Health and Safety Basics for a New Home Daycare

For parents and operators alike, there can be many attractive benefits associated with a home daycare; depending on state and local licensing laws, however, some may also be completely unregulated. Federal law governing the establishment and operation of childcare centers is minimal, leaving the bulk of regulatory responsibilities left to individual states. Some don’t require home daycare providers to obtain licensure if their operations are relatively small, so they may not be subjected to the same level of scrutiny and oversight as a center-based daycare facility. Evaluating the health and safety measures taken by a new home daycare may fall to the operators and parents considering enrollment, which makes it imperative for all involved parties to have a basic understanding of health and safety measures.

Health and the Home Daycare

One of the primary complaints of parents in regard to center-based daycare tends to stem from worries about communicable diseases and illnesses. Germs are easily passed between small children, whether they’re in a large daycare center or a smaller, more intimate home daycare. While parents and operators will not be able to completely prevent the spread of germs and illness in any childcare setting, there are measures which can and should be taken to mitigate the risk.

  • Strict Sick Child Policies – A child who is running a fever or exhibiting any symptoms of a communicable illness should not be left in daycare. Where center-based administrators and professionals tend to have quite strict policies in place, this may not always be the case for small home daycare providers. A strict sick child policy may be inconvenient for working parents, but it’s necessary to limit the spread of germs and disease.

  • Cleanliness – A long day of art projects, games and exploratory play may leave a home daycare space scattered with toys, but it should never be dirty. There is a very real difference between strewn equipment and unsanitary conditions; parents and providers alike should be alert to them. Overflowing garbage receptacles, limited access to hand-washing stations and unclean food preparation areas are health risks and should be regarded as such.

  • Organization and Separation – Diapering stations should be situated as far as possible from food preparation and play areas to limit the spread of bacteria. Diapering supplies, including diaper pails, should be kept out of reach of inquisitive small children.

  • Smoke-Free Environment – The dangers of second-hand smoke are well documented, from irritating small respiratory systems to increasing the risk of SIDS. Home daycare centers should be completely smoke free. Even if a home daycare provider does not smoke, parents should make sure others living in the house observe a non-smoking policy.

Safety Measures for a New Home Daycare

Unlike a center-based daycare facility, a home daycare is not designed solely for the care of children. It’s also the space where caregivers and their families live their lives. Where a center is designed to provide children with a safe and clean environment, a safety measures for a home daycare may be added as post-construction measures. While this doesn’t mean a home daycare is inherently less safe than a center facility, parents and operators should pay special attention to safety standards in order to ensure the best possible environment.

  • Equipment in Good Repair – Toys and outdoor play equipment should be in serviceable condition and good repair to prevent injuries. Operators should stay abreast of recall reports from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to ensure no recalled toys or equipment is currently in use.

  • Childproofing Measures – A building designed for use as a daycare center typically does not feature electrical outlets low to the ground, dangling blind cords or other known child safety risks. A private home, however, should be inspected for these hazards. Any outlets should be covered to prevent access, blind cords should be secured well out of reach and heavy furniture secured to prevent them from tipping over.

  • Chemical Storage – Sanitizing chemicals and cleaning solutions are an important part of a home daycare provider’s tool set, but they should never be left in reach of small children. Storage for all hazardous chemicals should be restricted to overhead cabinets, and lower cabinets outfitted with childproof locks to prevent pinching or other injuries.

Even in states where licensure and regulation is not required by law, home daycare operators should research accreditation programs like NAFCC to ensure quality.

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