Choosing a childcare service

Finding the perfect place to place your kids.

Before searching for the right fit for your youngsters, understand your options to solve the childcare dilemma. You can choose a childcare center, family care provider or in-home caregiver.

Below is a review of child care types, as well as things to consider before hiring a live-in child caregiver or nanny.

Childcare centers

Daycare centers often foster learning and developmental strategies that include expanding vocabulary, how to share and how to resolve conflicts.

They are licensed by the state and staffed to care for larger numbers of children at once. However, many facilities aim for lower child-to-staff ratios, and this may be one of your searching points. Generally, child care centers divide their staff and classroom facilities by age, beginning with infants as young as 6 weeks.

    What to ask a prospective daycare
  • How they divide their age groups.

  • How much staff is allotted to each group.

  • What activities, meals and exercises are planned for each group.

  • What supplies and equipment will be available to the children.

Some centers are suited to parents who want to prepare their children for preschool and kindergarten by immersing them in a group environment to socialize with a higher number of children without parents watching over their shoulders.

Find out what you will need to do to enroll. Some facilities fill quickly and have long waiting lists, so you'll want to start your search very early (sometimes up to a year in advance) and review more than one center. Visits can be scheduled with or without the children present.

Family care providers

Under this type of supervision, children are cared for in small groups in a person's home. Many parents choose this type of care because it closely resembles their home environment. Family care providers work to create a space that is safe and secure, and one in which each child can receive more individual attention.

    What to know about a family care provider
  • They must be registered with Child Care Licensing at the state Department of Human Resources.

  • They are required to be certified in CPR and first aid.

  • They must undergo fingerprinting, a background check and some additional training annually.

In-home caregivers

In-home caregivers include live-in and live-out nannies and housekeepers. Parents often are drawn to this type of child care because of a range of advantages:

  • The caregiver is present in the child's own home, where he or she is likely to feel safest and most secure.

  • It provides greater flexibility for parents' schedules.

  • It can be as affordable or more affordable than daycare, especially when more than one child is concerned.

When you contact a nanny agency, you'll want to consider the following:

  • The training its nannies receive

  • How the agency screens its nannies

  • Whether each nanny is trained in CPR, and whether she or he can aid a choking child

  • Does she/he have excellent references?

  • Is the nanny trained in and sensitive to each stage of child development?

  • Is the nanny willing to take your child(ren) on walks and outings?

  • Is the nanny a nonsmoker?

  • Does the nanny have a car and valid driver's license?

  • Does the nanny enjoy playing with your children?

  • Are you willing to compensate the nanny with a salary that matches her/his training, education and background?

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