The first thing Deb should figure out is how many hours a day and how many days a week sheís going to need child care. Another important consideration is finding the best child care possible within her financial means. Does she want a license-exempt, licensed family child care, or a child care center?
Differences in Types of Child Care
All three are different, itís just a matter of parental preferenceóthey each have their pros:
Licensed Family Child Care
- Proximity. If you have a relative or a close friend you would like to use, theyíre usually as close by as next door, or even down the street.
Flexible hours. If you have to work late one night, it may not cost you extra and the hours may not be as rigid/ strict as they would be with a licensed provider.
Overall flexibility. You can design the types of activities that your child does with the provider. There also tend to be less children in a relativeís care. So for Deb, Grandma may only have her twins in her care, so she has that much more time and attention to dedicate to them.
Child Care Center
- Quality of care can be higher, especially with a child care provider whoís accredited.
Developmental activities. Theyíre getting activities that provide developmental growth and a licensed child care provider many times will have more knowledge of a childís developmental milestones.
Choosing the Right Child Care
- More often than family child care, the teachers have some kind of child development training/background.
If you go to a high-quality center, the child to teacher ration will be lower.
There also tend to be more opportunities for socialization.
Parents should always visit whatever program theyíre thinking about putting their child in. They should bring the child with them and spend some time there. Some things they should be observing are:
- Is the provider licensed and/or accredited?
Does the provider participate in local and/or state child care associations? (Their level of professional involvement is an indicator of quality)
Are the babies attended to?
Are the childrenís needs being met?
Do the children seem happy and comfortable?
Is the environment safe?
Is the child-to-adult ratio low?
Does the provider use the federal food program?
- (Using the federal food program requires unannounced visits twice a year, so this indicates a higher quality of care.)
You wouldnít buy a car you havenít seen or driven, so why would you put your child in a program that youíre not familiar with? Itís a good idea to make up interview questions before you go so you can make sure not to forget to ask any questions. If the provider is unwilling to be forthcoming about anything, thatís a clear sign you should leave.
Remember that this is a double interview because the child care provider also wants to make sure that the child will fit into the program. If your child isnít going to be a fit for the provider and her program, you want to know that before your child starts. If itís not going to be a fit, itís better to find that out before your child starts the program, because having to change programs can be stressful, both for you and your child.
Finding the right child care for your child could take one day, or it could take a week. It is important to give yourself enough time to search appropriately. Very often, other parents can provide good information about child care; you should pick their brains about where their children go for child care, and whether theyíre happy with the child care.
Choosing a Family Member or Close Friend
If parents choose a family member or a close friend to care for their child, there should definitely be an established agreement. I often hear that exempt providers tend to feel taken advantage of because of the nature of the relationship. If youíre a parent who chooses to use a close friend or family member as your provider, donít take advantage of them. A common misconception is that an exempt provider shouldnít get paid. They should get paid, and there should be an agreement in place that specifies payment. Itís important to stick to the agreement. If you can encourage your informal child care provider to attend child development classes, most R & Rís have free classes. If he or she canít go, you can attend a workshop or class and share that information with them. It has to be a real partnership.
Resource & Referral Agencies (R & Rís)
Parents should know there are several resources available to help them in their search. Your local resource and referral agency has lots of information on choosing quality child care. They have pamphlets, books, all kinds of materials. They can even provide actual referrals in your area based on your criteria. The National Association for Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACRA) can provide you with resource and referral agencies by state.
Keeping Good Child Care
Once youíve found a quality child care provider, remember that this person is caring for your child and appreciate them as professionals. Gestures of appreciation are great. Treat them like professionals and donít take advantage of them. Communicate with them as partners, not as servants. Be respectful of the rules and the contract. Many providers have paid holidays written into their contracts, so itís important to read the contracts and make sure everything in there is something you can abide by.