Day Care

August 17, 2011

Day care is the care, on a continuing basis, of a child by someone other than the child’s parents. Day care can come in many forms, and it is not limited to daytime. Parents who work evenings and nights often need “day care” for children at night.

Center-based day care is provided in a place that is built or made to suit the purposes of caring for many children. Center-based day care is usually regulated by the state. The regulations can require qualifications for the staff of the day care, the physical properties of the facility, and the ratio of staff to children. Center-based day care can be run by a not-for-profit group or by someone who is working to make a profit. The not-forprofit centers are often associated with religious groups and they may share space. Not-for-profit centers typically have a board of directors or advisors that allows for parent input into how the center is run.

Home-based day care is an alternative to centerbased day care. Home-based day care may also require state licensing by the state, depending on the number of children that are cared for. Even less formal than home-based day care is the provision of care for a child or children by a relative, friend, or someone employed for the purpose of child care. These arrangements are not regulated, with the exception of laws that apply to employing and paying people.

Parents choose different forms of child care for different reasons. Each form has its advantages and disadvantages. Center-based care offers children an opportunity to meet and play with other children, and offers parents reliability and reassurance that more than one adult is involved in the care of the child. Home-based day care offers a comfortable environment and a smaller number of children. Hiring an individual to provide day care allows the caregiver to focus on the individual child. Different day care providers have different ways of working with children. Some day care providers offer structured learning opportunities for the children, while others may offer less structured opportunities.

Finding good day care can require some work. Many areas have child care referral resources that can identify center-based and home-based day care services. The state licensing agency may be a good place to start to get this information. Asking other parents may be the best way to get information about the quality of various day care options.

The use of day care may be an issue if parents divorce or separate. Our national constitution requires people to be treated equally and laws that treat men and women differently must have a valid reason for doing so. Still, men and women are often treated differently. Child care is one of those areas where the historical separation of roles by gender may have an influence. Men who work outside the home are regarded as typical. But women who work outside the home may be considered less typical and this may be to their disadvantage in a child custody dispute.

SEE ALSO: Child care, Child custody, Divorce, Parenting, Quality of life

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