area you’ve chosen isn’t zoned for a day care center, you will have to obtain a special use permit from P&Z before you can do business at your location.
If you are building or remodeling, you’ll need a building permit to make alterations to an existing building or to build a new one.
Obtain a day care director license for yourself or hire someone who has one. Day care directors must pass a license exam demonstrating his or her familiarity with state minimum standards and meet minimum educational and experience requirements.
VI. Complete the Pre-application and Application
Obtain all the applications and paperwork from your Department of Family and Protective Services licensing representative. DFPS provide a complete package containing all the state mandated paperwork you’ll have to complete. You will have to attach the following paperwork to the completed application:
A copy of your agency’s incorporation papers
A copy of your organizations by-laws
A copy of your organization’s policies and procedures manual. This must include your plan for doing personnel background checks, a plan for maintaining proper records required by the state and for your accounting and bookkeeping.
Proof of adequate liability insurance
A copy of your fire safety and evacuation plan.
VII. Obtain and Post Your Required State Licenses.
Once you’ve completed your final license inspection and passed it, you will receive your child care license certificate. This must be posted in a public area visible to your customers along with a copy of your director’s day care director's license In addition you’ll have to post your health inspection certificate, fire inspection certificate and any other locally required certifications.
Opening the Center
As you approach the completion of the licensing process, you’ll need to initiate your marketing plan and start signing up children for your program. At the same time you’ll need to be interviewing and hiring staff. Ideally, you should be ready to open the day after you receive your license. As part of your business plan, you will have developed a hiring plan to add new staff as your center population grows.
Good luck with your project. Running a day care center is challenging, but if you’ve got the desire and the right temperament, you can make a nice living running a day care center.
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