In the UK, the role of a childminder offers a career path that requires certain professional qualifications and a continued commitment to learning. There's no quick, informal entry into the role. Anyone working for more than two hours a day, and working for reward (ie. payment or in return for other services) must register with their local authority and will be subject to OFSTED inspections to ensure the quality of your childcare provision.
There are no qualifications required before you can apply to register as a childminder, but you must undertake certain training before you are allowed to operate, and you will have to gain a paediatric first aid certificate.
In addition to having to train for the role, if you operate from your own home then you must also work to make your home suitable for bringing other children inside. You will need to buy toys, safety equipment and you must buy insurance to cover your services. You are not required to make your entire house safe for children, but you must secure any areas where children will be, including routes to bathrooms.
Some local authorities offer grants to help with the start-up costs of becoming a childminder so see if you're eligible for help.
If you are considering becoming a childminder then contact your local authority as early as possible. Entry into the profession isn't necessarily rapid, so the sooner you register your interest, the sooner you can comply with the requirements and start your business.
There has been so much press over the years about children who are let down by adults, 'Baby P' and little Shannon Matthews for example - both these children were so sadly ignored by those who should have been protecting them.
Many local authorities do so much good work with children, especially those who are the most vulnerable and in need. However, we never hear about these good, kind people who make such a difference to so many children's lives. In the most part, those in authority aim to keep children together with their families, siblings and parents. However, sometimes this is not possible and those caught up in neglect or in danger are removed from the threat of harm.
All sorts of people get involved in these cases. The police, social workers, health visitors, doctors and eventually the courts do what they have to do to support the children and do the best for them. Some go into care. Some live with foster families who provide them with the safety and security they need and cherish. The foster carers go some way to repairing the damage that has been done and try to provide the children with a normal, happy environment in which to live.
There is always a great need to families to offer foster care. It's not like providing a hotel room or just meals and a fresh bed to sleep in. Carers need to try and maintain any routine the children have: school clubs, visits to friends, school run, and contact with the original families. They also need to be able to do the school run to get the children to their original school and maintain links with health professionals, doctor's appointments etc. Foster children become an integral part of your own family.
You don't need a huge house and rambling ground to offer foster care. You don't need to be a fine chef or a pre-school teacher. You simply need to offer a shelter, a home and a loving, caring environment for the most vulnerable little people in our communities. You will get all the training you need and plenty of advise and support.
If you think you can manage this, then it's worth contacting your local authority. They will be delighted to hear from you and you may find it becomes the best and most rewarding job you have ever done!
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