Like many, I started providing child care as a means of supplementing family income while being able to stay home with my own children. I had previous experience in my teenage years as a steady date-night sitter and as a substitute at a center. I intended to be a provider for a few years.
My original goal was to provide a safe, happy place for children of working class parents, as I saw they were under-served. Additionally, I signed a contract with the State and CLASP (United Methodist) to provide subsidized child care. Offering childcare at below market rates kept me full nearly the entire time. Through humble means I managed to provide Kindergarten readiness skills. At one decade in, I decided this would be my life long profession. It changed my mindset and I discovered within myself a higher degree of patience and focus. I secured a Group license. In 2011 my home became a single income and I quickly learned that if I hoped to someday retire in anything other than utter destitution, I had to quit being Cheap Daycare Lady. Raising rates meant higher expectation by parents. I ramped up professional training by participating in Quality Steps and taking advantage of educational opportunities, grants and stipends that required many weekday evenings and Saturdays of learning.
When I started providing childcare in June 1990, Kansas had two tiers of legal child care: registered and licensed. I opted for licensed child care as it gave me flexibility and accountability. Sweeping changes took effect in 2012, eliminating registered providers. Those who chose to not become licensed left the field, resulting in a shortage of infant care. Additional regulations concerning infant care caused many providers to consider infant care an income or legal liability and made personal decisions to stop taking infants, creating a critical need. I responded by increasing my acceptance of Infants. If I am unable to help a family directly by taking their baby into my care, I point parents to various resources to find licensed child care.
Realizing the Impact I Made
In recent years, I have been able to follow my former families on Facebook. One young woman, who I had not seen since she was 12, invited me to her wedding last summer. When I arrived, I realized this was an intimate event. I felt honored and blessed to be invited to witness this pivotal moment in her life story.
In October 2016, I had what I call my first annual grown-up daycare kid reunion. Attendees from my first 15 years of child care showed up and shared their favorite times at my home. The young Bride revealed, “When I was a kid I didn’t understand why you wouldn’t let us listen to that one Backstreet Boys song. I didn’t know what the big deal was? Now that I’m a mother, I get it.” She went on to tell me about things she does with her children that I had modeled for her.
The longer I remain in the profession, the more I feel that children teach me as much about human nature, as I teach them about our tiny corner of the world. I suspect many providers would say the same.