Finding the right person to care for your child while you are at work can be a difficult task, but most parents must rely on someone to look after their children at least some of the time, so finding the best care possible is important. While is can take a bit of effort to locate the ideal caregiver, it is well worth the effort.
- Decide on the type of care you prefer. Full-time caregiving options vary a bit, but most fall into one of four categories: family member, nanny, child care center, or home daycare provider. Each type of care has its pros and cons, and most parents have definite preferences.
- Choosing a family member may seem ideal at first glance, but if there are differences of opinion about nutrition, nap schedules, house rules, or television watching, it can be problematic. Many people find it awkward to approach family members when they have a concern about the care that their children receive.
- Private nanny care is favored by many parents, but it is not without its downside. Such individualized care can be costly and unless the nanny makes an effort to take the children to outside activities, they may not get adequate opportunities for healthy socialization.
- Child care centers are usually less expensive than nannies, but employee turnover rates tend to be high, which can be difficult for children who develop attachments to their caregivers, only to have them replaced with different, unfamiliar faces.
- Finally, home daycare providers are usually the least expensive non-family option, but most work alone and in the event that they become ill or need time off, parents must find alternate care.
- Interview caregivers. Unless you are planning to leave your children in the care of a family member, you'll probably want to interview several people or centers before making your final decision. If you are looking at child care centers, ask about their safety records, employee turnover rate, fees, hours of operation, and policies. For nannies or home daycare providers, be sure that you understand how they plan to structure your child's days and pay close attention to how they refer to the children currently in their care as well as previous clients. All caregivers should be CPR certified and willing to submit to extensive background checks.
- Require quality. Kids need and deserve to be actively engaged in meaningful activities in daycare, so don't be shy about asking how your children will spend their time. Ideally, days will have a balance of structured and free time, indoor and outdoor play, and active and rest time. Kids should be learning, but mostly through play and quality interaction with their caregivers. Finally, children should be allowed and encouraged to form strong bonds with their caregivers, so it's important that potential caregivers are emotionally available to meet children's needs.
- Check references. No matter the type of care that you choose, be sure to ask for and check references. Past clients may be able to offer great insight to the level of care that you can expect, as well as the overall reliability of the caregiver. When checking references, ask specific questions that address your biggest concerns. For example, it's important to know how the caregiver handled discipline, potty training, and other aspects of daily caregiving.
- Iron out the details. Before hiring a nanny or enrolling your child in a center or home daycare program, be sure that you and the prospective caregivers are in agreement about all of the little details. Most caregivers charge extra for early drop-off or late pick-up, so go over those fees in advance. Additionally, ask about whether or not you are expected to pay for days when your child does not attend due to illness or vacation time, and in the case of nannies and home daycares, be clear on their own needs for time off.
- Trust your instincts. While it's important to do your homework, no amount of glowing references can compensate for a bad gut feeling. Let's face it - every person on someone's reference list is likely to have positive things to say. If a caregiver has had negative experiences with past clients, they aren't likely to include those people amongst their references. Be sure that you have a good feeling about the people that you plan to put in charge of your children's care; they should seem kind and genuine. Anything less is not enough.
Choosing a child care provider is an important decision. Many children spend a great deal of time in daycare, so it matters a great deal that their providers are gentle and loving, with the best interests of the children at heart.