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The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 1

01 Feb Daycare | Comments
The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 1

This is the first of a five part series on staff assistants in the home child care setting. The first installment is to help the provider figure out some of the financial aspects of hiring a helper and some tools to assist with determining salary and hours.

Most providers who successfully make it through the first few years eventually start considering the idea of whether or not they could afford some help with the daycare. If they have worked hard and had a little luck, they are full and begin to have prospective parent calls from clients or babies born into the child care that would work great but would throw the provider over capacity.

Often as the provider moves into the third year she has another child of her own or the group she cares for has aged and she knows that she needs to add some infants to protect the future of the child care. The older kids will eventually age out so new infants or toddlers will help keep the business going in a couple of years. Having an extra set of hands would really help with the older kids, the providers own children, and the babies born into the child care.

The very first consideration needs to be to what your state allows for in home child care helpers and how the presence of the helper changes your ability to expand your license or registration. The minimum standards for what the assistant must have need to be fully understood. In Iowa the assistant must be at least fourteen, have child abuse training, and a criminal and child abuse background check. The adult helper must have a minimum of a GED or High School Diploma and the child abuse training, criminal check, and child abuse registry check. All assistants must have a physical before starting to work and a copy of their immunization record in their file.

The other consideration is what your state allows the assistant to do while working for your business. The main consideration is whether or not they can be left alone with the kids in the home, outside the home, or when the provider is absent. My state of Iowa is very strict about requiring that the staff assistant never be left alone with the kids. The assistant can’t be used as a substitute provider. The provider must be on site at all times and directly supervising the assistant. The staff assistant CAN also be a substitute provider but the qualifications for a substitute provider are much higher and the limits on how much the substitute can be used are quite strict. Documentation of use and parental agreement is required for every moment the substitute is being used in the providers absence. Find out what your state allows. It may be that the main purpose for your considering hiring a helper can’t be done legally within your regulations.

Once you are certain you can find a pool of applicants that can meet your states minimum standards then it’s time to start crunching numbers to figure out if your business can sustain the salary of the employee and for how many hours per day. Consult with your accountant about withholding taxes and the employers tax liability. These expenses will be in addition to the assistants salary.

When considering an employee that allows you to increase your capacity, the task of finding the right person becomes much more difficult. The staff assistant who MUST be there for you to be compliant in your numbers is a very different assistant than the one who comes to help you out with the care of the kids you could legally manage on your own. The cost of the two types of assistants are very different.

I’ve done every kind of version the state allows within the types of registrations allowed in the eighteen years I’ve done home care. I’ve had teenage helpers, adult helpers, and “co-providers” meaning someone who increases my potential capacity based on their presence during hours when a certain age and capacity of children are present.  Teenagers are the least expensive with the least number of hours.  An experienced “co-provider” is the most expensive and often wants a percentage of the business or a fixed higher salary.

The time and money calculations are the hardest to figure out. My best advice is to do a survey of the centers in your area and find out what entry level center staff assistants make. That gives you a base idea of what an entry level person would expect to come work for you. Usually that rate is a little above minimum wage for someone without education and experience.

If you are interested in having someone who is experienced and/or has an actual degree in early childhood you should expect to pay considerably more. When you are surveying the centers around you it’s a good idea to ask them what their starting salary is with someone with a two year degree. That will help you establish your window of salary offerings and help you define if you could afford that or must go for someone without the education and experience to keep the costs affordable for your business.

The next step is to decide what hours you could really use help and what hours you must have the assistant there if you are expanding your registration and must have her/him onsite to be compliant. I’ve known many providers first look for part time assistants that come in during the peak awake morning hours of the kids. That’s usually some version of nine a.m. until the kids go down for a nap.  Some providers want an assistant during nap so they can leave the home to run errands at the calmest and easiest time of the day.

One of the most difficult assistant to find is the one who is willing to do split shifts.  Having someone in your home during the morning hours and after nap hours but not during nap hours is a lot harder to come by.  Most employees who are available during most of the day don’t want a two or three hour break in between their shifts.  If you can find someone who is willing to do that and be available during nap on occassion, you can get the bulk of the awake hours of the kids covered without having to pay for the times when you can easily manage the kids on your own.

When I first started I tried having both a part time adult in the morning hours and a part time teenager in the after school hours. Eventually I was able to afford an adult for a split shift of morning and afternoon hours and then a full time person who worked a full eight hour day. This employee became a “co-provider” and I was allowed to expand my numbers to accommodate her wages by having additional kids in the house who I could not care for by myself if she was not present.

Each type of assistant has advantages and disadvantages. Obviously the more hours you need the assistant and the more education and experience they have the more costly it’s going to be to the business. The more families you have enrolled to pay for the assistant the more pressure there is to keep slots full and the work load of managing additional children and their parents increases exponentially when you get into hosting higher numbers of children in your home.

The staff assistant who is very part time has it’s economic advantages but has different challenges in hiring and retaining the employee over time. An employee who only works fifteen hours a week is much more likely to move on when they can find a job with more hours. You can have a lot of turnover and call ins in when the financial incentive to stay is low. If they are managing additional jobs outside of your employment, your job will likely take a back seat to their the higher hours and income job they use to support themselves. Loosing an employee that you have just trained and having to start over again with training the incoming employee can get very expensive.

The next installment will discuss the interviewing and hiring of the home child care staff assistant.

The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 1
The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 2
The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 3
The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 4
The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 5

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