Home Day Care or Licensed Preschool?

Daycarorpreschool 315

Choosing a healthy, safe place for your child to thrive while you are at work is a daunting decision. Day care horror stories making national news may suddenly keep you awake at night. But take a deep breath. Safe, healthy options for child care are out there. It’s important to gather information, do the legwork and ultimately trust your gut.

Get the Facts

There are regulated day care centers, regulated home day cares, unregulated home day cares and preschools. Begin your search early. Ann Douglas, author of “Choosing Childcare for Dummies,” suggests embarking upon your quest between eight weeks and a year before your back-to-work date.

Child Care Resources Inc. of Charlotte offers a Child Care eSearch at www.childcareresourcesinc.org with access to home day care and day care centers including, non-licensed and licensed child-care providers. N.C. regulations require home-based services with six or more children, and facilities with three or more children, to be licensed.

Home Day Care or Center?

Home day care may be a good fit for your child’s “home away from home.” Home day care providers may have more flexible hours, and less rigid schedules and policies, which is helpful for parents who work an atypical work schedule. If it is important to you that your caregiver be open to making lots of individual accommodations (irregular naptimes, for example), a home provider might suit you and your child best. Some home providers are regulated, but many are not, so it’s a personal choice.

Licensed preschools and day care centers offer many advantages. They may hire certified early childhood educators with training in child development and have more clearly outlined policies so everyone knows what to expect. Also, having more than one caregiver on the premises provides peace of mind, especially if you’re concerned about TV watching or unfamiliar adults in a home setting. Centers offer reliability so you won’t have to scramble for care if one caregiver is ill or on vacation. The spaces in a center are typically kid friendly and designed with safety in mind. Because of government regulation, child-to-caregiver ratios, safety requirements and criminal record checks are standard.

Homework: Visit and Assess Quality

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you consider the following 13 guidelines as you evaluate the quality of a provider:

Supervision. Children should be supervised at all times, even when they are sleeping. Discipline should be positive, clear, consistent and fair.

Hand washing after diapering. Hands should be scrubbed with soap and water for at least 10 seconds. The faucet should be turned off with a paper towel.

Director qualification. The director should hold a bachelor’s degree and have worked in child care for at least two years.

Teacher qualifications. The lead teacher should hold a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field and have worked in child care for at least one year.

Child-staff ratio. One family home caregiver should care for only two babies. A low child-to-staff ratio is better.

Immunizations. The provider should have records proving that other children’s immunizations are up to date.

Toxic substances. Cleaning supplies and pest killers must be kept far from children.

Emergency plan. Are first aid kits and emergency plans in place?

Fire drills. Drills should be practiced monthly.

Child abuse. Others should be able to see caregivers at all times, so a child is never alone with one caregiver. Be sure all caregivers have gone through a background check, and that all are trained to prevent, recognize and report child abuse.

Medication. Medicine is kept out of reach and labeled properly.

Staff training. All caregivers have been trained in first aid and CPR.

Playground. Equipment is developmentally appropriate, clean and regularly inspected
for safety.

Trust Your Gut

One of the most helpful factors to consider when choosing a provider is the interaction between caregiver and children. Is there good communication? What is the caregiver’s interpersonal style? Notice how the interaction makes you feel. Is it a place you would look forward to coming to each day?

In order to find the best fit for your child, consider how the provider’s philosophy of child rearing, discipline, education and nurturing meshes with your own. As Ann Douglas says in her book, “You can’t count on anyone else to guarantee your child’s health, safety, and well-being in a particular child care setting. Like it or not, the buck stops with you.”

You should feel a sense of trust in the caregiver/program and that your child will learn and grow happily within a particular environment.


Finding Quality Preschools

The National Association for the Education of Young Children suggests parents notice the following things when searching for a quality preschool:

1. Children spend most of their time playing and working with materials or with other children.

2. Children have access to various activities throughout the day.

3. Teachers work with individual children, small groups and the whole group at different times during the day.

4. The classroom is decorated with children’s original artwork and projects.

5. Children learn numbers and the alphabet in the context of their everyday experiences.

6. Children work on projects and have long periods of time to play and explore.

7. Worksheets are used rarely, if at all.

8. Children have an opportunity to play outside in a safe play area every day.

9. Teachers read books to children individually or in small groups.

10. Curricula are adapted for those who are ahead, as well as those who need additional help.

Michele Ranard is a professional counselor, tutor and former preschool teacher.