There are many factors to consider before you decide on a location for your child care business. Before you decide to use your home for a family child care business or commit to a building for a child care center, you will need to look at indoor and outdoor space for health and safety issues. You will also need to check zoning and homeowner association covenants.
Location - indoor and outdoor spaces
Before you decide to use your own home for child care, purchase property or sign a lease agreement, make sure that you get good legal advice and that the property legally can be used for child care.
For family child care homes
Before you decide to use your own home for child care, purchase property or sign a lease agreement, make sure you get a legal determination whether or not the property can be used for a child care business.
- Is there a bathroom located on the floor where you conduct your business?
- Is there safe outdoor play space in your back yard or is there a playground nearby that you will be allowed to use?
- Is the surface under play equipment soft and free from obstructions to prevent injury?
- If traffic is a hazard, is there a fence or natural barrier that encloses your play space?
- If you have a working fireplace, wood stove or space heater, is it safely screened and inaccessible to children?
- Are there at least two exits on your ground floor that lead to the outside?
- Are privacy locks on bathroom or bedroom doors inaccessible to children? Can the lock be opened quickly from the outside?
- If you have a swimming pool, is there a securable fence around it that meets the height required by your state?
For child care centers
There are different considerations if you build a new center or if you buy space in an existing facility or if you purchase a franchise from a child care chain. If you buy a franchise, the parent company provides specific guidelines. Considerations for any child care center include the following:
- Decide if you want a free-standing center or existing space within another building.
- If you are building a new center, decide on a location that has both the indoor and outdoor space you need.
- If you decide on existing space, find out if you need to make renovations to be suitable for young children and to meet licensing criteria.
- Does your child care center meet the federal Americans with Disabilities Act requirements?
- Is the area close to where parents live so they do not have to transport their children long distances?
- Does the outdoor play space have the appropriate fall zone materials to prevent injury?
- Is the outdoor play space suitable for the varying ages of children?
- Is there enough parking for parents and providers?
- Are parents able to easily enter and exit the parking lot?
- If parents use public transportation, is the center convenient for them?
- Is the center located in a safe area?
- Does the center have an adequate kitchen to meet the size of the program planned?
- Does the kitchen meet fire safety standards?
- Is fire protection available within a short distance of your center?
- Does the center have adequate handwashing and toileting areas in the rooms occupied by children?
- Does the center have adequate storage and janitorial space?
- Does the center have space for staff to take a break and rest away from the children?
For child care centers and family child care homes
- Does zoning for your area permit you to operate a business in the location you want?
- Does your space meet licensing or regulation requirements?
- Can you maintain adequate ventilation and comfortable room temperature?
- Is your hot water heater maintained at no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit or less so that children are safe from scalding?
- Is there enough space for each child to move freely?
- Is there a space for each child's personal belongings?
- Is the physical layout of the center arranged so that all areas can be viewed by at least one other adult in addition to the provider at all times?
- Are there viewing windows into each room occupied by children?
Additional Playground Safety Resources
Zoning, restrictive covenants and local ordinances
Zoning laws and/or restrictive covenants may forbid or limit the operation of small businesses in your community. Zoning laws can set restrictions and charge fees for permits for the businesses they do allow. Zoning laws are enacted by local governments to make sure businesses fit in with the local community. In particular, they are used to keep most business activities out of residential neighborhoods. This is a special concern for family child care homes. If zoning laws or covenants forbid it, you cannot open a business unless you get an exception. This is true even if your family child care home or child care center meets all state licensing requirements.
In addition, housing developers can include restrictive covenants in deeds and homeowners' association covenants that limit business activity in homes in the community.
Check with the local government in your area to find out about zoning regulations that affect where you can locate your child care business. Your homeowners' association will have information about restrictive covenants. If you rent your property, you will need to check with the property owner or your community's homeowners' association management office about restrictions.
To find out how to apply for a special exception or get help with your zoning questions, check with the zoning office, ask your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency (CCR&R) or family child care professional association, or get professional legal advice.