The decision to use child care is an important issue to consider prior to working or obtaining further education for parents/guardians. other issues for consideration include general health and personality of the child/children, number of children to be enrolled in child care, hours child care will be needed, and distance to be traveled for child care and/or employment and education opportunities. once child care utilization has been decided, understanding the various aspects of quality and types of child care are important factors.
Child care resources
There are many resources for locating child care. “Word of mouth” recommendations from other parents, friends, or neighbors are excellent starting points. Physicians, employers, religious groups, YMCAs, or college/university listings may also be a resource for child care information. Phone listings and state agencies that license and regulate child care centers may be other resources.
The type of child care available in a community depends on many factors. Large urban/suburban communities may have a wider selection of types of child care due to the number of children and the demand of working parents. Early planning and a clear understanding of individual child/children’s needs, in order to keep as many options available as possible, is a key component of successful child care.
The cost of child care varies widely and may be based upon factors such as number of children, hours of child care provided, location of child care, age of child (children), educational level and number of providers, the inclusion of meals and supplies, in addition to the community supply and demand for child care.
Quality of child care
There are many factors which determine quality of child care. Licensure or regulation by the state or accreditation by a national child care organization may be one measure of quality child care. While these measures may not be available for all child care environments, other factors to consider include the ratio of child care providers:children, taking into consideration the age of the children and experience level of the providers. In addition to the experience level, the educational level of the child care provider and opportunities for continuing education are other important considerations. Duration of staff retention is an important measure of child care consistency. Responsiveness of staff to the child/children is important with regard to child-appropriate activities, addressing needs and requests of children, and appropriate use of discipline and redirection depending on the child’s age. Examination of the physical space for safe, clean areas for children and the presence of child-centered equipment are other important considerations.
Health policies regarding diapering and toileting techniques, separation of food preparation and toileting/diapering areas, and hand washing policies for children and staff should be investigated. Nutrition is another important aspect of child care, since children may spend a majority of their day in a child care center. Variety and types of food provided are important to consider, especially if children have allergies or other health problems. There are many agencies that have agreed upon and recommended nutritional standards for child care centers. Perhaps the most important factor is how the parent(s)/guardian(s) and the child (children) feel about the child care environment, from the level of personal interactions to the physical surroundings.
Types of child care
Child care can range from in-home care, home provider child care, or large child care centers. In-home care often refers to a person coming to the child’s (children’s) home to provide care, such as a relative or a nanny. Nannies may/may not have had formal education and/or experience taking care of children. In-home providers are often not regulated by the state but nanny placement agencies may be regulated in some states. Foreign exchange student programs may also be another resource for in-home child care. Prior to hiring an in-home provider, criminal record and child abuse background checks should be completed. In-home child care usually involves only the child/children within one family. Families may choose in-home providers so that children have a consistent provider in a familiar surrounding and transportation is less complex for the parents/guardians. Children in in-home child care may have less exposure to other children for interactive play and illnesses. If the in-home provider is ill, alternative child care arrangements must be made. In-home child care is often the most expensive type of child care.
Home providers refer to child care in the residence of the provider. There may be several families that use the home provider for child care, and the children will vary in age and number depending on the home provider and state regulations. Home providers should have a criminal record and child abuse background check by the state prior to providing child care. Home providers may or may not be regulated depending on the state. Home providers usually provide consistent care for a slightly larger number of children than in-home child care. Illness of the home provider may create challenges for a family to arrange alternative child care options. Home providers may be the least expensive of all the child care options.
Large child care centers (day care) refer to large centers that have many families and children of various ages enrolled. Large child care centers are licensed by the states and need to meet health, safety, and caregiver guidelines in addition to submitting to at least annual inspections. Large child care centers may also be accredited by national organizations and meet requirements above minimum standards for state licensure. Children who attend large child care centers may be exposed to a more diverse group of people, but may also have more illnesses than children in smaller child care environments. The cost of large child care centers will vary depending on the community, but generally will be less expensive than in-home child care.
SEE ALSO: Adolescence, Adoption, Child abuse, Day care, Parenting, Pregnancy, Quality of life, Stress, Teen pregnancy