From ODU By Emily Pavlik

The first cohort of ODU’s Women’s Business Center’s DreamBuilder program graduated in January.

In 2021, the City of Norfolk became the first in the commonwealth to require licensure of home-based child-care providers to one or more children. To help aspiring child-care entrepreneurs and ensure parents of safe, high-quality day care, Old Dominion University’s Women’s Business Center began offering the DreamBuilder program, an interactive online training course with a specialized curriculum.

The program, tailored to provide a step-by-step framework to give participants the knowledge to launch and successfully operate an in-home child-care business, graduated its first class of child-care entrepreneurs on Jan. 12. The Women’s Business Center provides the participants’ resources and support to complete the course, which will be offered again later in 2022. Providers will learn how to recruit and hire staff, complete business license paperwork, effectively document and budget, as well as other skills.

The DreamBuilder program covers core issues that entrepreneurs must consider when starting a business: planning, marketing, pricing, management, accounting, managing risk, finding funding, setting goals and more. The benefits of DreamBuilder include a course completion certificate, a draft of a business plan, online weekly meetings with an instructor, a community of peers and access to tools and templates.

“We are very excited to contribute to the advancement of new businesswomen in Norfolk, and to play a role in the certification process for the new Norfolk Home-based Childcare Network (HCN),” said Erika Small-Sisco, director of the Women’s Business Center.

Norfolk’s HCN will be created, administered and overseen by the Department of Human Services. The department began pushing for rigorous training and monitoring following the deaths of four young children in small, home-based child-care programs in Norfolk within a year. Until the law was changed, Human Services had no ability to provide enforcement.

Del. Angelia Williams-Graves, a former Norfolk City Council member, supported the effort to change the law. Any city or county can now regulate home-based child care of one child or more. City Council will soon consider an ordinance to make home-based child-care licensure mandatory in the city.

The HCN’s mission is to protect the safety and well-being of children and families by providing professional licensure, standardized training, guidance and support for new and existing providers of home-based care. The HCN offers training, resources and professional development opportunities.

“The City of Norfolk prioritizes the safety of its children; we developed the licensure program to ensure rigorous standards to protect them,” said Erica Woods-Warrior, executive director of Carrington Consulting. “The HCN will provide a brain trust for new and existing child-care providers to share knowledge, receive mentorship and prepare them to serve the community more effectively. The program is an asset to families, providers and communities across the city.”

Class instructor Bianca Negrone said the first cohort of graduates are “trailblazers” and will set a precedent for home-based child care in the city.

“The quality that stood out most was their commitment and passion for providing a safe and loving environment for children and their families,” Negrone said. “In addition, they stood out for always contributing, motivating and supporting each other – exceptional qualities that demonstrate extraordinary compassion and fellowship as entrepreneurs.”

Child-care providers interested in beginning the application process can contact the Norfolk HCN for steps to apply for an Initial Family Day Home License. Contact Roniko Richardson, or 757-705-4378, for more information.