Choosing Child Care
Group Child Care Providers
Types of group child care
- Child care cooperative. Child care cooperatives or babysitting cooperatives are set up and run by parents, usually for occasional child care. But some cooperatives provide regular child care for their members. Parents usually take turns watching each other's children instead of paying money for child care. This often works well for parents who have a flexible schedule, work part-time, or work at home.
- Child care in someone's home. Family child care may offer more flexibility than larger group care centers, but quality varies among providers. All family child care operations should be registered or licensed in the state, even if it is not legally required. (Some states exempt family child care operations from licensing requirements.) Although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has Reference recommendations for safe child-to-teacher ratios and group size, each state creates its own regulations.
- Child care center. Centers that provide care for groups of children vary in size, setting, programs, and types of activities. Get a list of child care centers in your region from your state licensing bureau. Each state sets its own licensing standards. Some are lax, and others are very strict. Child care centers are sometimes called nursery schools, preschools, Reference Head Start, Montessori schools, or day care centers.
Selecting a group child care provider
Begin your search by asking friends and family and using your local library and newspaper. You also may want to contact referral organizations and your doctor. See the Other Places to Get Help section of this topic for more information.
Choose a few providers you'd like to interview, and write down the questions you have. Do a first screening over the phone and take notes. Ask about or consider:
- The location, price, and hours of operation, and whether there is a waiting list.
- Age ranges of children. Also ask about the child-to-teacher ratio and the total group size.
- Types of activities and educational programs offered.
- Whether there are Reference extra costs for late pick-up, food, supplies, and other things.
Set up a meeting with the director of each facility or home setting that passes your first screening. Plan enough time to take a tour and talk about their Reference service guidelines, such as when payment is expected and scheduled closures. Make sure you are shown the entire facility or home. Notice whether the children appear happy and playful, and notice how they are treated by the care providers.
A child's environment should be safe, healthy, and clean. Make sure that staff are knowledgeable about preventing safety hazards and responding to emergencies. There should be:
- Reference Emergency procedures, which include regular drills and staff training in first aid and CPR.
- Reference Health and safety policies, including the immunization of all children and staff as well as how outbreaks of contagious illness are handled.
- Reference Conduct rules for children, to help maintain order and help children know what is expected of them.
- Reference Cleanliness and hygiene standards, including the general appearance, layout, and sanitation of the facility.
- Reference Food handling and preparation standards, including where and what types of foods are prepared.
- Reference Playground safety guidelines, such as the type of equipment and basic rules that children are expected to follow.
High-quality staff and programs are also important:
- Reference Child care providers of high quality will have a solid educational background, which includes training in childhood development, and will have acquired years of experience working with children. Group care programs should have low teacher turnover. Caregivers should be warm and responsive to children.
- Reference Safe staff-child ratio will vary by age group. Higher-quality centers have low child-to-staff ratios and small total group size. Children are generally grouped by age: infants (birth to 12 months), toddlers (13 to 35 months), preschoolers (36 to 59 months), and school-aged (5 to 12 years of age).
- Reference Educational programs and activities should offer variety and appropriate indoor and outdoor activities to match the ages and developmental levels of the children.
- Reference Licensing should be a consideration. Although any program you consider should be licensed by your state, in itself licensing doesn't mean the care given is of high quality. Each state has different child care licensing requirements and enforcement procedures.
- Accreditation is additional insurance that a child care facility is of high quality. Look for those programs that have or are in the process of obtaining accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC).
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference September 14, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Reference John Pope, MD - Pediatrics