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Building a business
Have parents sign an agreement


Successful home care providers and preschool programs have parents sign a written agreement or contract. This document spells out your hours of operation, rules for payment, and operating policies. You and parents sign the agreement affirming that you will both abide by it.

A written document helps parents see you as a business owner. It helps avoid misunderstandings and encourages on-time payment. In Texas, the minimum licensing standards require that parents sign an enrollment agreement that includes at least the program’s operational policies.


Where to start
Sample contract forms are available online from various state organizations, such as the New York Child Development Council, and Wisconsin’s Community Coordinated Child Care (4C),

Some commercial websites such as FormSwift and LawDepot® advertise free forms but require membership fees.

Child Care Aware® of America,, is a national organization that provides child care information to both providers and parents. It can help you find a local child care resource and referral agency that can provide a sample contract. Or ask your professional association or successful providers in your community to share a copy of theirs.


You’ve heard of the Little Free Library…Now there’s the Little Free Pantry


Little Free Pantry, which started in Arkansas in 2016, encourages individuals and groups to set up an outdoor mini pantry at a school, church, or home. The mini pantry is for people who need food as well as those who want to give food. Its motto: “Feeding Neighbors. Nourishing Neighborhoods.”

In poverty areas, the mini pantry is for those not easily able to meet everyday food and personal needs. In middle class areas, it might stock after-school snacks or art supplies for children. Anyone may access it at any time.

To set up one, choose a safe location, obtain permission from the landowner to use the site, check for compliance with city building codes and zoning laws, and make sure nearby neighbors are supportive.

Build a small structure, much like the Little Free Library, safely accessible by car. Stock it with canned and nonperishable foods as well as personal care items, such as toothpaste and soap. Invite families, community organizations, and local businesses to chip in with food and money donations. Donors will be protected from liability by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996.

Check the mini pantry daily and restock as needed. Avoid junk foods and items with glass or cellophane packaging that can break in transit.

Learn more about the mini pantry movement at The website contains building plans, suggestions for planning a food drive, and a map that pinpoints scores of mini pantries across the United States.


Safe playgrounds: Think utility lines


Give your playground a thorough assessment at least once a year, preferably before spring arrives. Remove rusty and broken hardware, patch any holes in surfacing, and clean and repair tricycles, wagons, and other outdoor toys.


Tree pruning
When trees are dormant in winter, it’s tempting to prune dead, damaged, and diseased limbs from trees. But if tree limbs are within 10 feet of a power line, leave pruning to the pros.

Electricity can jump from an energized power line to anything that gets too close or makes contact with it—any part of your body, tools, ladders, ropes, and tree limbs. Your local utility can send its tree trimming crew or refer you to a certified arborist.

Besides electrocution, other hazards can accompany trimming, including falling from a tree and getting struck by tree limbs, all of which can cause serious injury and even death.


Gas leak? Use your senses
If your program uses natural gas, be alert to possible pipeline leaks—by using your senses.

Sight. Unexplained dead vegetation, dust cloud, or bubbling puddles of water around the gas meter, play yard, or grounds

Sound. A hissing or whistling sound around natural gas piping, meter, or appliance

Smell. Rotten egg or sulfur-like odor. Natural gas is naturally colorless and odorless, but gas companies add an odor (mercaptan), which occurs naturally in certain foods and other substances.

Bills. You may also notice gas bills are higher than normal.

If you suspect a leak:
Evacuate children and staff immediately.
Call 911, the fire department, or the gas company.
Don’t do anything that may create a spark, heat, or flames—such as using an electronic device, flipping a light switch, or starting a car.


Prevent pipeline damage
Identify where pipelines are, as marked by signs or posts. You can also find out where transmission lines are in your area at the National Pipeline Mapping System website,
Call 811 at least 2 days before you dig. Whether you want to plant a tree, build a fence, create a garden, or install playground equipment—by yourself or a hired professional—digging can damage underground pipelines, power lines, and cables. The 811 number will connect you to the notification center in your state. Affected utility companies will send someone to mark the location of underground lines.
Inform families about what you are doing and how they can prevent pipeline damage.


Celebrate Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary in 2020


Earth Day, which started on April 22, 1970, is turning 50 next year. Today the outgrowth of this special day is the nonprofit Earth Day Network, which works with 192 countries to make the planet greener. Your program can join the celebration.

Brainstorm with staff and families about activities you can do Wednesday, April 22, 2020, or all year long. Identify things to teach children as you go through the day, such as:
Conserve water when washing hands and brushing teeth. Don’t let the water run.
Sort trash in the appropriate bins. Cardboard and magazines go in the recycle bin, for example.
Avoid using plastic water bottles. They are manufactured from fossil fuels, contain toxic chemicals, and often end up at the bottom of waterways and oceans.
Re-use paper towel tubes, egg cartons, ice-cream sticks, and other household items in art projects.
Learn about nature—plants, animals, birds, and insects—to better protect them.

According to the Earth Day Network website, the biggest lesson we have learned from the first Earth Day: “When we come together, the impact can be monumental.” Making small changes can add up to making a big difference, whether it’s planting a tree, switching to reusable bags, or planning meatless menus.

For a list of “50 Ways to Help the Planet,” see Simple things can make a difference.