In a parent’s life one of the most unsettling and stressful moments occur when you realize “I NEED CHILDCARE!”. Those three little words carry a very heavy burden as you prepare to look for someone, possibly a stranger, to care for precious treasures, your children. Where do you begin? What do you look for? How do you know the questions to ask and the answers to expect? The decision before you is not an easy one but you are not alone. To help you navigate this unfamiliar course I want to share some important areas to consider as you interview prospective care providers.
- You are the parent and the client. It is not rude and you do not have to apologize for asking questions as you search for the best fit childcare environment for you and your children. Notice I said the best fit; several centers, in home and child day centers alike, may be excellent in the services they provide but are they excellent for you and your children? Ask questions, shop around, schedule a center tours, and ask to receive a registration package and a copy of the center’s newsletter. When you visit a center, make note of the customer service: is it inviting and professional, how do members of the staff interact with the children and each other. Do not focus solely on your tour guide; listen to the background sounds as well; observe with all of your senses while you are at the center. Contact your local Department of Social Services; many have a website that will provide you specific information about centers in your area. This is your time to put your investigative skills into action. Your mission is protecting your child and finding the best fit center for your needs.
- Licensed facility or unlicensed facility. Not every facility is licensed and the requirements vary depending on where the prospective center is located. Regardless if you are looking at an in home daycare or a child day center, determine if they are licensed and if not what type of monitoring system does the center employ? If a center is licensed social services will be the monitoring system and standard setter. However, if a center is unlicensed find out if they require criminal background checks of all employees, what is their established ratio, does the center have a staff requirement for 1st Aid and CPR certification, and what type of child development training does the staff receive. Note if the center has cameras installed. Remember it is not rude to ask questions, most providers and directors are parents also, they understand the magnitude of the decision before you.
- Home daycare or child day center? I have heard so much discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of both sides of the in home daycare and child day center battle. I have come to the conclusion that it is all about what works best for the child and the family at that stage in the child’s life. However, I do caution, all centers are not created equal. Just as you would investigate one type of center do not be less vigilant on the other type of center. Smaller does not mean you must settle and bigger does not mean better. For example, if structure and curriculum is important to you and yet your family needs an in home environment do not settle in either area.
- What are your academic goals? Yes, I do understand we are talking about infants and pre-school aged children, but long gone are the days when glorified babysitting is considered an acceptable alternative to early childhood development. What are your academic goals and what type of center will support you in your endeavors to help your child meet those goals? Inquire concerning the center’s method of study and their program for physical and cognitive development. Are you looking for a program that uses structured curriculum or learning through play: or do you believe a center that promotes “learn at your own pace” or “learning through experience” suits the needs of you and your child? Yes, answering these questions with an informed mind may take a little research time, but I assure you it is an investment in time that will produce an immeasurable return in the life of your children.
- Count the cost. Before you go looking for a program for your child you will want to know your budget. While it is true your children are worth their weight in gold that may not translate to your budget. With your budget in mind you will quickly save yourself time when you look at rates. In the cost consideration discuss with the director or representative what days the center is closed and are you responsible for paying during closures. Are their late pick up fees and what are those fees? Find out if they have annual fees, curriculum fees, and additional fees for special dietary needs and choices. Having a clear understanding of your financial obligation will prevent frustrating misunderstandings later.
I know, that seems like a lot of information to digest and process but I say again, you are not alone. There are so many resources to help you in your endeavor to find the best fit child development program for you and your family. I believe when you discover “your center” you and your children will blossom and grow while at the same time gathering a lifetime of great memories. Early years are foundational years: make them count.
Nicole L. Brown is the CEO and owner of Nikki’s Christian Daycare and Learning Center, Inc which consists of four locations, Nikki B. Jewels, and Nicole Brown Professional Services. She has 29 years of expertise and service in early childhood development; which includes 24 years as an owner in the business. Nicole is recognized and been awarded as a leader in the childcare arena. Her educational background in childhood development and business is extensive. Most recently graduating from Steve Harvey’s Business Acceleration. In childcare her unrivaled fervent desire is to see children thrive in centers that are owned and operated by providers and directors who are passionate and equipped to meet the challenges of providing early childhood care and development to children.