Whangārei children's respite care cottage Kind Hands has been granted an ECE licence after a "mammoth" effort.
Owner Sharlene Clements said when the centre opened in July, becoming a childcare centre as well was something parents asked for.
She said they can now do both respite care and teach the children.
"We can give parents a break as well as doing education."
The cottage is for newborns to children aged 6 who have a disability or a medical condition.
As part of gaining the licence in early December, Clements has employed two new teachers who both work part-time.
Clements said she believes the centre is the first in New Zealand to have teachers and a registered nurse working together for the needs of the children in this sort of environment.
"There's a lot of kids who will benefit from this."
She had received emails from other parts of the country asking her how she set it up. It was no mean feat making sure it met all the licensing criteria as well as making sure it met health regulations for respite care.
"It's pretty exciting, it was pretty mammoth to achieve," Clements said.
"Just because you have a medical condition or a disability you should be entitled to have your education needs met just the same as any other child."
One of the unexpected perks of the ECE licence - from the children's perspective at least - is a new playground.
Clements said the centre has to have a certain amount of playground space per child.
For parents, the ECE licensing has "opened up a few more doors" in terms of costs.
Clements said parents can now get the 20 hours' ECE government subsidy. That gives parents up to 20 hours per week childcare at a subsidised rate. Some will also be eligible for the WINZ childcare subsidy. Parents have access to health and respite funding for the respite care.
Clements is not finished though, vowing to continue the fight next year for equity funding with other daycares. Parents pay more at Kind Hands than other daycares due to the small numbers and the high medical needs.
Clements wants to see additional funding so parents will pay the same as if their child was at any other daycare.
The centre averages about seven children on weekdays and has about 20 children altogether who use the facility on a casual basis.
The centre opens for respite care on weekends once a month. The most recent one had five children.
"Next year we'll do it twice a month, it's definitely a need."
Clements said they also have various therapists who visit children at the centre.
"We can do quite a wraparound service for them."
It's been a rapid ascent for the centre, based on Morningside Rd, which was built by Clements' husband David.
It had been the dream of Clements for the past few years. Then on Boxing Day last year, almost a year to the day ago the couple received the consent to build.
The first half of the year was taken up by construction before the centre opened in July.
"The dream I had, it's here. A lot of things are way better than I thought they'd be but other things were a lot harder than I thought they would be."
She also acknowledged her own children, who she said had gone without this year as she got Kind Hands off the ground.
"They're pretty amazing," Clements said.
"One thing I'm sure, I couldn't have done it without the community's support."
Clements knows the need for Kinds Hands is going to keep growing.
"Hearing parents who tell you how much of a difference it's making, that there is exactly the drive that keeps me going."