Raising children requires making many decisions and choices. You can consult Consumer Reports for information about the safest child seat or your pediatrician for the best diet, but where do you get reliable information to guide you in finding the best child care for your infant or toddler when you or your partner head back to work?
The decision to include people other than family in the care of your infant or toddler can be an overwhelming one. There are many choices: family or friends, in-home child care and child care centers. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. There are several indicators to use when evaluating potential childcare options. Obviously, you will want to ask about hours, rates, what is provided, etc. Here some other questions to ask:
How many children is each adult responsible for? You want to know the ratio of children to caregivers because the lower the ratio, the more individualized the activities will be for your child.
How many children are in the group that your child will be joining? For example, how many infants are there in each classroom? Lower group sizes ensure that each child will have their needs met promptly.
What kind of education does the caregiver have in the field of early childhood? Does s/he have a degree from an accredited institution? Knowing the caregiver’s educational background can give you a sense of his/her competence as well as ability to create a developmentally appropriate learning environment for your child.
What kinds of on-going training are teachers/caregivers required to complete? Are they current on such items as First Aid/CPR training and food handling? This is often an indication of the quality of health and safety in the child care environment.
How stable is the staffing? Is there frequent turnover in caregiver staff? You will want your child to have an unwavering caregiver-child relationship. Experts agree that it is vital for an infant’s emotional development to have one primary care giver for more than a year and optimally from entry into child care until the child is at least 3 years old.
How are the caregivers/teachers compensated? Are they making a living wage? Do they receive benefits? Are the caregivers/teachers worried about paying bills or are they able to focus on the needs of your child? Teachers with secure incomes will be more likely to stay in the same center for longer periods of time. The quality of the relationship between the child care provider and the child influences every aspect of young children’s development.
Child care providers should be early childhood educators for both the parents and the children in their care. They are not just babysitters. They facilitate learning and, as such, many strive to be well educated, trained and certified. And parents should want and expect these high standards from the people with whom they are leaving their most precious beings.
When searching for high quality child care, always take the time to research the provider. You can contact Family Connections at 541-463-3954 and receive referrals on providers in your neighborhood or close to your work. You can always ask the provider for references. We suggest calling those references and asking them the above questions.
Finally, trust your instincts. If something doesn’t seem right or is blaringly wrong, you can contact the Child Care Division to ask about complaints filed on this provider or file a complaint at 1-800-556-6616.
Part 2 of our focus on child care in Lane County will look at child care providers as a work force and how their professional development highly influences your child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical development.
Heather O’Leary is the Program Director of Family Connections of Lane and Douglas Counties, the local child care resource and referral agency at Lane Community College. Serafina Clarke is with the Lane County Commission on Children and Families. Both are members of the Early Childhood Planning Team with a focus on infant and toddler child care in Lane County. For information regarding child care issues or questions about Family Connections, provider trainings or parent referrals, call 541-463-3954. Parenting Now! is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening families through parent support and education. Explore this site; visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram; or call 541-484-5316. Family Info Line is also available; call 211, extension 5, or send an e-mail to email@example.com