Choosing Child Care for Baby : Checklist for Child-Care Situations, In-Home Child Care

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1. Checklist for Child-Care Situations

When you’re choosing child care for your baby, keep the following in mind as you check out various places.

• Be sure the place is clean and childproofed, and the play area is fenced in. Look at equipment and toys to make sure they are safe, clean and well-maintained.

• Watch how child-care providers interact with the children. Are they actively involved with them? The ratio of infants to care givers should be 3 to 1, with no more than 6 babies in a group.

• Ask about the turnover rate of employees. See how the director interacts with his or her staff. Check to see that all caregivers have been checked out thoroughly by the center before they were employed.

• Are visits to your child permitted at any time, or are you asked to come only at certain times so you don’t disrupt routines?

• Check snacks to see if they are nutritious and prepared in a clean kitchen or prep area.

2. In-Home Child Care

In-home child care involves either someone coming to your home to take care of baby or you taking baby to someone else’s house. With in-home care, the care-giver can be a relative or nonrelative.

When you have someone come to your home, it makes things easier for you. You don’t have to get baby ready in the morning. You never have to take your child out in bad weather. If she’s sick, you don’t have to take time off from work or try to find someone to stay with her. It takes less time in the morning and evening if you don’t have to drop off baby or pick her up.

Care in your own home may be an excellent choice for a baby or small child because it provides one-on-one attention (if you only have one child at home). The environment is also familiar to the child.

Taking your child to someone else’s home is another in-home care option. Often homes have small group sizes and offer more flexibility for parents, such as keeping the child longer on a day you have a late meeting. They may offer a home-like setting, and your child may receive lots of attention. In a group-home situation, there should be a maximum of two children under age 2.

Whether you choose to have someone come to your home or take your child to another person’s home, there are some steps you can use to find a care provider. Following the suggestions below can help you find the best caregiver for your child.

Advertise in local newspapers and church bulletins to find someone to interview. State how many children are to be cared for and their ages. Include information on the days and hours care is needed, experience you’re seeking and any other particulars. State that references are required and you will check them.

Talk to people on the telephone first to determine whether you want to interview them. Ask about their experience, qualifications, child-care philosophy and what they are seeking in a position. Then decide if you want to pursue the contact with an in-person interview. Make a list of all your concerns, including days and hours someone is needed, duties to be performed and need for a driver’s license. Discuss these with the potential caregiver.

Check references for anyone you’re considering! Have the potential caregiver give you the names and phone numbers of people he or she has worked for in the past. Call each family, let them know you’re considering this person as a caregiver and discuss it with them.

Care for an Infant

Be sure the place you choose for your infant can meet her needs. A baby must be changed and fed, but she also needs to be held and interacted with. She needs to be comforted when she’s afraid. She needs to rest at certain times each day.

When searching for a place, keep in mind what will be required for your child. Evaluate every situation as to how it can respond to the needs of your baby.

After you hire someone, drop by occasionally unannounced. See how everything is when you do. Pay attention to how your child reacts when you leave or arrive. This can give you a clue as to how your child feels about the caregiver. Do this for any type of child care you choose.

3. Child-Care Centers

At a child-care center, many children are cared for in a larger setting. Centers vary widely in the facilities and activities they provide, the amount of attention they give each child, group sizes and child-care philosophy. Day-care centers usually provide care to many children.

You may find some child-care centers don’t accept infants. Often centers focus more on older children; babies take a lot of time and attention. If the center accepts infants, the ratio of caregivers to children should be about one adult to every three or four children (up to age 2).

Inquire about training required for each child-care provider or teacher. Some facilities expect more from a caregiver than others. In some cases, a facility hires only trained, qualified personnel, or they train them and provide additional training.

4. The Cost of Child Care

Paying for child care can be a big-budget item in household expenses. For some families, it can cost as much as 25% or more of their household budget. Public funding is available for some families. Title EE is a program paid for with federal funds. Call your local Department of Social Services to see if you’re eligible.

Other programs that can help with child-care costs include a federal tax-credit program, the dependent-care-assistance program and earned-income tax credit. These programs are regulated by the federal government. Contact the Internal Revenue Service at 800-829-1040 for further information.

5. Special-Care Needs

In some situations, your child may have special needs. If your baby is born with a problem and needs one-on-one care, you may have a harder time finding child care. In these special cases, you may have to spend extra time seeking a qualified care provider.

Contact the hospital where your child has been cared for, and ask for references. Or contact your pediatrician. The office staff may be in contact with someone who can help you. It may be better for a child with special needs for the care provider to come to your home.

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