The ABCs of Choosing Child Care
You have been with your little one since she was born, seeing to her every want and whim. But she’s a little older now, and the workplace is calling your name. The added income will help with the family finances, but you are worried about finding just the right care for your baby.
You are not alone. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about 70 percent of parents place their young children in some type of daily child care. So, where is the best place to start? Read on for a comprehensive look at how to choose a child care option that is best suited to your family’s needs.
Whether you place your child in a daycare center or in a family-operated home daycare, it is vital that the organization and its employees be licensed professionals. This ensures that the care they provide is not only the result of education and training, but is also overseen by local and state agencies that are charged with keeping tabs on child care facilities.
Erika Ramirez-Lee, director of marketing with YMCA Childcare Resource Service in San Diego, notes that accredited institutions are sometimes hard to find and can be more costly, but that licensed centers and child care homes must also adhere to provider/child ratios and nutritional standards, and must submit to regular visits by trained state inspectors.
Likewise, licensed caretakers will have CPR training and most will be advancing through child development college course credits.
Finances are an important consideration when choosing child care. According to a 2014 report by ChildCareAware.org, “The cost of child care in the United States can be as much as $14,508 annually for an infant, or $12,280 annually for a four-year-old in a center, and does not always guarantee a quality environment.”
That’s a big chunk of change.
As you sign on the dotted line, give serious thought to not only the monthly tuition, but also commuting and other additional costs associated with working outside the home.
There are ways to defray the expenses. Some companies offer onsite child care, job sharing, scheduling flexibility and even telecommuting options as a way of unburdening families of the full tuition.
Many couples rely on extended family to help with their child care needs on a part-time basis as a way of mitigating costs and keeping youngsters at home whenever possible.
According to Ramirez-Lee, income-qualifying families may be eligible to receive financial support to pay a family member as a licensed exempt child care provider.
Let’s face it, the quality of care your child will receive has to be the most important factor when choosing child care.
Safety, health and cleanliness are among the top concerns parents should consider. But there are other dynamics to be aware of, such as noise and clutter, physical activity, learning activities and provider/child ratio.
“We always recommend that our parents visit the child care program in person,” Ramirez-Lee says. “It is perfectly all right to ask a child care provider about their experience.”
Your child’s personality may require the relative quiet of a home daycare situation or the bustle of a larger, busier child care center. Or perhaps a live-in nanny will offer your family a personal, stable presence, giving you peace of mind as you travel or work odd hours for your job.
Ramirez-Lee says that San Diego parents are encouraged to call upon the YMCA Childcare Resource Service for help with referrals, recommendations and even red flags to consider for prospective child care providers.
Finally, meet personally and interview all prospective caretakers to get a sense of their training, commitment to the children and overall knowledge, experience and sincerity for the job.
For support and resources, visit the YMCA Childcare Resource Service website or call 800-481-2151.
Kerri S. Mabee is a longtime contributor to San Diego Family Magazine.
Published: April 2015
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