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Child Care: Finding and Choosing

There are many kinds of child care to choose from. It helps if you look at all the options. What is good for other children may not be the best for your child. You will need to compare price, hours, how good the programs are, and if they are close to home or work. Child care options include:

  • Child care centers
  • Family child care
  • Child care in your home
  • Before and after school child care

If you can, both parents should help choose which kind of child care is right for your child. Take your child with you when you visit and talk to the people who will take care of your child.

When you need to find child care, it helps to:

  • Make a list of names, addresses, and phone numbers of child care options in your area.
  • Learn about child care rules in your state.
  • Find out what training and experience caregivers have in caring for children.
  • Call some centers and set a time to visit. Plan to spend an hour or two with each. Try to visit when children are there.
  • Meet with both the director and the person who takes care of your child to talk about what you expect.
  • Spend an hour or two watching the children and staff at all the places you visit.
  • Look at the license to make sure it is up to date.
  • Ask for references and check them.
  • Talk with other parents whose children attend.
  • Ask lots of question. Trust your instincts.
  • After you find good child care, drop in for surprise visits from time to time.

What are child care centers?

Child care centers may also be called preschools, nursery schools, or learning centers. Most centers take children 3 to 5 years of age who are toilet-trained. Some take infants or toddlers younger than 3.

Child care centers must be licensed by the state. They must follow safety rules and the center staff must have certain kinds of training. The states also have rules about how many adults are needed to take care of a certain number of children. Check your state's laws. Federal guidelines for centers suggest no more than 3 infants for every adult; 4 toddlers for every adult; and 8 children aged 3 to 6 for each adult.

Before and after school care is most common for children 6 to 12 years of age. They may be open during holidays, school breaks, and vacations. Child care centers for school aged children may be in a day care center, school, church, or youth group such as boys and girls clubs.

Your employer may have an on-site child care center or a flexible savings account to help you save money to pay for child care.

Benefits of child care centers:

  • It is common for child care centers to have a greater choice of programs and play materials.
  • The person who takes care of your child is likely to be trained in child development.
  • It usually costs less than in-home care.
  • Your child can play with other children.
  • They may be open 12 hours per day year-round. Many offer both full-and half-day schedules. Nursery schools are often open half-days and are closed the same months as other schools.
  • The center is not likely to be closed if one of the people who takes care of your child is sick.

Drawbacks of child care centers:

  • Your child may not like being around a lot of other children. Your child may get less attention than in your home or a home child care setting.
  • Because your child will be around a lot of other children, your child may be sick more often. When your child is sick you will not be able to send him to the child care center.
  • You may need to agree to pay for year-round child care even if you don't need it.
  • You may need to pay a fee when you sign up.
  • The center hours and days may not be what you need.
  • Staff may quit, so your child may not have the same person who takes care of your child all the time.
  • It may cost more than family child care.

What is family child care?

This kind of child care is done by people who care for children in their home. The person who takes care of your child is often a mother with her own small children.

People who provide child care in their homes are usually licensed by the state. The states have rules about the number of adults needed to take care of a certain number of children. It’s best if a child care home does not have more than 6 children per adult. No person who takes care of your child should care for more than 2 children who are under 2 years of age without another adult to help.

Benefits of family child care:

  • Being in a home setting can be better for infants and toddlers.
  • More willing to work with children of all ages and may work with you on what hours you need child care.
  • It may cost less than center-based care.
  • Being in a smaller group of children can mean that your child gets more attention. It may also mean that your child does get sick as often as can happen in a child care center.

Drawbacks of family child care:

  • The person who takes care of your child may get sick or go on vacation and not be able to care for your child.
  • The person who takes care of your child may quit without much notice.
  • She may not have the right training or a lot of practice.
  • She may not offer the kinds of supplies or programs that child care centers can offer.
  • The person who takes care of your child may not be licensed.

What is child care in your home?

Child care in your home means hiring someone to care for your infant or young toddler in your own home. The person who takes care of your child may be a friend, neighbor, relative, or nanny. You can hire someone for half-day, all-day, or before or after school. If you hire the person through an agency, they will do a background check. You may be able to do a background check yourself. To learn more, contact Child Action at 916-369-0191.

Benefits of child care in your home:

  • Care in your home can be better for infants and toddlers.
  • Your child gets more attention when there are fewer children around.
  • It may be less costly than other choices if you have 3 or more children.
  • Your child can be cared for at home if they are sick.
  • Your child is not exposed to germs from other children.

Drawbacks of child care in your home:

  • It may be hard to find a person who takes care of your child.
  • It may be the most costly choice for 1 or 2 children.
  • You must pay all fees, taxes, social security, and sometimes benefits of the person who takes care of your child.
  • The person who takes care of your child may get sick, go on vacation, or quit and not be able to care for your child.
  • Your child may learn how to play with others by being around other children.
  • The person who takes care of your child may not have the right training or a lot of practice.
  • If a relative or friend takes care of your child, you may disagree with the way they do things. It may be hard on the relationship if you try to get them to do things the way you want, and they disagree. It’s hard to fire relatives or friends.

What is before- and after-school child care?

Before and after child care is meant for children 6 to 12 years of age. This type of child care may be in a day care center, school, community center, or in a home. Programs take care of children in the hours before and after school. They may take care of children during holidays, school breaks, and vacations. They may be more willing to work with you based on your needs.

Where can I find out about child care in my area?

You can find out about child care options from:

  • State Social Services, Human Services, or Health.
  • United Way.
  • YMCA/YWCA.
  • Churches.
  • Your local college.
  • Your child’s school.
  • Your employer.
  • Phone book (Look under Child Care, Camps, Nannies, or Schools - Preschool).
  • PTA.
  • Your child’s doctor.
  • Word-of-mouth from friends, neighbors, or other parents.

For child care standards see:

NACCRA, National Association of Child Care Reports & Referral Agencies
Web site: http://www.naccrra.org/

National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care
Web site: http://nrckids.org/

National Association of Education for Young Children
Web site: http://naeyc.org

National Association for Family Child Care
Web site: http://nafcc.org

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-02-08
Last reviewed: 2011-11-01
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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