Choosing Quality Childcare
Every year, more parents are joining the workforce. In the near future, it is likely that two out of every three children under the age of six will live with two working parents or a single working parent. All of these parents have one thing in common: how to care for their children while they go off to work. This article contains information, ideas and suggestions to help you make the best possible choice of child care in community setting.

There are five basic types of child care:
  • Full Day Child Care Centers - Groups of children usually by age, in non-residential settings.
  • Family Child Care Homes - Care offered in the home of the provider, licensing or regulation vary from state to state. Mixed age groups.
  • Part Day Preschool - 3-5 year olds, normally a part day, part week, school year program.
  • School Time Out Programs - School Aged Care, normally before and after school hours and school holidays.
  • In-Home Care - Care provided in a child's home by a relative or other person hired by the parent.


Considerations

Important considerations when choosing care:

1. Age and personality of your child: You are the best judge of the right atmosphere for your child. Some children are shy or fearful and need quiet, small group settings while others do just fine in a large group with lots of noise and activity.

2. Your family's needs: Do you need care for more than one child? Do you want them in care together? If an older school aged child is also in need of care you will want to look in the area of the school. You may want to look close to home or close to work, depending on your transportation situation.

3. Hours: Most child care centers accommodate only standard workdays and hours. Family child care homes may be more flexible and offer evening and weekend schedules although this varies from area to area.

Getting Started Visits

An important part of choosing child care is visiting a number of sites. Spend time talking with the provider and observing interactions of the caregiver with children and parents. Allow at least an hour per visit. Call in advance to arrange an appointment. While you are there, ask to for copies of the parent handbook, brochure, newsletter and/or information sheet. After your visit, these materials may be helpful in making your decision.



Ask Questions

Remember, your child is growing and changing, and will have different needs in the future. If you try and think about new needs as you make your plans, you won't have to change child care so often. It's important for children to stay in with the same people as long as the arrangement sees right for them.

Most importantly, ask yourself if you feel comfortable with this arrangement. Believing that your child is in a warm, safe and interesting environment is essential. Go with your gut feeling, if you aren't happy, keep searching!

Choosing a child care program that meets the needs of your child as well as yourself can be a lengthy process. Your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency can help make this process less complex and stressful. Visit NACCRRA to locate the child Care Resource and Referral Agency near you. Make sure you checkout the "Five Steps to Finding Care" also available on their website.

by Charlotte Dedman