Choosing the Right Child Care for Your Family

As women have increasingly joined the workforce, the demand for childcare is a growing issue for single moms and families alike. Most working parents start looking for day care if a grandparent, relative or friend isn’t available to care for their child, but finding the right fit isn’t always easy.

In smaller communities, availability can be an issue due to limited options, while in larger cities, it can be difficult to wade through the dozens of available facilities. There are many aspects to consider, such as proximity to work and home, facility size, teacher to child ratio, tuition costs and more. That’s why we compiled some helpful information to make choosing the right child care for your family a little bit easier.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, almost 50 percent of children under the age of five are in out-of-home care, making high-quality care crucial for millions of American families. The AAP states that when care is dependable, compassionate and appropriate for a child’s age, development and temperament, the child reaps the rewards. These benefits include improved brain growth and development and superior performance in school, as well as heightened cognition, interpersonal and social abilities, and self-control, among others.

Angela Mix, D.O., pediatrician and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Plano, says she provides parents with a few online sources and then gives them some other information to think about.

“I routinely refer parents to healthychildren.org or the AAP website parent portal,” she says.

There is also a good online list of things to consider, called Choosing a Child Care Center.

Parents should think about the benefits and drawbacks to choosing a center, in-home care or a nanny. Centers have more strict rules and regulations to follow, but there is an increased risk of child abuse in the home setting or with a nanny because there are no cameras. It is imperative to obtain multiple references from families who have used the caregiver in the past.

“The parent must do their ‘due diligence’ not just to obtain references, but also to tour the child care center to observe the environment and the interaction between your child and the staff/caregiver. Communication is key, so make sure to ask how you will receive feedback regarding your child upon a daily basis, and what their policy is regarding illness or injury.”

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is a great place to start your research. The organization provides lists of licensed child care centers, registered or licensed child care homes, and unregistered/unlicensed family homes, as well as a list of involuntarily suspended or revoked child care operations within the past five years.

Child Care Aware is also a great launching point for parents exploring daycare options, offers information by state (Texas info. here) and suggests the following five steps to securing the best child care for each family’s needs:

  1. Start researching your options early. Once you find out you’re expecting, give yourself time to review your local options and get on a waitlist if necessary.
  2. Call your local Child Care Resource & Referral agency to find out about licensing requirements and violations for day cares in your area, quality rating systems and available financial assistance programs.
  3. Visit each child care location in person, ask lots of questions, and make notes about factors such as child-to-teacher ratio, group size, teacher qualifications, teacher turnover rate and facility accreditation.
  4. Choose the best facility for your individual needs by reviewing your visits, checking inspection reports and contacting references.
  5. Stay involved with your child’s care by volunteering and touching base regularly with teachers and administrators. Re-evaluate regularly to ensure the facility still best meets your family’s needs.

The AAP recommends talking to friends and neighbors for recommendations of high-quality child care centers, as well as contacting references offered. Additionally, consider asking the following questions when visiting potential care facilities:

  • Are babies held during feeding?
  • How long are babies allowed to cry before being picked up?
  • What is the facility’s policy when a baby/child cannot be consoled?
  • What activities are planned for the babies/children?
  • How many babies/children are placed with each caregiver?
  • What do you feel is most important for babies/children at this age and/or developmental stage?
  • What are your hours and what happens if I am late for drop-off or pick-up?
  • Are children allowed to watch television? How much time per day?
  • How is discipline handled?
  • Is smoking allowed on the premises?
  • What safety features are in place?
  • Are all employees first aid and CPR certified?
  • Is medication always kept in childproof containers?
  • Are cleaners and pesticides locked up at all times?
  • How do you handle children with severe allergies?
  • What is your policy on guns on the premises for both employees and visitors?
  • Is there an “open door” policy so I can visit at any time without notice?
  • Are criminal background checks conducted on employees? What types of activities would disqualify an employee from working here?
  • Is the facility licensed and accredited?

Mix says that regardless of what kind of facility parents decide on, there are a few additional things to consider.

“Have a backup plan for child care when your child becomes ill or is sick with fever,” she recommends. “You must have backup care or you WILL miss a lot of work during the first year your child starts either day care or preschool. I also tell parents that if a child is in the daycare setting more than 30 to 35 hours per week, there is an increased risk of behavioral issues. Whenever they can, I encourage parents to pick their child up a bit early, take a day off or have a relative help out once in awhile.”

In need of a pediatrician? Visit TexasHealth.org/findaphysician to find the closest pediatrician to you. Need some help choosing a pediatrician? Read our article “Selecting a Pediatrician” for helpful information and tips. 

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