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EP Experts

Ask the EP Experts

Judy Lederman
Are you dealing with a childcare dilemma? Ask Judy, author of the forthcoming Searching for Mary Poppins, for help!

 EP Childcare Q&As

Q. To whom it may concern:

I am a mother who is looking to start a day care in the basement of my home. I have no idea how to get the information I would need on doing this legitimately. I am in the State of New Jersey. I was wondering if you had some advice on where I may begin my search for such information. Hope you can help.

Looking forward to hearing from you. BTW, I would like to be able to access such information on the Internet, if possible.

Thank you for any information you may have.


A. Dear Joanne,

The first thing you must do is identify the licensing agency in your county and state. This varies from state to state, but you can usually get directed if you start by calling the local Department of Social Services or the Health Department.
Once identified, call up and find out about rules and regulations in your area.
Here are some things you will want to consider...
1 - Zoning - Do your zoning laws have regulations prohibiting you from having a daycare center in your neighborhood?
2 - Ratio of children to providers - What is the ratio of different age children you are allowed to watch?
3 - Training Available - Are you required to complete a certain amount of training each year? If so, does the licensing agency provide this?
4 - Childproofing and Safety considerations - What are the requirements and where does your home stand in terms of safety?
5 - After you have had your questions answered, be sure to make a list of rules, late fees and other miscellaneous information to give new clients, and then, begin advertising. A contract is a definite must-have, as is an application form you can refer to as you get to know your new customers!
Best of luck to you,
Q. I'm a mother of 2 preschoolers, and have managed to run a very low overhead company doing paralegal work from my home for 2 years until....I lost the largest and quite frankly the only account I had due to corporate downsizing and the need to cut any outside costs. My entire lifestyle was gone in a matter of seconds.

It's now been 4 months since that happened, and I'm now doing medical transcription from home (for peanuts), working in the church nursery one night a week, working for a sole practicing attorney very sporadically, selling Pampered Chef and listed as a temporary employee for temporary job placement companies.

I am quickly going insane trying to handle this schedule and unfortunately all of these part time jobs are not bringing in even half of what I need to pay the bills that my husband's check does not cover. We do not have any savings to pull from and we are at the breaking point of putting our children in daycare (which I loathe) and working full time at an office. All of this would be fine except to cover the cost of daycare, I have to make more money that what someone with my skills will make in the town I'm from. The daycare alone costs more than our home mortgage!

I need help. Any suggestions as to what to do. I am a dedicated worker and want to get this off and running before it's too late and we lose our home or I lose my sanity, whichever comes first.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
A. Quality daycare is expensive and the quagmire you are describing is one that so many women go through. If I had a dime for every woman who said, "I'm working to support the childcare," well, that would be a terrific source of income for me :-).
After I had my second child, I had a similar problem. My client-load had dropped. We really needed money, but I couldn't afford daycare until I found a decent paying client. Here's how I solved the problem.
I found a neighbor (an interior designer) who had small children, and someone I knew and trusted, who was also looking for some time off to prospect her business. We set up a childcare swap arrangement. I had her children two days per week and she had mine for two days per week. While it wasn't full-time, it was just enough time for me to resume the networking I had done prior to having my baby. I attended some luncheon meetings, put together some written materials and press releases, and focused on finding new clients by marketing myself. Because we didn't pay each other, it didn't cost me a dime, just those two days of babysitting for her children, which was a relatively simple process. Before long I had serious clients and was able to afford a five day per week formal daycare arrangement.
If you do decide to swap babysitting, be sure that you write up a document with all the particulars and treat the arrangement as a serious one. I failed to write up a contract, and as a result, began to feel very "put upon" when the neighbor started coming later and later to pick up her children. A written contract should explain what is expected of each party and what happens in the event of... (think up situations, e.g., you get sick and can't babysit that day, etc.).
Another possible alternative is sharing one babysitter, which I graduated to after my swap arrangement. Again, you will have to work out the details ON PAPER with your co-employer to ensure that the arrangement will not sour.
Good luck,
Q. Hi there,
Thank you for a great web-site. My husband and I are considering starting a family towards the end of next year, and moving my office home.
Could you please tell me about research which has proved the benefits for a child by having his mother at home with him versus being dropped with a nanny all day? I am sure it is vast, but I would still like to know the facts.
Thank you,
Carina Marais, SA
A. I posed your question to Ellen Galinsky, President of the Families and Work Institute, an organization devoted to researching and publishing information about familes and work. The research is done and statistically, there is nothing to indicate that a child is better off with her mother than she is in childcare. Here is her exact reply...
"Over four decades of studies have probed the question posed. After such considerable time and effort, nothing much has been found. In other words, the fact that a child's mother works -- or doesn't work -- tells us very little about how that child will turn out. Other things, however, are important.
  • First there is attitude. If the mother is doing what she thinks is right (staying home or working), her child is more likely to flourish.
  • Second is economics -- families with more resources have more to give to their children.
  • Third is work. Work can eat parents up or energize them, which can have an impact on their children.
  • Finally, there is the quality of child care, which can affect children positively or negatively."
Thank you for your question and good luck in your quest for perfect childcare!
EP Note: This is an issue near and dear to the hearts of Lisa and deB, co-founders of EP. While we agree with every point mentioned above, we would like to add the following considerations:
1. The quality of childcare is the central issue for many EPs. Even if the facts are neutral, the reality is that the pool of talent in the childcare field is slim. In other words, demand for high-quality nannies and day care centers far exceeds market at the present time. However, quality supplemental childcare is easier to find than quality full-time childcare.
2. While it's of course important for families to have enough income to cover basic living expenses in a community they feel comfortable building a home in, "more" does not necessarily mean "more" when it comes to providing material resources to your children.
3. Follow your heart. You don't need a study on childcare -- pro or con -- to know what is good for your own family.
Q. I am a new mom and out of work. My husband is in construction and doesn't make enough to provide for our family. I am trying to find something that I can do to supplement our income, continuously pay bills and stay afloat. I am very interested in working at home, however, I am considering leaving the home to an office type setting.

I am trying to find a list of companies that offer on-site day care so that I can know where my 3 month old son is at all times. None of the day care centers in our area are accepting new enrollment infants until the middle of 1999. I am desperate!!!! I would greatly appreciate any advice.

 A. There are three magazines you might want to check out before you start sending out resumes. They are Working Mother's October issue, where they have their annual list of 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers, September's Business Week, which also listed the Best Companies to Work For and the upcoming January issue of Fortune which will feature a list highlighting companies with innovative programs and benefits to help people balance work and life issues.

The Work/Life balancing act is becoming of increasing concern to Human Resource departments nationwide, who are looking for good workers and want to attract and maintain talent. The Working Mother list mentions which companies have onsite daycare facilities. Keep in mind, though, that getting a job with a company with an onsite facility doesn't necessarily mean that you will be assured a place in the center. Waiting lists have unfortunately become standard because quality daycare of any kind is hard to come by. I suggest you seek out the better centers, put your baby on the waiting lists and do what you can to supplement your income at home while your baby is still young. You can get "bumped up" the line if someone ahead of you finds another situation or no longer needs daycare.

Good luck. I know how hard it is but quality daycare is worth the wait, no matter how you have to scrimp and save to keep going in the meantime.  


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