Today many families are faced with the all-important decision of choosing a child care center for their young children. It has been reported by women in the workplace that selecting just the right setting and type of childcare has become a very complicated and confusing process that pulls on their every emotion.
Before you begin to look at various programs, it is important to understand the major difference between the two types of childcare available—day care centers and in-home care—and how specific sites can vary widely within each group.
Day care centers provide care for the child in a large group setting. The program follows a more formal preschool design in that they offer structured activities that help cultivate development socially, physically, emotionally, and academically. The care in such a group is offered full-time rather than just a couple of hours per day.
These centers must be registered and licensed by the state so parents and children are ensured that strict standards of health, safety, programming, and supervision are followed. Some advantages could include a full-day kindergarten program and transportation to and from neighborhood schools. These options vary from center to center, so interested parents should learn all there is to know about their selected centers of interest.
The other side of the childcare coin is in-home care, which provides a child with care in a home setting that may be in his home or that of the childcare provider. If the provider is supervising more than a couple children in the home, she should be licensed by the county or the state and should not be supervising more than a few children at one time.
The advantages of this service is that the setting is that of a home not a public institution; that there is more individualization with each child, and special needs or major medical problems can be addressed easier; and the hours of care can vary depending on the needs of the family and the provider.
Again, each site or home varies and families should consider recommendations from parents with similar needs before choosing the type of care best suited for their situation.
Coupled with recommendations a parent should plan at least one on-site visit to observe the day at the prospective day care placements. With this scheduled appointment, come prepared to interview the potential care-givers and/or site directors.
After the tour of the center or home and the in-depth interviews, parents can reflect on the gathered information and can begin to answer the following questions:
- Do they feel at ease with the provider and the environment?
- Does the provider seem to be a friendly, loving person?
- How often will the provider meet with the parents concerning their child’s care?
- What is the provider’s background with working with children?
- And finally is appropriate supervision provided to each child?
In answering these questions, they must address other areas of concern; such as the physical faculties, services, activities, and finances. No checklist is comprehensive to every individual situation but the following questions can also assist parents when surveying centers and homes. These include:
- Are the facilities clean and in good condition?
- Are there a number of updated safety features including smoke detectors and fire exits?
- Is there enough space for all of the children to play safely?
- Are dangerous materials and equipment safely out of reach?
- Is there a place for each child to rest?
- How are the bathroom facilities?
- What is the procedure for informing the parents of in-center illness or accident?
- Are health screenings offered by the center?
- What is the responsibility of the parent during the regular sessions?
- What supplies do the parents provide, such as food, diapers?
- How many field trips are planned outside the center or home?
- How is transportation handled in each of these excursions?
- Are the activities planned to help develop certain skill sets?
- Are group/individual activities planned with the caregiver actively involved and assisting?
- Is television permitted and if so, is it used wisely?
- Are the fees requested hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly?
- How and when is the fee scheduled changed?
- Must we sign a long-term contract?
- Are discounts offered if a family has more than one child in the program?
- Are there any late charges or any fee subsidies?
- Is the full rate charged if the child is not in the program due to illness and how much advanced notice is required to avoid paying for a time the at the child will not be in attendance?
Once all aspects have been carefully considered and a decision reached, it is important for the parents to inform the child of the decision so they can answer all the questions to the child’s satisfaction. This will enable the child to feel more secure in their new home away from home.