In Home Child Care Info





Food Program
Child Care Grants



The beauty of owning your own business is that you can make up the policies that you want. Not every provider is going to have or agree to the policies another provider might feel is appropriate. There are a few that each provider must have in place for a smooth operation.

There are many  others that each provider will implement as time goes on, and he or she learns what works best for them.



After the initial interview, and you and the parents feel comfortable working together it is time to admit the child or children into your care. If you are a licensed provider there are numerous forms that the county needs filled out. There should also be a contract between you and the parents/guardians. This is a good time to review all your policies with the parents.

Holding Fee  Some providers charge a holding fee or deposit. The holding fee guarantees the parent a place for their child to attend the day care. This holding fee is applied towards care at some point during the child's enrollment. Usually a deposit equal to up to two weeks of care is sufficient. The entire holding fee can be used a final payment when a parent gives their two week notice or one half could be applied towards the first week of care, and the remaining half could be applied towards the last week of care following the termination notice. Usually, the holding fee is non refundable if the parent/guardian does not attend as agreed. 

A holding fee is important because there may be times when the parent falls behind when making payments to you. A holding fee can be considered as "insurance" against non-payment but only up to the amount you have the parent put down. With a deposit, it's easier to grant the parent the ability to pay late without jeopardizing your income if the parent should terminate care without notice.
It is possible to charge a registration fee. This fee is applied toward the cost of paper work among other things. Some centers charge this fee each year. Most providers in my area only charge it once at admission. Usually, it ranges from $5.00 to $50.00.  The amount is totally up to you.

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It is best to plan age-appropriate activities for each age group. Infants should have many toys to play with, and have time each day to creep and crawl, and explore their surroundings. Offer sensory items that rattle, jingle, wiggle and roll, and are of varying shapes and colors. Infants should be supervised at all times.  If you must leave the room make sure infants are not left laying on the floor when other children are playing in the same room. It is best to put the infant in a crib or infant seat until you return to the room.
Toddlers do well with open-ended activities such as coloring, painting or any art project that doesn't have a specific image it must resemble. Preschoolers start using the scissors at about 3 years old at my home. School age children love to help the younger children, and it can boost their self confidence when the help others out. There are plenty of curriculum companies that sell packages of pre-assembled craft kits.

Television is a wonderful learning tool, especially for those children who are visual learners (like me!). Computer software packages teach hand-eye coordination, language skills, pre-math skills, and are fun. Video games that do not promote violence are fun teaching tools as well. Make sure all these types of tools are used in limited quantities. Nothing replaces good old fashioned playtime. It may seem like playtime is the opposite of lesson time, however, it can be the same to a child who is learning all the time.

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It's fun and rewarding to celebrate a child's birthday.  At my home the parents usually bring a treat to share with everyone. I keep it a low key celebration. The treat is served after lunch. The birthday person wears a special hat, and everyone gets a sticker or two. All parties are strictly voluntary.

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Always keep thorough records. There are several ways to do this. You can purchase record keeping software, or calendars, or hand write everything down in a ledger. In any case make sure you have a listing of all your income and expenses. 

For more information go to
 Think Small which is an excellent source for tax, and bookkeeping advice.

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Children's Belongings

I encourage the parents/guardians to send a comfort item such as a blanket, baby doll, stuffed animal, pacifier, etc. along with their child(ren) each day. This "comfort item" is not shared with the other children. Not only for sanitary reasons, but to allow the children ownership of something. Everything else is shared, including me, and I feel the comfort item stabilizes the child when they are feeling needy.

I ask that a full change of clothes be brought everyday (including socks) or the parents can leave them here, and I keep them stored in the bathroom linen closet in case of spills or toileting accidents. Infants usually need to bring two or more change of clothes due to spitting up.

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I send a daily report sheet home each day for each child explaining things like what each meal consisted of, how they slept, if they were happy, sad, rambunctious, and how they participated in the day's activities, etc. I encourage good communication skills between parents and providers to keep in tune with the changes occurring in the children's lives. Telephone calls are welcome after the dinner hour.

I print out a quarterly newsletter to inform the parents of upcoming Holidays and vacation days.  In the newsletter I list what classes I have taken, any special books worth mentioning, my favorite web sites, and the like. I may include achievements, and scanned photographs of the children.

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Diapers, Wipes and such

Decide whom you want to supply these things. About one-half of the parents of the children I have cared for brought a supply of diapers and wipes in a diaper bag each day. The other half brought a 30-day supply. It was not unusual to have two or three cases of wipes, and several packages of differing brands of diapers in my home. 

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When there is a need to discipline the children it must be handled in a caring manner. Some methods are intervention, redirection, or short time outs. For older preschoolers and school agers privileges can be taken away. Never withhold food or place children in solitary confinement as a means of discipline. One method I use is the "thinking corner".  The children sit on the floor in the corner until they can think of alternate ways of expressing anger or aggression. This works well with older children. I have also used a reward system. This worked well also, but I'm not sure about "paying" children to act civilly. I would like it if they could do so because it is the right thing to do.

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It's an option of yours to offer families discounts for two or more children enrolled in your day care. A 5 or 10 percent discount or a flat $5 discount rate works. The amount is your decision. Ask other providers in your area what they recommend. Remember,  this is lost income for you, and not something that is deductible on your income taxes.


In the case of an emergency you must have a definite plan of action. In order to be licensed in Hennepin County you are required to have a fire escape route plan. I advise you to have one whether it is required or not. Practice your storm, and fire drills. They are life savers. Your local fire department can help you develop one if need be. In any case, HAVE one.

If there is an accident, or injury that requires transporting children to a doctor or dentist have a definite plan of action. Have this in writing, and share it with the parents at admission. You have three choices: You could transport the child, you could call an ambulance to transport the child, or you could call the parent to transport the child. This is between you and the parents, and the given situation.

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Field Trips

It is beneficial to the children to provide outings each day. Outdoor play is required in Hennepin County. Field trips are an exciting part of child care. However, not all providers do field trips.  If you are not comfortable with them, then let the parents know this right away. Sometimes, when taking care of infants, it is just not possible to take field trips. Perhaps the provider can't fit everyone into the car. One solution is to buddy up with another provider and plan field trips together. Some parents attend the field trips and assist the provider by acting as chaperones.

The providers in your area may be able to let you know of the best sights to bring the children. There are the obvious places like the zoo, the library, McDonald's. Local businesses may be willing to offer tours of their facilities. Sometimes just going to the grocery store provides an enjoyable experience.

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Food Program

Try to locate a food program sponsor. They are contracted by the government to reimburse some of your food expenses. They require you to fill out special forms each day indicating the meal components that were served to each child in your care that has been enrolled in the food program. They also assist with referring clients to you, training, and menus. See the CCAFP Sponsors Page.

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In Hennepin County a helper is anyone 13 years old and up who can be used in place of a second adult caregiver when there is no more than one infant or toddler present. Substitutes are limited to a cumulative total of not more than 30 days in any 12-month period. Substitutes are at least 18 years old. My husband substitutes for me on a short term basis (like running up to the store, or bringing a child to school). My children are my helpers, and have been in my employ since they were able to help out.  Their job duties consist of picking up toys, taking out the garbage, helping with outings, etc. They are paid for their work, and I am able to write off the expense.

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 If you should choose to be paid for Holidays this must be spelled out in a contract. The days you want to be paid for is totally up to you. Some providers are paid for 52 weeks per year. Period. Some only charge for the days they are available for care. Another option is to be paid only if the parent is paid for the Holiday. What if the parent has to work on the Holiday as some retail employees do? Decide ahead of time, and have it in writing. This is way there will be no surprises. Don't expect parents to remember what days you want to be paid for when you are not available to care for their children.

Always remind the parents of upcoming paid Holidays. Invariably, some parents will forget.

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This is one of the best things about owning your own business.  You get to decide what hours you want to work. Most parents will need their provider to be available for ten hours each day. That will allow them an eight hour work day, a half an hour for lunch, and about one and a half hours for travel time.  If you are an early morning person you can open up at 6:00 a.m. and find plenty of parents willing to begin at that time. Perhaps you would like to do overnight or weekend care. These are all options that are up to you. 

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Inclement Weather

How do you want to handle snow days? When the weather in Minnesota is at its harshest I advocate no traveling. If the parent's place of employment is closing down for the day due to the weather you could ask that the parents keep their children home with them. If the roads are impassible in your area because the snowplows haven't gotten to your street, you could ask that the parents keep their children home with them as well. Determine what, if any, discount you will apply for these closed days. You could refund the full day, or one half the daily rate.

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In Hennepin County parents are required to notify day care providers within 24 hours of the diagnosis of a serious contagious illness or parasitic infestation. There are more than 3 dozen listed illnesses and infestations. I give a copy of the list to the parents/guardians at admission.

Do you want ill children in your care? How many children you care for, and if they are from more than one family will make a difference in how you are able to handle this. Centers in Hennepin County must adhere to strict exclusion rules.  In-home providers have a little more flexibility. The biggest complaint a provider will have is that parents bring sick children to day care. Make your policies on this issue are very plain. Even still, there will be that day when the parent loads the child up with Tylenol, and deposits them red eyed, and flushed, into your hands. It is at this point that your communication skills will be tested. For the health of everyone in your home the parent must be convinced that the child would be better off at home. If the other children get sick they can pass it on to their parents, and then the parents end up missing work. The providers own children may end up sick. The provider may too. And remember, when the provider is sick, no one can attend.

It is likely that a child in day care will be ill, and be excluded from care five to ten days each year. Generally if a child has a temperature of 100 degrees or above, they are considered contagious. Obviously, green nasal discharge, continuous coughing, vomiting or loose yellow or green stools that can't be contained are signs of illness. These children must be excluded from care until they are without fever, and are able to participate in normal daily activities.

Hennepin County has put an online manual together. This manual specifies recommendations for providers and parents and includes many forms and handouts.

You can view this manual: Online Manual

More on Cleaning and Disinfecting here

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and Integration

Be sure to offer the children in your care opportunities to experience our many different cultures. Begin by introducing a wide variety of books and toys that show people of differing ethinicity and thereby encourage an anti-racist environment.

Paints and crayons in a range of skin tones, dolls of all sizes, genders, and even those with disabilities, (sadly one of the Little Tikes dolls for my doll house had her legs broken off, but rather than toss the doll away, we consider her disabled) and don't forget dress up clothes for all genders too. 

Try to stress to the children that every individual is a part of a cultural group with uniqueness and gifts to share with others, and to learn to appreciate the difficulties other people experience. Encourage challenged children to learn to explore their limits, to accomplish tasks that may not have been afforded them in a specialized care.  Center for Inclusive Child Care


Liability, and accident insurance is not mandatory in Hennepin County, but it is advisable. Approximately $200 will supply a provider with about $600,000 worth of coverage for  ten children. If the provider decides not to carry insurance or carries insurance less than $100,000 per person, and $250,000 per occurrence he or she must maintain copies of a notice signed by all the parents of the children in care indicating that they are aware of this. This is in Hennepin County. Your county licensing rules may be different.

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The interview between yourself and the client begins with the first telephone call.  Make a note of the callers name, phone number, age of child or children, and the hours and days they need care for. This is a good time to find out as much information as possible. It's recommended that if you can't give the caller your full attention that you call him or her back at a better time. When you are ready to schedule the interview jot it down so you will remember the day, and time.

The interview is a chance to get to know each other's needs and to see if you will mesh well together. Not everyone has the same parenting styles. Here is where you find out.  Ask where the parents work. Where do they live? How do they handle discipline at home? They will have many questions to ask you. Give an overview of your policies. At the end of the interview I send a pamphlet containing a brief explanation of some of my policies, information about myself, and references.

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Most centers and in-home childcare providers schedule a rest period each day. This rest period is adjusted according to the age of the child. Young infants may sleep up to 14 hours each day. Most of an infants rest is acquired by taking brief "cat naps". As the infant grows, more defined rest periods form. A morning nap, and an afternoon nap is common. Toddlers benefit by naps too. Depending on your daily activity schedule, an afternoon nap works well, but some providers prefer to lay the toddlers down in the morning when the infants are sleeping. Preschoolers enter a stage where they may not need as much sleep as they did when they were younger. Parents may inform you that their child isn't getting to sleep at their regular bedtime, and insist you keep their child awake during the rest period. This is a touchy issue if you require all the children to partake in the rest period. Let's say you laid everyone down for a nap but Johnny. You will have to not only keep him awake in a totally quiet house but you will also have to remind him to remain quiet. It can get to be quite a balancing act. Is this an area you are willing to be flexible in?

Personally, I require all children to participate. Children under school age are encouraged to nap, and they must stay on their beds and remain quiet. First through sixth grade children can do quiet activities while resting or are allowed to play in the yard if they want. I remain indoors during nap time. I have the parents of school children fill in the appropriate forms to specify that this is all right with them.

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Proper nutrition is stressed here. I am a member of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) . The meals that I serve to the children are reimbursable as long as I provide the foods. An exception to this is in the case of infants where parents decide to supply breast milk. The government has ruled that the provider is reimbursable for these meals as well. For a weekly menu sample click here.

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Remember inclement weather will cause delays. If you decide to charge parents a fee for dropping off or picking up outside of your normally scheduled hours let them know this at the initial interview. Some providers allow for up to a 15 minute grace period where there is no extra charge. Again, Up to You! Some providers charge; some don't. Some charge $1.00 per minute outside of normally scheduled hours. This is something that must be listed in your contract.

Do I charge? Yes, I do. I have quite a bit of running around to do, what with dinner, teenage children, computer courses, in-service training, shopping, and so on, and so on... I charge $1.00 for every minute the parents are early or late. More often it is late rather than early. Sometimes the parents have to be reminded that they owe extra for overtime. I send home a "friendly reminder" slip the last day of attendance for the week. Communication is the key!

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Parties are a fun change of pace. With all the holidays celebrated in the United States we could probably have a party everyday! Realistically, providers in my area bring out the party decorations for most national events like Valentine's Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Years, etc. Themes are stressed. Celebrations can go on for days, weeks or even seasons. It seems caregivers follow along with what their local school district's events are. The families at my facility see repetitions of my holiday window clings each and every year.

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Decide what day you would like to be paid. Let the parents know this during admission, and put it into your contract. Sometimes a parent may ask you why they have to pay you when their child doesn't attend. Simply put, you are guaranteeing that child a place to come each day. If you didn't, then another child would be able to take his or her place (which is called drop-in care), and that would leave the parent scrambling to find alternate care. Explain that you don't consider full time care the same as drop in care, so they are required to pay you whether the child attends or not.

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Parental Leave

If a child's parents come to you asking if you'll hold his or her spot while they are off for the summer, have a baby, go on sabbatical, or travel through Europe what would you say? Decide how long you are willing to go without income. Or better yet, charge a Leave of Absence rate. It isn't unreasonable to ask they pay while you guarantee a spot for their child or children. This could be 1/4, 1/3 or 1/2 of what they normally pay you. What if they have gone from being employed full time to part time, and only want to bring their child a couple days per week so they can run errands? If you can handle the loss of income, then accommodate them. If not, terminate their care, and put an ad in the paper listing new openings. This may seem harsh, but it's your income we're talking about here. Your family has to eat too!

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In Hennepin County, any and all pets in the residence must be maintained in good health, and the parents must be notified that there are pets in the residence. These pets are limited to dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, gerbils, rabbits, hamsters, rats, mice, and birds if the birds are clear of chlamydia-psittaci. Rabies shots and tags must be current on all dogs and cats. A word to the wise... if the pet is cranky, keep it away from the kids. If there are infants in the residence, keep them away from the pets.

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Provider Personal Leave Days

A lot of employers grant their employees paid personal leave days. I receive full pay for three personal leave days per calendar year to be taken at my discretion. These days are usually reserved for family emergencies, illness or vacations, but can be used for any reason. There is no required notice for personal leave days, but I give maximum notice when possible.

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The rates you charge should be competitive for your area. Sometimes parents will call looking for openings, and ask what you charge over the phone. Some providers will not give their rates over the phone because they don't want their facility judged solely on what they charge. One way you can compare rates is to call other day care providers in your area. Let them know you are interested in becoming a day care provider. Most times providers are happy to share information with other providers. If there is a caregiver network near you, you could attend a meeting and ask those in charge what the average rates are for your area.

Be very specific about the rate structure. Spell out how the parents are paying for the child care; whether it will be hourly, daily, weekly, monthly or whatever you decide on. Let them know how many hours this rate will provide care for. If you are open a 10 hour day, and the parents only need care for eight hours, will you charge them extra on days they need your services for more than their regular eight hours? Don't surprise them with this information the day it happens. Let them know up front.

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It is never a good idea to smoke around the children. Smoking is not allowed at all during the hours you are open for business. As a former smoker I understand the difficulties this presents. If you smoke, the odor clings to your clothing and transfers to the children when you hold them. Of course, as role models we want to discourage children from starting smoking as they get older. They need all the positive role models they can get.

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Termination Procedures

Providers in Hennepin County usually require a two week notice when parents elect to terminate care. The same is true when a provider terminates care. The most common reason a parent will terminate care is due to hours. Either they have had a scheduling change at work or they need the caregiver to provide care for more or less hours than originally planned. Other reasons could be unemployment, pregnancy, moving, a new job, etc.

The biggest reason a provider might terminate care would be problems with meshing with either the parents or the child. These problems could occur between the new children and the currently enrolled children too. Extremely aggressive behavior like biting is often a cause for termination. Noncompliance with the written guidelines as agreed to in the contract may also bring about termination. It's possible that the provider has bitten off more than they can chew, and needs to cut back on the number of children he or she cares for.

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Toilet Training

Toilet training is a huge step in a young child's life. The independence from diapers is definitely a cause for celebration! Many children show signs of readiness between the second and third birthdays. However, it is not uncommon for toilet training to occur after the third birthday. The process varies among children. I agree to begin toilet training when the child shows certain signs of readiness such as staying dry for long periods of time, being able to sit on the toilet long enough for something to happen, and be able to undress with minimal assistance. Parents should provide extra clothing as accidents will happen.

The parents will need to pursue the toilet training process at home with their child with equal vigor if the child is to have any sense of continuity. Parents and caregivers will have to communicate the best way to teach each individual child, while meeting their specific needs. Some children feel most comfortable on a potty chair. The small size makes a child feel secure. The only problem with potty chairs is that they aren't very portable. It's hard to bring one to the mall with you. Once, while in a restroom in a discount shopping store, I heard a young child refuse to use the facilities because there was no potty chair.

This brings up the case for toilet, toilet training. A sturdy stool under the child's feet while they sit on the seat stabilizes their wobbling. There are forms that fit on the seat to make the opening smaller, and reduce chances of a watery bottom. And toilets are readily available, usually.

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Toy Days

Toy days or show-and-tell days are fun. The child really feels special when they get to bring in a treasured item.  If it is a toy we share it. If it is breakable we show it, and stow it. The children like to show their items during circle time. I like to designate one day each week as toy day. That way I am not overrun with scads of toys, books, games, puzzles, and dolls each and every day. It is recommended that the child's name be on the item somewhere. When conflicts occur the toys are put away.

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In the event that you take the children with you in the car, make sure they are all properly restrained. Hennepin County requires parents to sign a permission slip enabling the providers to transport children.

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Vacations - Parent

Many providers charge for vacations the parents take. A common practice is to charge for 52 weeks of care every year regardless of vacation days. Another would be to charge 1/2 their normal daily rate for the vacation days. It is possible to limit the number of days the parents get at the discounted rate. You could allow parents a set number of unpaid days to use however they want. These, say ten days, could be used for illness, or vacation; whatever. Maybe you'd prefer the set number of days at a discounted rate option. Do you hate surprises? Decide, also, if you want the parents to give you notice of their vacation days. Give it lots of thought.

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Vacations - Provider

As mentioned above, some providers are paid for 52 weeks each year.  In order to avoid burnout I take a vacation every quarter, but I don't charge for my vacation days.  I receive plenty of paid time off for holidays and personal leave days which totals about 10 days each calendar year.  I feel the vacations help me to provide the highest quality care for the children, and my family. It can be difficult for me to get away for doctors appointments, and such, so I must set up these things during my vacation. I give a minimum of two weeks notice of my vacation days. Parents provide their own backup care while I am closed.

I know of providers that take off one scheduled day each month, let's say the first Friday of the month, in which they run errands, volunteer at school, schedule doctor, dentist, orthodontics, veterinary... and so on, appointments. This can be a paid day or unpaid. Personally, I like this idea. I would probably charge parents for this day off. If I decided not to charge parents, I would set it up on a day where enrollments were lowest. That way the loss of income for the provider is not as high.

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Last Update: 1/27/2017
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