Choosing the Right Daycare

by Jessica Brita-Segyde

Babies need it all. Food, diapers, toys, songs, love, sleep, a safe crib, healthy boundaries and lots of conversation. Once they’re about two years old and from that point forward they still need it all except maybe the diapers. It’s no wonder, then, that choosing the right daycare can feel overwhelming. What a big decision! If you need to select a childcare provider, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. According to the Pew Research Group, approximately 2/3 of mothers currently work outside the home. This means that many families are utilizing full- and part-time daycare to help raise their little ones. If you think you’ll need professional childcare now or within the next year, it’s time to start researching. Consider the following:

Full-time versus Part-time

Some daycares offer a part-time schedule and some don’t. Those that do are usually in high demand, so start looking as early as possible. You may need to get onto a waiting list. Families who choose part-time do so to avoid paying for daycare hours that they’re not using. It’s understandable that in-home and center-based facilities might be reluctant to adopt a part-time price structure since full-time revenue stream makes more sense from a business standpoint.

Families who choose full-time daycare typically work full-time themselves. This could require a provider commitment of over 40 hours per week. If you work an unpredictable schedule and may be late to pickups, even by 15 minutes, discuss this with your provider before signing a contract. You will likely be charged for every 5-15 minutes of tardiness past your scheduled pickup time.

Closer to Home versus Closer to work

This is a tough call. It helps to map out the morning and evening commutes of parents and any caregivers who will regularly provide transportation. Some parents want their children closer to work in case of emergency. Other enjoy the quiet time during their drive from work to daycare (and then a short trip home). All other factors held constant, location is really a matter of parent preference.

In-Home or Professional Facility?

This is the classic debate with respect to paid childcare. Should you opt for an in-home professional or seek care at a center-based facility? Both options have paths to licensing and advanced accreditation. In-home childcare tends to cost less but you may be relying on a sole provider. In this case, when your caregiver becomes ill or takes a vacation you’ll have to make alternate arrangements.

Another factor to consider here is your comfort level with larger groups of adults and children onsite. Center-based facilities will probably have a greater number of staff and will have some employee turnover as time passes. Individuals who provide in-home childcare could have visitors and/or contractors drop by on occasion, though anyone who is regularly in contact with the children should be registered with their state’s licensing agency. It might be wise to schedule interviews at both types of facilities before narrowing your scope.

Research, Research, Research

Choosing a daycare requires much time and attention. Friends, family, and co-workers can offer great suggestions and references, but it’s the parents or primary guardians who know what’s best for their children. Legitimate daycare providers should be licensed in their state. Accreditation is a plus and requirements vary by agency. If you’re considering a provider that presents an accreditation accolade, research the agency with which they’re affiliated. One national agency that accredits in-home daycares is the National Association for Family Child Care. The National Association for the Education of Young Children offers a path to accreditation for preschool programs. States may implement their own accreditation procedures. For example, the state of Indiana utilizes Paths to Quality. An informed daycare decision involves a combination of logistics, personal preference, license review and, ultimately, gut instinct.

 

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