Most preschool care is from 2 years of age to 5 or just before Kindergarten. Most are also private organizations and we are licensed through department of Social Services. But there are schools that start from as early as 6 weeks. Is this right for you? What are the advantages? Briefly we will go over those.
First. Research and familiarize yourself with the California laws governing child care centers,
specifically the California Code of Regulations, Title 22, Division 12 that offers information about facility, personnel, safety and operational requirements for infant centers. We will assume you have done that or are planning to do that and already own a center.
The first thing you must know about infant care is that it has its own unique requirements. Although it is up to your analyst to accept your staff credits, generally there are two available titles “Infant Toddler Teacher” and “Infant Director” and a 3 unit additional Infant Class from an ECE educator is required.
Infant rooms require a 4:1 ratio.
This is the key. For home day cares, a maximum of 4 are allowed. For commercial space, you are limited only by square footage. However the 4:1 ratio is important because it greatly spikes your staffing costs and you will need to have separate areas for your infants.
This means infant rooms are less profitable. In fact some infant rooms actually lose money and most just break even. Yes, you can charge a bit more for infant care but generally that still will not recoup the added expenses.
So why would you go for in infant room? You have bills, rent, supplies and staffing costs. 12:1 for twos and up v 4:1 ratio requirements is a huge difference. Your staff cost could triple and they need a special ECE class. These are good reasons not to have one. If you are certain you can fill your classrooms with older kids and are just trying to be objective with your business then we suggest you do that. Some owners want to offer the full gamut because they like babies but that’s unique. (and cute)
Infant Room = Marketing
So why do an infant room with these things in mind? Marketing. Yes, an infant center is best understood in the context of a center as a marketing vehicle. By attracting parents early, the hope is they will remain there for the duration of their child’s early years. This then gives you a maximum customer value. Sure you may break even until they are a toddler but by then (hopefully) you will have them for the maximum amount of time and they will end up one of your best customers.
Supply and Demand
Because most centers do start at 2 often for reasons above, this means there are less infant providers and this can be an advantage, especially during downtimes when you may not be at full enrollment anyways. We had a school of 170 with an enrollment of 155. When we added 8 infant slots, they filled up in 1 week. Was that a good business decision for us? Yes.
How do you double down on your maximum customer value? That’s right you enroll their brother or sister. It is a big deal to parents to have the option to drop siblings off at the same place. By spreading your availability of childcare from 3 years to 5 you now
Do the Math.
Wading into infant care is serious business. You’ll need a separate license and care area both indoor and out (although you can rotate outdoor space) and there are unique staffing requirements. The best thing for you to do is do the math. Figure out your cost and margins for infants and judge that based off your past and present enrollment data as well as future projections. Done right, it can keep your center more full and give you longer customers which protects your bottom line. Done wrong and you’ll find yourself with a whole lot of babies and smaller profit margins.