Home Daycare---Licensed vs Unlicensed

Updated on July 17, 2011
J.S. asks from Cortland, IL
16 answers

Hey Mamas!!
I have another question for all of you! I provide daycare in my home, and have been doing so for quite a while now. I am now licensed, and have been for almost a year. I have 3 kids of my own & watch a couple others. Yes, being licensed has it perks--trainings, state funding, food reimbursements, etc. BUT, I am starting to get sick of all the "rules". It's summer time & I have 2 school aged kids of my own who have their own friends. BUT, while providing care, I can't allow them to have friends over. I can't do anything without being checked in on. If I'm going to be gone for any period of time, I have to "call in" to notify them. I forgot to call in and tell them we were going for a walk, and I actually got reprimanded for it! I know it's a job, but I feel like I'm restricted as to what I can do during my "operating hours" of 5am-7pm. I don't always have kids during those hours, but I'm still bound to their rules during this time. Here's the question--What do you all think and feel about licensed vs. unlicensed?? I'm strongly considering terminating my license. I will still maintain my CPR & 1st aid certifications, I will still continue to take training classes, etc. The care I provide won't change because of this. Not to mention, I've had some other families inquire about daycare. I'm also limited as to how many I can care for. If I feel as though it's not too much, then why not enroll other families?? My main goal is to contribute to my family's finances and this is my way of doing so. Sorry it was so long!! Please let me know, as a parent and/or daycare provider, how YOU would feel about this.
Thanks in advance!!

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So What Happened?

Thanks so much everyone for you input!! After reading all of your replies--much appreciated by the way--I looked into specific guidelines by my state. I think most importantly, having opinions from those I've never met (you all!) made it more obvious to me. You figure, people inquiring about care haven't met me before either, so I'm sure they'd all feel similar to your opinions. So, for that reason, I've decided to keep my license active. Not just for the state benefits, but for the sake of reassuring families. Thanks so much for all of your feedback!! It really did make my decision that much easier!!

Featured Answers


answers from Los Angeles on

I know it's a hassle for you because of the "restrictions," but as a parent I have only considered licensed daycare for my children, and will do the same for my youngest next year♥

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I would never send my child to an unlicensed provider. It sounds like there are plenty of valid reasons for you to go that route, but as a parent I would assume that you are unlicensed because you can't get a license and therefore I would assume that there is something lacking in the quality of care that you provide. Now if you've had families over the years who didn't care that you weren't licensed and have had plenty of business without it then it may not make a difference at the end of the day to you, but I would exclude you from my list of potential providers simply because of the lack of license.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Albuquerque on

I'm sure the rules and restrictions are annoying, but if I was going to send my children to an in-home daycare provider, I would not consider anyone who was not licensed. You may feel that you can care for more kids than the state allows, but that doesnt mean parents will want to pay you the same amount if you take in more kids (even if they're just friends over for the afternoon).

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Licensing assures me, as the parent, that the provider is meeting certain minimum safety standards -- including the standard that prevents overcrowding and too few adults per child. You can assure folks that "I meet the standards, I just don't have the license," but that wouldn't wash with me or, I would hope, with most parents. You've chosen to run a business by taking money for day care, and businesses are regulated for good reasons; if you run it without the appropriate, required license, you are operating outside the law, even if you have all the training etc. If something goes wrong, YOU have less protection if you are unlicensed; it is probably against the law in your area to run an unlicensed day care if you have more than a certain number of children or make more than a certain income doing it -- check that out, and check out the legal penalties in your state. Also, being licensed gives you protections if a parent claims you are doing something wrong -- you can point to the fact you're licensed and meet the standards; if you have no license, you lose that protection, I would think. If you really are chafing at the rules, then try another business but not day care; however...most legitimate businesses require some kind of licensing and/or taxation!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I am a licensed provider in MN. I advocate for providers to get licensed. It maintains standards of safety and training and adds to the professionalism we can convey. I hate being called a babysitter, and being licensed is another way for me to show I am a professional. I jump thru the hoops, get inspected and pay for my license, like any other business has to. I pay my taxes and follow the ratio rules in place for everyones safety and sanity!

Licensing does not mean perfect, this I know, as I have many licensed friends and I would never consider sending my child to their home...them, yes, their set up, not so much.

Here in MN it is illegal to do home childcare without a license unless you follow strict and minimal amount of kids guidelines. There is a "legally unlicensed" status here..but they can only have a few kids. I can have 10 kids, 8 of which can be under school age. Every states limits and ratio rules are very different. We do not have to "call in" for every little thing...goodness sakes, how can they keep up with that? Our licensing workers are so overworked as it is, there is no way they have the man-power to take every little "we are going for a walk" call...geeze.

Having your kids friends over during work hours adds to your work load. When you decide to open a business...there are rules. This IS a business. Its not like the "old days" like many report about people they know who did daycare for years and years with no license. The world is sue-happy now and we need to regulate such things...perhaps too much in some areas, but there does need to be a standard. We are talking about the safety of children here. I am certain I have the safest house (for kids) on my street. For me this is my career...not just a job to make some extra cash, so maybe I look at it totally different. I have never held a job (in 24 years) that didn't involve caring for other peoples kids.

Good luck with your choice.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

You won't be able to get 3rd party payment anymore for the food or the fees that you may be getting from the state. I only made enough money to make it worth while by having those contracts and getting those monies. I would hate to see you loose out and not be as successful. I would not leave my kids in an unlicensed child care home, to me that says no formal state required background checks done by the state, no regulations about what is going on in the home, no one inspecting the home for hazards or safety issues, no one reporting for everyone to find out if it is a safe home or not. So, with my background in child care, I would not use your services if you did not have a licensing worker and a valid license hanging on the wall in your parent area.

If you and I were friends then I would of course feel differently but someone walking in off the street has no proof of anything if you don't have a valid license. You could be a pedophile that has been convicted.

I want that paper hanging on the wall that says you are in good standing with the state you live in and that you are approved by them.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

As a parent with a child in daycare there is absolutely NO WAY I would feel comfortable placing my daughter in an unlicensed day care. Even with licensing there are barely any quality standards... it's all about safety (at least in my state).
I would not even look at an unlicensed place. I am not saying they are all bad, I am sure there are some excellent unlicensed providers out there, but as a parent I would feel extremely uncomfortable placing my child in a business with no oversight at all and no recourse at all.
Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

well personally, as a parent whose had her son in daycare since he was 7 weeks old, I was not so much focused on the licensing, however, I have a benefit through my employer that required me to have a licensed daycare provider OR at least someone who was willing to let me put them on my tax form for credit/reimbursement. The one complaint I've had with many unlicensed providers I've had is that they want to get paid "under the table" and don't actually end up claiming the income, meaning I couldn't get my employer and tax benefit. I also would be hesitant if I saw to many kids in your house because you felt like you could handle it OR if my son was being cared for by his provider, along with 5-6 other daycare kids, 3 of their own kids, and then whatever friends happened to come over for their own kids (that's why they have the restriction in place). Every kid in your house is one more kid that you are responsible for. If you kids want to spend time with their friends, then as a parent, I would feel more comfortable with you sending them to their friends house, not having their friends come over there for you to watch for free while I'm paying you to watch my son as well. Also, there are usually restrictions in place even for unlicensed providers (I know in MO you are still restricted by the number of kids. If you have a family come and "check-in" on you and see that your taking care of more then that number, then they can report you and you can be shut down still.

So I'm not saying that licensed is better then unlicensed, but SOME of the restrictions that your so frustrated with are actually ones as a parent that I look for when I was picking providers. If it was just the not having to check in so you can go on a walk thats one thing, but taking on more kids then already set in place and having your kids friends over while your supposed to be watching them are NOT things that I would go for. Just my 2 cents.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Medford on

I dont blame you for being upset with all the state demands. It sounds very restrictive and for the most, nearly impossibe to follow. I did child care for 27 years without a license and knew others who were licensed. We would visit eachothers homes with kids for play time and I was shocked at what some of them were doing and allowing their kids to do. My home was cleaner, more organized, had safer toys, and furniture. I had more child proofing in my home then these licensed daycare homes. I followed the sanitation rules closer and didnt take in more kids than I would be allowed if I had been lcensed. I saw others cheating the system and lying about it. They were not doing this for the kids sake, they were just in it for the money and food program to feed their own families. I know there are a lot of terrific licensed daycares and think people should visit and check them out too, but dont just automatically say you would never put your child in an unlicensed home without knowing how well your child may be taken care of first.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Bloomington on

As a home daycare provider, I CHOOSE to be unlicensed, or should I say exempt from licensing. I love the freedom, but I also love knowing that I'm still legal in the State of IL. I would recommend remaining legal, which I don't think you can do, unless you only have a total of 3 children (including your own).

But only you know the path that is right for you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Well unfortunately, it depends on the state rules. I thought someone told me that IL is mandatory for licensing. I can have 4 here. Ohio is 6 I believe.

I don't believe that licensing is the most important thing and if I were more politically minded I'd like to push for national standards instead of state by state and provide for at least 6 without being licensed.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I personally don't like all the rules and hoops you have to jump through - however, if my children were going to you for day care - I would expect you to be licensed, insured, etc. if not - no deal...

the hoops and rules were put in place to protect you and the children...it's totally unfortunate - that like so many things in life - they are ruined for the good apples by the bad ones!!!

Tough situation to be in!!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

IMO most parents would prefer and look for a licensed day care service. However, the main focus would be in determining what type of care was best for my child. An unlicensed home setting can many times be beneficial.

If you feel that you're having difficulty in meeting the licensing requirements, and that you wish to provide a more relaxed type of service, then I would not renew your license.


answers from Tulsa on

The recommendations I receive from other parents are more important to me than actually being licensed. My son was in an unlicensed in home provider for three years and she was absolutely wonderful. She didn't keep more children than she could handle and her home was kept up to the same standards as licensed homes. She didn't pursue licensing because of the money and hoops she would have to jump through. Now, if the provider didn't have good recommendations, I wouldn't use them, regardless if they were licensed.



answers from San Francisco on

I completely understand your position. The problem with becoming unlicensed is that it is illegal and especially illegal if you choose to take on more families. I would continue the license and do things the right way. That way you don't run into any hassles with legal stuff and things go smoothly. I guess there are perks to every job---and also the things you don't like as much. I personally would NEVER even consider going to anyone who was not licensed and checked on by the state. GL




answers from Houston on

My two youngest attended an in home child care at the home of some who taught in a school environment for 20 years. At a certain point she got tired of working is such a restricted environment (the school) and opened up a child care in her home. I do not believe she was or is licensed but since I had a previous relationship with her (my nephews where in her class) I had no problem with it. The kids did the most fun things and they learned so much.

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