CEI Stories

Serving & supporting small business owners just like you.

Young kid standing in a playroom

January 25, 2020

Little Bird Child Care

In 2019, Stephanie was pregnant with her first child and knew that she wanted to return to work after the child was born, but despite searching her town of Calais and the surrounding area, Stephanie was unable to find a quality child care option without a significant waiting list. 

The lack of available care meant that Stephanie wouldn’t be able to return to her job as a Retail Wireless Consultant, resulting in a significant decrease of income for her family. 

It was a situation Stephanie’s mother, Tabitha Bennett, was familiar with, having experienced it herself when she was a young mother. Her solution then, as a military wife stationed in California, was to run a home-based child care that would provide for her own children as well as those of other military families. With the next generation of her family facing a similar challenge, Tabitha decided, once again, that if you can’t find what you need, you make it yourself – and she made the choice to return to the early childhood education profession.  

But she had a 15-year gap since her last child care experience, and Maine regulations and processes were new to her. She needed to get caught up, and quickly.  

Fortunately, Tabitha’s return to the industry aligned with the launch of CEI’s Child Care Business Lab, a five-year initiative designed to grow new child care enterprises in underserved areas of Maine, in response to data showing that increasing access to quality child care enables more parents to work full time and support their families. 

“Taking care of the kids is the easy part, right?” Tabitha said. “Managing the business and getting all the ducks in the row – CEI had that all laid out in a step by step fashion, which was really helpful. Because of CEI, I am now a member of the Family Childcare Association of Maine and the National Association for Family Child Care. The training I have been able to access helped me get a really good handle on tracking income and expenses, even better than last time, which was 15 years ago.” 

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. The COVID-19 pandemic started its spread in the state just as Tabitha was filing for her license and inspection, delaying scheduling of the necessary appointments for months. In the meantime, the need for childcare was increasing as other providers limited numbers or closed altogether, a nationwide trend. Workers in Maine’s northernmost communities also faced a unique problem, when some families lost access to their usual child care providers due to the US/Canada border closure.   

Despite the postponements, Little Bird Child Care was among the first new child care business to receive a licensing review when the State approved the licensors to go out and inspect new applicants.

Tabitha’s business opened in August, filling seven of the twelve child care spots in its first week, which was the number of children that a single provider can have based on the ages of the children.  Little Bird Child Care now has a growing waitlist. The need is so great that Tabitha was able to add a partner, increasing the number of spots she can provide six months ahead of her original business plan – helping make sure that other mothers like her daughter, wouldn’t have to face the same dilemma.   

Learn more about Little Bird Child Care

Join the Child Care Business Lab

A free, virtual program, the Child Care Business Lab provides you with the tools to start your own home- or center-based child care in your community, including small business start-up education, guidance on how to deliver high-quality programming, advice on hiring and coaching through the licensing process. Learn more at www.ceimaine.org/childcare/

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