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How to Open a Daycare for the Disabled
There are thousands of adult and children's day care centers all over the United States, and more than 4,200 adult centers, according to the National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA). The number of facilities that include "disabled" adults and/or children is difficult to ascertain because there are no national licensing requirements.
Consult local agencies for information on how to open a day care center for the disabled. Many states require day care centers to accept people with disabilities, although the more common term is "special needs." Other facilities are dedicated exclusively to people with special needs.
The licensing requirements are based, in part, on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA's rules on businesses and governmental agencies making their services usable to people who have special needs pertains to family child care homes. However, there are provisions for "reasonable accommodations" and "undue financial burden" that can be interpreted differently by different state agencies.
The NASDA projects that the demand for day care centers will increase significantly in the future.
Contact the agency in your state that is responsible for day care center regulations. A good source is a 50-state map that you can access at the website of the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education (http://nrckids.org/states/states.htm).
Click on the state or states that you are interested in. This takes you to a few very long documents. If there is no specific document for day care centers for people with special needs, you can search "special needs" or "disabled" in one or more of the other documents. Georgia, for example, has documents on child care learning centers, group day care homes and family day care homes. California has information specifically on day care centers for children who are mildly ill.
If the information is unclear, find a day care center expert or an attorney who can help you understand it.
Find out the states' rules for how many people can be served by your facility.
Research the number of day care centers in your preferred state or states and the number of people they serve by contacting the appropriate agencies. There is a list at http://nrckids.org/states/states.htm that includes addresses and phone numbers.
Phone day care centers that offer the kinds of services you intend to offer. Ask them their prices for serving each individual they serve as well as whether they receive financial support from governments and other nonprofit institutions. This will enable you to estimate potential revenues.
Learn the demographics of the communities that you are considering opening a day care center in. A good source is the economic development directors of local municipalities because they are always trying to lure businesses into their communities and they regularly cite demographics data in their sales pitches. Schools and retirement communities are also good sources.
Find out the zoning laws in the communities you are considering. Many communities allow day care centers in regular residential neighborhoods. You might want to build yours near places where residents and guests can shop, attend after-school programs, etc.
Find pieces of land where you can build your facility or buildings that comply with state laws on accommodating the disabled. Negotiate the sales or rental prices of available properties.
Figure out how many people you need to hire and what it will cost.
Phone graduate schools that award degrees to people who have been trained to work with special needs patients. Ask deans and teachers in the appropriate departments for advice on how to find these caregivers.
Place advertisements in the publications that these caregivers and potential caregivers read.
Interview the caregivers. Ask them about their experience, specialized formal education and training.
Hire people who have knowledge about activities, nutrition, building maintenance, administration and record keeping.
Make phone calls in an effort to figure out whether your potential hires have the enthusiasm and patience needed to work with your prospective customers.
Find out whether the people in the community will protest or welcome a day care center. Local town managers and newspaper reporters are good sources of information.
Jay Schwartz has had articles printed by the "Chicago Tribune," "USA Today" and many other publications since 1983. He's covered health, fitness, nutrition, business, real estate, government, features, sports and more. A Lafayette, Pa. college graduate, he's also written for several Fortune 500 corporate publications and produced business newsletters.