Childcare services can vary significantly from one facility to the next. Learn how to find the best service for your child and family.
Childcare services vary in quality, cost, and structure. This is a basic primer on finding the best service for your child in a large, diverse industry. Use this section to get started and then go to the other sections and the web resources page for more information. There are many childcare options. Some websites that you will find particularly useful are the National Child Care Information Center and the National Network for Child Care. The key is to find the one that is best for your family.
Care in Your Home
A parent, other family member, relative, friend, or nanny might be engaged to provide care for your child in your own home. This option gives you the most control over your child’s care and environment. You also reduce the exposure to other children’s infectious problems. Before employing someone in this capacity, check his or her references very carefully.
The weekly cost for this type of childcare varies from near zero for a devoted relative to more than $400 per week for a full-time nanny. Not only must you pay the nanny’s salary, but you must also consider social security tax, workman’s compensation, withholding tax, and other such financial matters. You can get assistance with these issues from local agencies.
These are commercial or non-profit centers outside of a private home. They provide childcare for up to 120 children per day. With a center you eliminate the problem of no childcare if your family childcare provider is ill. You also have the comfort of knowing that there are many providers to help your child. If one becomes frustrated, another can step in to help.
These providers must meet certain minimal criteria regarding the number of children per staff member, immunization history of children, and cleanliness of the environment. They are regulated by state or local laws and may be accredited by national agencies as meeting certain minimum standards. Staff members frequently have training in child health and development. The cost for this type of childcare varies but is usually more expensive than a family childcare home. In the United States, the cost varies from about $115 to over $200 per week. Cost per child varies depending on geographic region, age of your child, number of children you enroll, days per week, and hours per day that you use their services.
Family Childcare Homes
These are other peoples’ homes that are used as childcare centers. They are regulated by state or local laws. The variation in the quality among these providers is broad. You will need to evaluate these centers carefully to make sure your child is in an optimal situation. The cost for this type of childcare ranges from $75 to over $200 per week and varies by geographic region. One of the biggest concerns with this type of childcare is what to do if your regular provider is ill herself. In this situation, you may not have care available for your child.
Some of these providers have extensive training in child development. Others have virtually no training and even lack basic first aid skills. You should go through a checklist to make sure that you have reviewed the important qualifications that you want for a family home childcare provider. Such checklists are available from a variety of sources. Check with a local daycare association.
Whenever you have children together, they will inevitably share their infections with one another. As long as your childcare provider takes appropriate precautions and your child has a healthy immune system, your child is not in danger. Childcare providers should be aware of and follow published recommendations from local organizations, the local Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control. Ask the childcare provider which set of recommendations she follows. You should also observe the providers to make certain that they practice good hand washing, follow their policies on toy cleaning, and other recommendations.
Obtain a clear understanding of the center’s policy for sick children. The center should give you a copy of this policy when you enroll your child. This policy will help you to know when your child is too sick to go to childcare. Always make certain that your childcare provider has all the phone and fax numbers needed to contact you at any time.
Finding Childcare Alternatives
There are resources to help you locate high-quality providers. Almost all medium to large cities have information networks that can give you lists of licensed childcare providers including their qualifications, experience, and availability. Child Care Aware has a help number that you can call to get a referral to a local agency providing networking services (800-424-2246). Suburban and urban newspapers carry advertisements for childcare providers. Local agencies (both non-profit and for-profit) often serve as brokers helping to link up providers and purchasers of childcare services. The fee for these brokers can exceed $100 even with non-profit agencies. Some employers assist employees by paying the fee.
Once you have identified the alternatives from referral agencies, Internet sources, and other people’s recommendations, you need to decide which one is best for your child. After you have narrowed your selections to a few centers, you should visit the childcare facilities yourself. Seeing what these centers look and feel like during their hours of operation can be very valuable.
Some families have childcare needs that are particularly difficult. Mothers or fathers who need childcare during off hours often find that the service is either prohibitively expensive or simply not available. Nurses, transportation workers, and others who frequently work at night often have great difficulty finding appropriate childcare. Locating childcare for children with special needs can also be challenging. Hopefully, businesses will increase their assistance to workers to help them meet these special needs. Networking with other parents in similar situations may be your best source of information about resources in your area.
Childcare is in high demand and many facilities and care givers have arisen to meet this demand. Some of the care is excellent and some of it, frankly, jeopardizes your child’s health. A clear knowledge of what is available and what issues to consider can help you to find what is best for your child. This is just a primer. To get the best care for your child, talk with other parents, contact local childcare organizations, and use the other resources referenced in this site.