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The Business of Caring for ALASKA'S CHILDREN.

Child-care providers don't make a lot of money, but they receive other rewards from running their home businesses.

There are about 291 licensed family child-care homes in the state of Alaska, according to Claudia Shanely of the Department of Education and Early Development for the State of Alaska. Most of these businesses are owned and operated by women. Who are these women?

Meet Peggy Aamodt, one of last year's 10 recipients of the prestigious BP/YWCA Women of Achievement Award. Aamodt ran Turtle Soup Child Care, her state licensed Anchorage childcare home, for over 15 years. Why would a woman with a B.A. in psychology, a secondary teaching certificate in language arts and social studies, an A.A.S. in early childhood development, a child development associate degree in family child care, and a master provider credential in family child care choose to stay at home and provide child care?

Aamodt responds resolutely, "I really believe that child care is one of the most important professions that there is. Children need to be nurtured, cared for, encouraged to learn and to use their imaginations, and allowed to feel safe. I always referred to my place as a safe haven for children."

Shawn Sypeck is the owner and manager of Green Acres Playpin of Juneau. She has been operating her home business since November of 1996. Sypeck decided that she wanted to leave her position as a branch manager for a travel agency to be a full-time mom soon after becoming pregnant with her second child. Sypeck continually takes classes to further her knowledge of early childhood education issues and actively pursues accredited classes to enhance her professional credentials. Why did Sypeck want to work at home? "I wanted to be with my own children," she states simply.

Jan Stiers holds a doctorate in psychology, works in the Philippines helping to set up sexual abuse and domestic violence prevention programs, and runs a state-licensed child-care home in Kenai's Woodland Subdivision. Why? "My grandchildren are out of state. When my husband and I were together, he was very opposed to the idea of a home child-care center. Now, that he and I aren't together, I love being able to spend my time nurturing small children and getting paid for it."

Sylvia Hair of Fairbanks has owned and run Alaska Home Day Care for the last eight years. She has worked in the child-care field for over 20 years. What motivates Hair? "I love working with children. They keep me young," she states.

Licensing Regulations

What does it take to own and operate your own state-licensed child-care home?

Hair advises other potential providers, "You need a lot of patience to deal with the children and parents. And even more accounting experience. You also need first aid and CPR, as well as nine hours of annual child-care training."

The state licensing regulations seek to protect children and to regulate, as well as legitimize the home childcare profession. A biennial application is required and site inspections must take place. Site inspections are to be done by the state child-care licensing agency, fire department, sanitation department and other agencies deemed necessary to document compliance with state regulations. Annual on-site evaluations by the state childcare licensing agency are required. Background checks are required for all state child-care home license holders. Annual provider training is required to maintain one's license. A local business license must be obtained. Some areas require zoning permits, also.

Small Businesses, Small Incomes Charging the average state rate of $25 per day per child, operating at the maximum of eight children per day, and running five days a week, a licensed child-care home can generate approximately $4,000 a month before expenses and taxes. When broken down into an hourly wage, taking varying parent schedules into account, a 60-hour work week pays $1,000 before expenses and taxes. This equates to roughly $16.60 per hour. (The earnings in Anchorage are less, as Anchorage providers can only have a maximum of six children in their child-care homes. This frustrates Anchorage providers, as all other areas of the state allow for child-care homes to provide for up to eight children.)

However, this target income of $4,000 a month seems to be an easy projection to make, but a far harder target to reach. Sypeck estimates that she makes about $1,483 a month. When that figure is broken down into an hourly wage, the pay is severely lacking.

Stiers has income from overseas rental properties to supplement her child-care earnings. She states that, ...if you owned your own home free and clear, then you could probably support yourself with just the income from a licensed child-care home. The danger is that your income can vary from day to day and month to month and you really don't have too much control over the variance. It all depends on the parents that you are serving and how responsible they are about making sure you get paid, especially if they receive child-care assistance."

Peggy Aamodt, who recently retired from her career as a home childcare provider to take a job as a child-care specialist with the Anchorage municipality, offers this informative statement on her small business income:

"This last year, my child-care earnings were relatively good when I was open for business. That was in part due to the fact that there were a couple months that I worked more than the usual 50-60 hour/week by doing evening, overnight and weekend care. So, I still feel I did relatively well this past year, when you include time without pay due to vacations, etc. An accurate figure would be roughly $3,300 a month for the year. That figure isn't all that exciting, I know, but couple it with the fact that I got some tax benefits because I had a business in my home, it seemed to me an adequate way to earn a living. However, the business tax benefits were offset by the lack of health benefits."

Aamodt lost her health benefits due to a divorce and left the home child-care business because she needed medical coverage. "I never did get tired of doing child care," she said. "It was circumstances that brought about the change. I miss it very much. It was a great loss for me."

The Pros and Cons of Home Child Care

When asked about the pros and cons of child-care provision, Shawn Sypeck states, "The public's lack of recognition of our professionalism is one of the biggest cons, along with the poor wages. However, the children are the biggest pro. Being able to be home for my children, be entrusted to care and nurture the children of others, and be involved in a profession that will affect the future of others makes it all worthwhile."

"The best reward is the love you get from the children," said Sylvia Hair. "The other plus is I don't have to leave the house at 40 below. I'll never get rich in this job. The hours are long and the pay is low. One of the biggest rewards for me is being able to become more involved in each child's life."

Jan Stiers cites the cons of running a home child-care business as, "paperwork, bureaucracy and state regulations that seem to change with each new state employee's interpretation of the written policies that govern licensed child-care homes."

When asked to expound upon the pros, "Definitely the love of the kids," bubbles Stiers.

Supply and Demand

Anchorage's Peggy Aamodt took out one ad in the newspaper and put one ad up at the local school over 15 years ago. She never had to advertise since that time during her 15 years of operating a home child-care center. "The demand is great for good child care in the Anchorage area. I always ran at full capacity. Word of mouth was all it took to keep my child-care home full."

Shawn Sypeck's center in Juneau is full, and almost always has a waiting list for infants. "Many parents want their infants in licensed childcare homes to ensure that they are getting the best care possible. The demand for infant care almost always outnumbers the supply of licensed child-care homes with openings for infants."

"I'm always full. I've never had a waiting list cause my kids never seem to leave. I'm sure there is a demand for home day cares because I get calls each week," Sylvia Hair of Fairbanks reports.

A remark made by Jan Stiers of Kenai seemed to sum up the attitudes of all of these businesswomen. She quips, "I always seem to have a backup list, but I rarely have to use it. I seem to keep primarily the same kids year after year, which is the way I like it. Although the pay is not what it should be, and the hours are long, I know these children are safe with me. There's a payment there that can't be measured. I'm my own boss and I'm doing something that I love. What could be better?"

Child-Care Resource and Referral Services

If you are interested in exploring the possibilities of a career in home child care, or seeking quality home child care for your little ones, child care resource and referral services may be able to help.

Child Care Connection is one of three regional agencies that provide child-care resource and referral services throughout Alaska. The Child Care Resource and Referral Program in Alaska is funded by grants from the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. The three regional grantee agencies that serve geographic regions throughout Alaska are:

* Child Care Connection Inc.-serves the Anchorage and the South-central region, 563-1966.

* Children's Advocates, Resources & Educational Services-serves Fairbanks and the Northern Interior region, 479-0900.

* NAEYC-SEA (National Association for the Education of Young Children-South East Alaska)-services Juneau and Southeast Alaska, 789-1235.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Alaska Business Publishing Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2001
Previous Article:Climate Change and Alaska Fishery Management.

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