For moms and dads, the decision to place their child in the care of others is enormous, and finding a place that offers top-notch care is crucial. Here’s how to find a fit that works for your family.
Child care. Perhaps no other two words can create such strong emotions in parents’ minds. Some view it as necessary, perhaps wishing it wasn’t needed, while others view it quite differently. Some believe child care provides stimulation, socialization and educational experiences, which can truly benefit a child. Still many parents fall somewhere in between.
No matter what your opinion about child care, it can be one of the most gut-wrenching decisions you have to make. Where will you leave your precious child while you work? Who can possibly possess the skills, compassion and wisdom that you have? And, is it possible to find a place where your child can develop loving, stable relationships with adults who understand her, have a firm knowledge of child development and who can attend to her specific needs?
There are excellent child-care options out there. Finding the perfect one takes some digging. Armed with the right questions in mind, you can find a place for your little one. To prepare for your child’s child-care experience, plan in plenty of time. To enroll your child next fall, get started on your search now.
What Do You Want?
Depending upon you and your child’s needs, child care can vary. You may want your child to be cared for in a friend’s home or at a center. You should know the following:
- Child-Care Centers provide care for 13 or more children. The number and ages of children enrolled determine the number of adult staff. The Department of Human Services provides the licensing.
- Family Child-Care Homes provide care for at least five but not more than seven children. Children younger than 10 related to the caregiver must be included in the total number.
- Group Child-Care Homes provide care for at least eight but not more than 12 children. Up to three additional school-age children may receive care before and after school, on school holidays, snow days and during summer vacation.
- Drop-In Centers provide care for 15 or more children not to exceed 14 hours per week and for not more than seven hours per day for any individual child during regular working hours, Monday – Friday 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Not Required to License:
- Care provided in a child’s own home
- Program that operates no more than two days a week
- Occupational child care/teen-parenting labs
- Summer day camps
- Programs that operate less than three hours a day
- Boys and girls clubs
- Programs that care for four or fewer children
Where do I Look?
There are two very important places to look for child care. The first is perhaps most important to you: Other parents and friends. What a trusted mother or friend tells you about her own child-care experience should send you in the right direction. There’s nothing like a satisfied customer to let you know that the recommended care is worth looking into.
The Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R)
Operated through DHS, the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency provides referrals to child-care providers, information on licensing, availability of child-care subsidies and other pertinent information. You can also visit childcareaware.org for more information.
Once you’ve compiled a list of providers, call each one. The answers you receive to your preliminary questions should give you a feeling as to whether or not you’d like to visit. During your visits, look for signs that the home or center is clean and safe, that the children seem happy, and listen to your instincts! Finally, and perhaps most importantly, ask the provider for references from other parents, and call them.
Martha Wegner is a mother and freelance writer.