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Here’s how home child care differs from in-center day care, as well as 7 things to look for when you’re choosing a home child care program.
If hiring a nanny or enrolling in a day care center isn’t right for your child, family child care may be the perfect fit. It’s a day care operated out of an owner’s home.
Parents choose home child care for a variety of reasons. It’s usually the least expensive form of child care. It offers a home-like setting, rather than a center one. Home child programs usually offer a mixed age group, with a collection of infants, toddlers and preschoolers, so it’s more like a family than a classroom — this diversity can be a great learning environment for kids of all ages. Although there are some differences, this option shares many characteristics with a traditional day care center.
Safety is the No.1 concern for parents when considering any type of child care. Gibson often tells parents: “You wouldn’t turn over your credit card to a stranger, nor would you want to hand your child over to a stranger.”
When you interview the caregiver and tour the home, keep safety issues in mind. Parents should ask whether the provider is trained in child development and currently holds infant and child certification. Do caregivers keep up with regular training and certifications? The provider should follow all safety standards, such as always putting babies to sleep on their backs, keeping areas clear of hazards, washing hands, surfaces and toys and labeling all cups, bottles and food containers.
“You want to be comfortable with the person watching your child,” comments Surjit. She suggests that you “change up your schedule and show up at different times of day unannounced, so you can see what’s happening and make sure everything is safe.”
When it comes to licensing for family day care, the rules are a little tricky. Some states use the term “licensed,” while others say “certified.” Certain states are very thorough and have many standards for family child care providers and other states only include very basic safety standards.
“Parents should always look for providers who meet the regulations for their state,” reminds Dischler.
According to Naveen, “Parents should also call the licencor in their state to verify that the particular program is licensed, see if there are any complaints against the provider and see how often the licencor visits the program.”
Unregulated child care homes are a risk for parents and their children and should always be avoided.
“Also ask the provider who will be visiting the home during the day, as well as who lives in the home,” says Stolov. “Be sure that everyone in the home is background checked. No one should have contact with children unless it has been approved through the licensing department.”
- Adequate Space
There should be adequate space both indoors and outside for the number of children who are receiving care in the home. The standard used in most states is 35-square-feet per child.
- Solid Reputation
Ask for references from parents whose children are currently attending the family care center. Search online for reviews and comments on the service. Both methods will allow you to check the reputation of the provider and make sure families are happy. When a family child care home has been in operation for many years, it’s a good sign quality care is provided.
- Written Policies
Providers should offer parents a written copy of the daily routine and policies governing sick children and behavioral expectations. Age-appropriate rules and consequences in line with your parenting philosophy will make your child feel at home.
- Emergency Procedures
While day cares often have multiple caregivers, a family child care program is usually just one provider. Stolov suggests asking what happens in case of an emergency and making sure those rules are written down. “If the caregiver gets sick in the middle of the day, is there someone on call and can you meet them? Are they background checked? Are they listed with the licensing department as part of the emergency plan the provider must submit?”
Also ask the provider what her emergency plans are. Does she practice fire drills with the kids, for example, and how often?
- Open Lines of Communication
Gibson says the provider should be committed to working with parents as a team on issues that cross over from home to day care. Providers should also share concerns about the child’s development and tips to help parents deal with any problems the child may have.
Above all, Gibson recommends that you: “Look for someone who can look you in the eye and show you that they can offer you a great place for your child in a safe and clean environment with happy children.”
A great family child care provider will become a member of your family, helping raise your child in a loving manner to be kind, courteous, helpful, honest and respectful.
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