What It’s Like to Operate and Own a Daycare Center as a Millennial (Interview)

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As evidenced by the number of companies offering child daycare services, there is a demand for daycare—as a result of a need created by millennial parents. However, not every daycare option has to come out of the office—brick and mortar daycare centers are thriving, and some are even run by millennials. I spoke to Regina Barone, Owner/Director of Tiny Toes Daycare of Rockland about what it’s like to operate and own a daycare center as a Millennial.

NOTE: All information provided on daycare center rules and regulations—as well as departmental offices—are solely based on New York State’s governing bodies and policies.

Q: How have your previous experiences helped you to do the best you can as owner and operator?
A: Prior to becoming owner, I was the director here for four years. I did everything the owner does except pay the bills. I already knew all of the compliance rules and regulations. Being a director helped with becoming the owner—as well as dealing with staff and parents. If I weren’t the director before, I would have needed to hire an assistant!

Q: Describe the licensing process and the credentials necessary for both you and your teachers.
A: I’ve been told New York State has the most difficult licensing process for daycare centers! For someone like me who never owned a daycare center before, I had to complete a safety inspection that included a check of the fire alarm and our water system—as well as an inspection by the health department. I also have to keep all files up to date and send in a special licensing packet to the Office of Child and Family Services. The questions in the packet ask that each teacher has completed 30 hours of training in their respective fields (infants, toddlers, preschool, etc.). I also have to prove that one person is CPR/First Aid certified—and I usually make sure we employ two people, as there has to be one certified person on premises all of the time. Lastly, a Head Teacher is required to hold a Child Development Associate (CDA) or a Bachelor’s degree in a related field—including teaching, psychology and English—coupled with two-plus years of experience in the field. A new daycare center has to complete the licensing process before opening—and then has to complete it again after two years of operation. After that, relicensing is only required every four years. I’m very busy preparing as we just reached the two year mark, but after this round, I don’t have to worry about this process again for four years!

Q: What is your hiring process for teachers?
A: I’ve learned from experience that I need to be very thorough with my hiring process. I review resumes initially—and if they meet my requirements I call candidates in for interviews. The interview consists of both oral and written questions—and if candidates pass that round, they will “work” in a classroom of the age group that they will potentially be working with. Once the interactive round is completed, candidates enter the final portion of the hiring process by submitting to a background check, a Statewide Central Register (SCR) check for any claims of child abuse and a Staff Exclusion List (SEL) check for any claims of abuse of a person with a disability. The last requirement is for candidates to complete a physical exam—and I call their references. Each screening—as well as the physical exam—are required by New York State.

Q: Describe your typical day.
A: I work every weekday from seven in the morning until six at night. From seven to eight-thirty, I greet the children and parents, we eat breakfast and then they have free play. From eight-thirty until eleven, I watch the preschoolers, and then from eleven until two I do paperwork—including payroll, bills and bookkeeping. From two until the end of the day, I work in the infant room.

Q: What types of activities do you create for the kids?
A: Every month from September to June has a different educational theme—and all lessons and activities are based on that theme. In September, the theme is always “All About Me” so that the children can have a chance to get to know each other. Currently, our theme is “Insects and Bugs,” and the children made “bugs” that hang from the ceiling. We also had a lesson on the differences between spiders and insects—and how to tell them apart. Our activities are usually hands-on and “Center”-based—for example, we have a “Sensory Center” and a “Kitchen Center.” During July and August we have a camp program, so the activities are more fun and less structured.

Q: How have you dealt with a difficult child? Difficult parent?
A: I’ve dealt with both—both as the owner and as the director—but it doesn’t happen often. We’ve been very lucky. Dealing with a difficult child usually involves their behavior. We try to help the child with a behavior chart—and explain to that child’s parent(s) that we have a reward system that focuses on positive aspects. I’ve really only had one difficult parent—and we made her as happy as we could within our limits—and without breaking any of our regulations or policies.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
A: Interacting with the preschool kids—and watching their growth. Some of these kids started with us as infants—and we get to see them every day for five years.

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About Author

Mary Grace holds a Master of Arts in Public Communications and Media Studies from Fordham University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Salve Regina University. She spends her time in the editorial department at the National Association of Professional Women by day, and is a community thespian and wannabe politician and activist by night. Her favorite things include trips to Walt Disney World, drinking too much coffee, browsing Sephora, her Apple Watch and her “nephew,” Luis.

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