Balancing Business At Home

Feb 25, 2011

Many communities around Connecticut rely on small businesses to provide essential, basic services. For WNPR’s latest small business profile, Harriet Jones visited a home-based daycare in Hamden that’s helping children and parents alike.

Morning exercise is all part of the routine at Every Child Ahead in Hamden.

“I just care for them like they’re my children, and I think that’s why I keep my daycare full.”

Lushanna Thompson runs this business in one room of her condo where she cares for six children under five, including her own son, Kalil

“I do have my son here, and it’s a little bit challenging, because your own kids will test you like other kids won’t.”

As well as four year old Kalil, Thompson has three other school-aged children.

“When you have a home daycare it kind of takes away from your family just a little bit, because you still have kids here when your kids come from school or your husband gets off of work, but they understand it, they understand it’s my business and it’s my passion, so they’re supportive.”

Thompson grew up caring for her own younger siblings, and she says part of her motivation in running the business is to ensure that the children she cares for have all the preparation they need to enter kindergarten.

“And the kids that I have here, I don’t have to pull out a flashcard, because I get kids to learn words, know the meanings, by putting it into a song.”

A report to the General Assembly last year estimated that there are still thousands of children in the state who enter Kindergarten each year unprepared for the challenges they’ll meet at school. Because an increasing number of pre-schoolers in the state are cared for in home-based daycares like this one, childcare advocates say state coordination and support for these businesses is an opportunity to change that situation. It could also increase the financial security of women like Lushanna Thompson.

“I should charge late fees, but I don’t so parents are like, really late. But sometimes things happen and they have to be late, and I never ever charge once.”

Thompson charges $160 a week per child for full time care. She says she’d really like to charge 20 to 40 dollars more, but most of her clients rely on state assistance from Care4Kids to meet her bill, and so her rates are capped at that level.

“You kind of take into consideration that these parents are really struggling, they don’t really have the money to pay you what you really want, so you kind of get lenient and you start dropping your prices.”

But she says for now, her compensation also comes in other ways.

“We’re not babysitting—we are teaching your kids. When a parent calls you to tell you that, ok, we did this at home and I was really blown away, it’s like—wow! They are listening, they are paying attention.”

For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.