Child care?….the question alone is one of the most important decisions facing working couples/singles today. Our children deserve to be loved, educated with age-appropriate materials, and nurtured to their full potential in the absence of parents.
The options in child care are often overwhelming…especially for parents who are seeking their first child care arrangement.
There are family child care homes, child care centers, educationally based homes and centers, preschool-only programs, mom’s/dad’s day out programs….the list goes on and on. It is necessary to look at the overall family situation when searching for quality care. What is the age of the infant/child? Are there siblings who would also need care in the same environment? What are the work hours/job demands for the parents….how much flexibility do you need weekly concerning times you need to drop off/pick up your child?
Once some basic information is garnered, is it easier to assess what child care arrangement would be a “good fit” for the family. Child care should not only meet the needs of the child, but of the family as well.
When parents have chosen which type of childcare would best fit the family’s needs, the HARD work in finding the RIGHT one can begin. Most states in the USA have Child Care Resource and Referral Networks. Check the local yellow pages for a CCRRN near you. Most childcare facilities are also licensed by the respective STATE in which they are located. Check with your own state guidelines concerning licensing standards for childcare facilities.
After you have narrowed your search and made a list of possible options, parents should phone the caregiver/center/school and ask to schedule a personal interview.
There are several questions you should have written down BEFORE you visit:
1. Is the site licensed and/or accredited by the state/other
agency? What is the total capacity and the
ratio of staff to children? What educational
requirements and on-going training are requested
of staff members? Is a director available to supervise
staff members at all times? Is there always someone certified in
First Aid and Infant/Child CPR on the premises? Does the facility have an “open door” policy where parents always have access to their child regardless of time of day?
2. Since wages are usually low for childcare workers, especially
in childcare centers, parents need to ask about turn-
over rate for staff members. Quality care cannot
be attained without dedicated caregivers. Ask the
director and several staff members WHY they choose to
work with children…if they have to think long and
hard….it probably isn’t a situation parents desire.
3. Ask for a verbal ‘review’ of what a typical day would
be like for your child. Children flourish with a
‘routine’ they can count on. Activities will change,
but the course of the daily schedule should be
consistent. Ask about requirements for daily lesson
planning/activities…who is responsible for planning/
and implementation or do
caregivers just ‘wing-it’ daily in hopes they can
come up with age appropriate activities. Is there a
monthly calendar of meal/activities available for
parent review? A weekly newsletter? Are there opportunities for PLAY everyday? Do the children get outside for spontaneous play and movement?
4. Check the environment…clean and sanitary are
important, but look at the materials available
for the children to use. Are the children playing
and being engaged in activity while you are visiting?
Where do the children nap/rest…are naps required
all children? For an infant…do the cribs/port-a-
cribs meet current safety guidelines? Does the caregiver
check the recall status for toys and equipment in use and how often?
5. Parent payments, policies, vacations….does the
center or home have a contract available for parents?
What records are necessary for each child? (IL now requires certified birth certificates.) How do they handle emergencies/sickness/tornado-fire drills? What is the discipline procedure? How do staff members handle disagreements
6. Does the caregiver or staff have questions from you as potential clients? Do they communicate with you and your child effectively while you are there? Does the caregiver kneel and talk directly to your child at eye level? Do you get a real sense that they are honest, caring, and fair? Take a moment to just listen to other staff members or the caregiver interact with other children. Trust your instincts more than anything else!
You may wish to leave your child at home for the initial interview and return with children for a second visit. Call ahead for the initial interview, but the second visit should be unannounced.
7. Lastly, after you do the initial interview and the second
visit with your child….return again unannounced at
‘busy’ times and see how the caregivers are handling
the ‘stress’ of the day. Busy times are drop-off
times between 7 and 8am, lunch times between 11 and
1230am, and after-nap times between 230 and 400pm.
As busy as schedules are it may difficult to find
the time necessary to do the visits; but there are
few lifetime decisions that hold such importance.
that internal feeling that children are being loved and
safely cared for, the situation will most likely be
a wonderful experience for your child and your family.