BE CHOOSY ABOUT CHILD CARE
As a parent, you know more about your child than any other
person. By carefully looking into available care and matching up services
with your child's individual needs, you will be able to select the best
situation for your child. You will find it well worth the extra time to
choose carefully because if your child is receiving happy and secure care,
you and the rest of the family will find your lives enriched as well.
HOW TO START:
There are different kinds of care you might choose. The two
most common are child care centers and family day care homes. For
information on how to choose a child care center, obtain a copy of *Checklist
for Child Care Centers*.
If you are interested in a family day care home, obtain a copy of
*Checklist for Family Day
WHERE TO LOOK:
For a listing of child care centers, look in the yellow pages
of the telephone directory under Child Care or Schools - Pre-school.
The licensing bureau for child care centers and homes in your state may be
able to tell you how to get a list of licensed child care centers and
family day care homes for your area.
Another good source of information is other working parents. Find out
where their children stay and what they think of the care. Several
churches sponsor child care programs, which you can find out about by
calling the church office.
If you need before/after school care, you might ask your child's teacher
if she/he knows of a classmate's parents who provide such care.
Perhaps the most difficult kind of care to locate is a reliable sitter to
come to your home. Check the "child care" ads in the newspaper
or place a help wanted ad of your own.
As you make out a list of child care possibilities, keep these
four thoughts in mind:
- You will need to find care that is affordable. Cost and quality do not
always go hand in hand. The most expensive is not necessarily the best. On
the other hand, it may be better to spend a few more dollars to get
superior care. Remember to consider hidden costs, like extra gasoline to
get to a center clear across town.
- Accessibility is the second factor to keep in mind. If you have to leave
home an hour early and fight traffic to get to the center, your emotional
energy as well as your gasoline may be in short supply.
- A third factor is reliability. Will the care be available when you need
it? Will you be able to trust the sitter or staff with your child's
- The fourth and last factor is consistency. It is important for your
child's sense of security to have at least one consistent caregiver,
someone that you and your child can count on. Will this be a place where
your child will receive consistent care with a minimum of problems and a
maximum of opportunities for growth and development?
When you have narrowed your list, be sure to visit, using the checklists
in this series. Ask questions, find out how the center or home or sitter
feels to you, and get references wherever possible.
KNOW THE REGULATIONS:
Family Day Care Homes and Child Care Centers should be
licensed. You can find out how to get a copy of the regulations by asking
the bureau in charge of licensing child care in your state.
PREPARE FOR SEPARATION:
Once you have selected care, begin to prepare your child for
this new experience. You might say, "Soon we will be leaving right
after breakfast. I will go to my new job, and you get to go to your new
school where there will be lots of fun things to do. You will even get to
eat lunch there. Then I will pick you up before dinner."
If possible, go with your child to visit and meet the caregiver. Then
start with an hour or so, before you have to leave your child for all day.
A skilled staff will help your child make this transition.
Take an extra pair of underwear and play pants in a bag marked with your
child's name. Also be sure to leave your work number and an emergency
number of a friend or relative to call in case you can't be reached.
Don't panic at the first problem. Talk over your concerns with the
caregiver, and don't be surprised if it takes your child several weeks to
get used to the new situation.
IS YOUR CHILD HAPPY?
If your child is happy and looks forward to going to the place
of child care, you know you've made a good choice. You can also check by
asking the staff how your child is doing, what she/he likes the most or
doesn't like, and whether there is a new friend to invite over to play on
You might also tell the staff about experiences your child is having at
home so that the caregiver understands your child as an individual If, for
any reason, the situation is not working out for you or your child after a
few weeks, let the caregiver know about the problems. Then look elsewhere
for an alternative. If the problems don't go away, and you do decide to
move your child, be sure to let the caregiver know and explain the reasons
for the move.
CHILD CARE AND INCOME TAX:
Check with the Internal Revenue Service
regarding income tax credits for child care. Considering the tax breaks,
child care may cost less than it seems at first.
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC.
Kees-Martin, S. (1981). Be choosy about child care (HE-3-81). Reno,
University of Nevada Reno, Cooperative Extension.