Briefing/10/dp1st/mark2nd

Like many women, Verdis Ferraro got into the day-care business after becoming a single parent who needed to make money at home while taking care of her own children. Seventeen years later, she still runs Rise 'n Shine Child Care out of her home in Mar Vista. She spoke with Jolie Gorchov about the many challenges of day care, including meeting the needs of your own children and getting parents to pay their bills on time.

I started because I suddenly became a single parent when my husband and I separated. I had to go back to work after 10 years and all of my job skills were obsolete. With two young children, I couldn't support us and pay for child care. A lot of people get into this business for that reason.

Since I had a lot of experience with preschool and knew people who also provided day care, I started my business and gave myself six months. I got addicted. I still run the business out of my home, with 12 children and two assistants.

In 1985 I invested in a garage conversion and added a classroom. The preschool is in one room, and it has the intimacy of a home environment, which the parents like.

It's difficult for your own children. When I started, my kids were 1 and 2 years old. Kids need to have their own defined space. Some toys need to be just theirs, and that was hard sometimes. But on the plus side, when my children were sick I didn't miss a day of work.

When I began, a license for six children was most common. Getting a license for 12 was more difficult I was one of the pioneers. We needed to do aerial maps of our property and get letters of recommendation from all of our neighbors. When they come to inspect for safety, they want to make sure you have adequate space for the children along with toys and the right supplies. Their main concern is health and safety.

One of the biggest problems is that because we are in a care-giving profession, the parents expect us to be sympathetic to their problems like when their tuition check is late or when the check bounces. Sometimes they forget to pay on time, or they want extra favors like coming early one morning or the kids staying late. They tend to think of me as just the lady next door.

The other problem is finding time for yourself. It's a real burnout profession. You're always giving, giving, giving. By law I have to be here 80 percent of the time, so I'm able to take one day a week off. I can't keep raising my fees, but by working less hours it makes me feel like I got a raise.

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