As of the turn of the century, statistics show that 75% of
women with children under the age of five are employed, thus
scrambling for child care while they work. In the last thirty
years, the percentage of children enrolled in day care has
increased more than 40%. Therein lies our "trilemma" finding
flexible, affordable, and quality child care. Although the
search for care may be one of the most pressing concerns for
parents, a dizzying maze of information makes finding that
care an exhausting endeavor. To help you with the process,
here are several tips and bits of information to get you on
your way to finding and choosing the best child care for your
The National Association of Child Care Resource and
Referral Agencies identifies three types of care options: 1)
in-home care, 2) family day care, and 3) center care. Your
first step in finding child care is determining which kind of
child care you want.
The National Association of Child Care
Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) is a national
membership organization of more than 400 community child care
resource and referral agencies in all fifty states. The
NACCRRA can provide you with the name and phone number of a
local member. Your local agency can then offer you listings of
child care providers in your area. You may reach the NACCRRA
by navigating online to http://www.naccrra.net.
In-home care, where the provider comes to the home or lives
with you, remains the rarest form of child care for most
parents. In-home care is expensive, however, generally ranging
from $1,200-2,000 a month, depending on the number of children
and the location of services. Whatever the price, in-home
sitters offer convenience and personal attention to your child
within the comfort of familiar and safe surroundings. Also,
when your child falls ill, you needn't miss work not an option
in family day care or center care. But before you run off
looking for a nanny, consider the cons of in-home care: 1)
there are no other teachers/providers in the house to monitor
the nanny's behavior, 2) the nanny may or may not provide
learning exercises or projects during the day, and 3) there is
no socialization with other children.
The overwhelming preference of parents looking for child
care is family day care, where a parent takes the child to a
private home, and the provider watches a small group of
children. Typically, family day care runs less than either
in-home or center care. Fees vary from area to area (expect
around $85-$100 per week), so you'll need to check with your
local resource and referral service for more accurate numbers.
Besides reasonable rates, family day care offers less
chance of illness due to reduced exposure, a home environment,
more one-on-one attention, and (sometimes) a more lax sick
policy. On the flip side, however, family day care does not
use professional cleaning services or sanitizers for toys.
Also, there is less security in place, less concentration on
learning activities, not as much socialization with same-age
children, fewer pieces (if any) of outdoor play equipment, and
a greater risk of accidents.
A majority of openings for child care occur in day care
centers large professional establishments caring for many kids
at different ages with a staff of teachers and helpers. While
more expensive than family care, center care does offer many
advantages like more structure, daily cleaning of the
facility, sanitation devices for toys, security,
well-maintained play equipment, daily record sheets, and
opportunities for socialization with peer groups.
Additionally, a center typically provides meals and
transportation to and from school. Centers, however, are often
too regimented for many parents. More kids also means more
exposure to illnesses. But perhaps the biggest "con" of center
care is the "institution feel" of the establishments.
Child care centers use a daily record
sheet to keep track of feedings, changes, and any other
significant events in your child's life during the day. They
provide the teacher and you with a record of anything
warranting discussion like a child saying his first word,
taking a first step, manifesting a lack of appetite or
exhibiting unusual behavior.
Once you've determined whether an in-home, family day care
or center suits you and your child best, you'll want to
contact your local CCR&RA (Child Care Resource and
Referral Agency). The NACCRRA Web site provides contact
information. Then with list in hand, begin asking questions of
all providers. Here are twenty to get you started:
- 1. Do you have space for my child?
- 2. Are you licensed?
- 3. May I see a copy of your license?
- 4. What hours and days are you open?
- 5. What are the fees?
- 6. What meals or snacks are provided?
- 7. How many children are in your care?
- 8. What is your sick policy?
- 9. May I come to visit?
- 10. What are your discipline policies?
- 11. What training do you and your staff have in case of
- 12. Are immunizations required of all children and
- 13. Do you have a substitute caregiver?
- 14. May I contact some parents who have used your care?
- 15. Where do the children nap?
- 16. How long have you been a licensed provider?
- 17. How long has your staff been working here?
- 18. What is your/their background?
- 19. What kind of training does your staff receive?
- 20. What kind of background checks must they pass before
Finally, ask anything else that may concern you. One new
mother, for instance, knew she wanted her child's artwork
displayed. Ultimately, you need to search within yourself and
consider the unique personality of your child to discover
other appropriate questions to ask.
If you like the answers to the questions, visit the
facility or home. Look in the kitchen for cleanliness and
safety concerns. Scrutinize the condition of the play
equipment. Peruse the contents of the toy box.
Good care is hard to find. But armed with good information
like the questions to ask and the differences in child care
the task will prove less formidable. In time, you'll find the
best, most comfortable environment for your bundle of joy!
Each state regulates the licensing of
child care facilities and home care providers. To find out
what your state mandates regarding care (like the ratio of
child care workers to children) visit the National Child Care
Information Center (NCCIC) at http://nccic.org or call