Selecting and evaluating a child care giver or day care provider is one of the most important decisions a parent must make. Below are tips on how to choose a child care program for your child. There are several options to consider ranging from in-home care with a day care parent, usually a woman, or selecting a large facility which is run more like a preschool. Parents can also select after school programs or hire a nanny to care for their child depending on circumstances. Below are tips on how to select the appropriate child care for your child.
The Selection Process
Always take your child with you when interviewing a possible day care provider. Alternatively, make sure to evaluate how your in-home care provider interacts with your child. Select the care provider that seems to offer services that best fits the needs for your child.
Ask friends, co-workers and relatives for referrals to qualified care givers. Start early in your pregnancy as it can be difficult to find good, affordable child care. Sometimes "word of mouth" is the best way to find the best child care provider.
Use a referral agency. Some areas offer a free referral service for licensed child care providers.
Inspect the day care facility before signing a contract or agreeing to your selected care giver's services. Licensed facilities should have a safety plan including an evacuation plan posted, depending on state requirements. Check for cleanliness and nap facilities. See how other children interact with care givers and other children in attendance.
Discuss sick policies. Does the caregiver have a back-up care giver, if he/she should become ill? Are you responsible for finding alternate care while your care provider is ill? Will your child care giver take care of your sick child?
Discuss discipline. What actions will the care giver take to discipline a child who misbehaves? Does this fit within your views of how your child should be disciplined?
Discuss vacation policies. Will you need to pay any portion of your child care fee while you are on vacation?
Discuss work schedules. Will your care provider be willing to care for your child outside of his/her normal work hours? Does the care facility offer night and week end hours? Will there be extra fees charged if you are late for picking up your child?
Consider if the day care facility provides meals and snacks for your child. Licensed child care providers, whether in the family care home or large day care facility, can participate in a federal nutrition program. Child care providers follow much the same guidelines as the federal school lunch program and are reimbursed by the federal government for food costs. Finding a child care facility that offers meals using the federal guidelines ensures your child will receive nutritionally balanced meals and snacks. As a parent, you are not required to provide meals which can be a bonus as it's one less thing to worry about before heading to work.
Always review the contract with the day care facility or home. Care givers usually have facility rules which must be complied with.
Try to hire care givers that have been finger printed. Most, if not all, licensed care givers will have their finger prints taken and a security check done as part of the licensing process.
Perform an unannounced visit after placing your child in a day care facility. Allow your child to adjust to the new day care setting before dropping by unannounced. The unannounced visit will allow you to see what a typical day is like for your child. During the visit observe how happy the children are, how clean the facility is, and look to see if the care giver is operating what you consider a good facility for your child.
Trust your gut Deep down, you know what is best for your child. Trust that feeling. When you walk into a facility what is your first impression? Is it cold, is it inviting, it is a place that you are comfortable leaving your child. What is your first impression of the caregivers? Is there any doubt in your mind that this person to take care of your child. Leaving your child with someone that you do not know is scary, especially for new mommies and daddies, because no one will care for your child better than you, but is this care giver a good second choice. Will they complement your parenting style, are you comfortable talking to them. Do they talk to your child or only you. Every child is different. The the center with the best website or the caregiver for your neighbor's child may not be the right fit for your family. Trust your mother's instinct.
Family Day Care - Consider a family day care setting: Family day care is probably the most common day care setting. Family day care is usually operated by a woman who opens her home to care for other children. Depending on locality, the family day care home may be licensed. Most states now require some form of licensing if the day care provider cares for more than one family. Family day is usually fairly inexpensive, offers a homey setting and may have more one-on-one care for your child. Family day care providers also offer the chance for your child to interact with his or her peers. Family day care homes are more likely to care for newborns and sick children. Drawbacks for unlicensed family day care include no state requirements to meet minimum care standards. Also, if the licensed or unlicensed day care provider becomes ill, then the parent must find alternative care or stay home from work.
Most states allow child care homes to operate with or without a license. Licensed child care homes or facilities are required to meet specific requirements. Some of the requirements may include a mandated child to caregiver ratio (for example five children per care giver); required posted safety plans, required safety procedures and posted evacuation plans.
Unlicensed child care homes are usually limited to caring for a limited amount of children. Homes such as this do not have to meet state requirements.
Large Day Care Setting - Consider a large child care setting. State licensing and inspections are standard for the large day care setting. Large day care centers are required to offer staff training and most, if not all workers, have some early childhood development education. Care is given in more of a educational setting and children are usually cared for by age groups. Babies are usually placed in a nursery type setting while older children are placed in age appropriate environments. Workers also receive first aid training and usually other forms of in-service training. Drawbacks for the large child care setting include less personalized attention given to a child and access to large child care facilities may be limited. In other words, finding openings at a large day care center are usually limited.
Preschool - Consider the preschool option if your child is 2 1/2 years-old and up to six-years-old. Most preschools will accept potty trained children once they reach the minimum age. Preschools offer age appropriate learning opportunities.
Family Care - Consider a trusted family member such as grandparents, aunts or cousins. Usually state licensing is not required, if a family member takes care of your child. Encourage your selected family member to take first aid and CPR classes to make sure your child stays safe.
In Home Care - Consider hiring a nanny or care giver to come to your home to care for your child. Your child will receive plenty of personal care. Drawbacks include the cost of hiring someone to come into your home. Make sure the person you hire has received first aid and CPR training.
Realize finding a care giver for a baby is difficult, especially if the market is limited. Most states have strict guidelines on how many babies a care giver can care for in a licensed facility. The ratio of adult care givers to babies is usually lower which means care givers lose money by caring for babies. Care givers are less likely, or do not have openings, so finding child care for a baby is usually difficult.