Child Care Providers
Child care services – how to find the right child care option for you
Having been on both sides of the child care services issue – as a mom looking for child care and as a licensed provider of child care with a BA in Child Psychology and Child Development, I bring a unique perspective to this question. In order to find the right child care option for you, it will be valuable to get some clarity about the following issues.
Relationship with Provider
Your relationship with the person who will be providing the hands-on care for your child is of key importance. Optimally, you will want to select at least five candidates to interview, with the understanding that the interviewing process will be a mutual experience. In other words, the fit between a family and the provider must be equally agreed upon by all participants. So while you may think you are interviewing them to see who qualifies as a good fit, the ideal provider will also be interviewing you and your family to see if you qualify as a good fit for them.
If you are coming from a different place philosophically from the person who is to be providing care for your children, you will likely face a host of problems. To get a sense of compatibility here, ask some value-based questions. These questions require answers that reveal the values of the responder either directly or indirectly. Value-based questions are not limited in scope; in fact, the majority of the questions you're likely to ask will be of that nature. Pay attention to what is being revealed to you.
For instance, if you were to ask, "What is your favorite thing about your work day," the answers will vary, yet they will invariably reveal what is valued by the potential caregiver. A person who values spontaneity is likely to give a different answer than someone who values order and rules. And there is nothing wrong with either one. The point is that you want to find the right fit for your family. Don't make the mistake of thinking this means both parties must match up 100 percent in all areas. For example, I happen to have an extremely high tolerance for messes in the home, as my value for creativity and experimentation supersedes my value for orderliness. Don't confuse orderliness with cleanliness mind you – I've often attracted parents who had a low tolerance for messes but also valued their child having the opportunity to be creative and (safely) experimental – thus my child care home was a great fit for them!
Finally, I suggest you pay attention to the interviewee's comfort levels when discussing a variety of topics. There are few services that place you in as intimate a relationship as the one providing care for your child. Believe me, your child will be willing to discuss anything and everything under the sun with this person, and you will want to be able to do likewise!
Type of Care Situation
It's important to consider what kind of situation would serve you and your child. There are three main types, all with pros and cons, and once you narrow down your choice to one type, it's simply a matter of weighing them against each other to discover the right option for you.
- No transportation issue. Whether the nanny is a live-in or arrives at your home each day the care is needed, you save time without the extra stop in your day.
- Your child gets one-on-one attention and the comforts of home. Many nannies offer transportation to extracurricular activities as well.
- Nannies frequently offer the greatest flexibility in terms of scheduling.
- The cost can be significantly higher.
- Typically fewer opportunities to develop social skills with peers.
Child Care Center
- Usually more cost-effective than a nanny.
- A trained staff is mindful of developmental needs.
- Many have the financial resources to bring in specialized instructors and tutors and can take children on field trips.
- Extra staff means no worries about a provider taking time off.
- Age segregated. Typically different age groups spend their day together away from other children. The benefit here is that providers in each room are consistently dealing with the same developmental issues, honing their sensitivity. It also minimizes safety issues that can crop up with mixed age groups.
- Age segregated. There are benefits that come naturally for children exposed to a mix of ages. While perhaps not truly detrimental, these missed benefits minimize potential enrichment for the child.
- Large staff turnover. The salary in this field is typically low, while the challenges are typically quite demanding. As a result, the turnover of staff at child care centers is usually high. This can pose some emotional issues around bonding for some children.
- Space. Though child care centers can appear large, it's important to understand how much space your child will actually have available to them. Since they are typically age-segregated, there will be more areas that are off-limits to a given child than available ones.
- Lack of flexibility in scheduling during the day. Depending on your child's temperament, this may be more or less of an issue. Since most activities take place in the same room, your child may frequently have to disengage from an activity of interest before they are prepared to do so. In other words, the day runs more by the clock than by inspiration.
In-Home Licensed Family Child Care
- A good family child care home truly offers a welcoming sense of family. The environment, while child-safe and child-friendly, provides the rich variety of accommodations that naturally arise in a family environment.
- Mixed ages. There is a dynamic that occurs when children are together. Good or bad, they teach one another, love one another and encourage one another in ways that adults just can't touch. Whether it's the endearing pat on the head offered to an infant by a slightly older toddler, or the energetic encouragement of a five-year-old to that same wobbly toddler to catch a ball, there is simply nothing that can replace the growth and development from these interactions found in family child care homes.
- Curriculum flexibility. Since care is typically taking place in various rooms of the home, the curriculum provided by an in-home child care provider has more flexibility than the care found in centers. Activities in progress can be left as they are, to then be resumed after a brief break. A child who may be slow to warm up is more likely to have the time to experience something he or she may have otherwise missed out on.
- Extended hours are often possible. While it's unlikely you'll find the flexibility you might get from a nanny, the family child care home is more likely to offer hours to fit unusual schedules than care at a center.
- Typically the lowest cost option. There is great variation depending on neighborhoods, so if cost is a significant concern, consider checking a variety of areas near your home or work.
- Finding a truly good family child care home may take more interviewing before a fit is discovered. There are many reasons why people will choose to open their home to child care, and you will want to take the time to find a provider who is truly passionate about providing quality, child-centered care. The last thing you want is to have your child plunked down in front of a television by a disinterested and uninformed babysitter.
- Depending on a family child care provider means you're depending on their availability. Thoroughly discuss their vacation, holiday and sick policies because when the provider is unavailable, you may need to provide your own backup.
Consider these factors and then follow your heart – it won't lead you astray!