A Parent’s Guide to Choosing Child Care
As a parent of a young child, one of the most important decisions you will make is choosing who will care for your child while you’re at work. Here’s how to get started:
Do you want your child to be cared for at home? Or, does it make more sense to bring your child to the caregiver? Once you’ve made this decision, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says, you can investigate common types of settings:
In-home care. Having a nanny or babysitter come to your home allows your child lots of one-on-one attention. It may give you a more flexible schedule, too. But, it can be expensive. Keep in mind that most states don’t regulate this type of care. So, you may need to do more of your own research on the sitter’s background.
Family child care. This type of care takes place in the caregiver’s home instead of yours. One adult may take in up to six children. But, that number may rise to 12 if a qualified assistant is on hand to help. All family child-care providers must meet minimum health, safety and nutrition standards. But, not all states require them to be licensed, undergo background checks or have regular home inspections.
Center-based care. Children usually are grouped by age in a classroom setting, often with a set schedule of activities. Centers that handle large groups of children must be licensed by their state. This means that they are required to meet certain health and safety standards, as well as make sure caregivers receive appropriate training. Other regulations also may apply in your state.
Signs of quality
What makes a caregiver a good choice for your child? The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies encourages parents to look for the following:
A safe, stimulating environment
A low ratio of children to staff
Consistent, warm relationships between caregivers and children
See for yourself
Don’t make a choice before visiting the site. Most places allow parents to drop in unannounced.
“It’s worthwhile to casually watch the children and whoever is supervising them," says Kerry English, M.D., a member of the AAP’s National Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption and Dependent Care. "You’ll get a sense of whether there’s a positive, negative or neutral interaction.”
Feel free to ask a caregiver about any specific concerns. If you’re happy with the answers you get, you just may have found a great place for your child to grow.