Child care is short-term care by someone other than a parent. There are two basic types of child care: individual and group.
Finding good child care can seem overwhelming and a bit scary. It is an important decision. But if you take your time and do some research, you can find a place where your child can play, learn, and be well taken care of.
When choosing child care, consider your child's safety, how much you can afford to pay, and your daily routine.
When choosing child care, make sure that it is:
Federal and state laws allow equal access to public education and other services such as speech and physical therapy for children with disabilities or certain conditions that require special care. Find out which laws apply to your child and how to get available services. See the Community Services or Government listings section in your phone book for the local mental health office or state department of education.
Children need time to adjust to child care. It is common for a child to cling or cry when a parent leaves. But you can take steps to help your child do well in child care.
If you spend time with your child and are calm and loving, he or she will be more likely to adjust to and enjoy child care.
Frequently Asked Questions
Learning about child care:
Keeping your child healthy and stimulated:
When you start looking for child care, narrow down your choices by considering practical issues as well as your child's needs. Do you need an individual or group care provider? Or do you need an after-school program or camp to fill in gaps between school hours and your work schedule? Here are some other questions to consider:
Visit the facility or caregiver's home, and get involved in any special activities. Watch the interaction between caregivers and children. Make sure you feel comfortable with your decision.
Have a clear idea about what type of person you are looking for. It may be helpful to:
There are two basic ways to find an individual child care provider:
It's important to interview potential providers. Use a phone interview for the initial screening. Ask questions about their work experience, their references, and whether they have questions for you.
When you have narrowed down your selection, conduct a personal interview with each of your top choices. Allow enough time for the applicant to be introduced to your child.
Be sure to check the references of your top choices. Ask each reference how long he or she has known the provider, specifics of the provider's duties, and why the employment ended.
Choose a babysitter or mother's helper by asking friends and other caregivers you trust. You may also want to ask for recommendations from a local organization, such as the YMCA.
Before you hire a teen to watch your child:
Schedule a meeting with the caregiver and your child, and watch how they interact. Some caregivers may not have confidence. This doesn't mean they will not ever be able to watch your child. But it may mean that you will need to have a few babysitting dates while you are present before leaving them on their own.
Classes help babysitters prepare for the responsibilities of watching your child. They can also provide valuable skills in case of an emergency, such as first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training. Classes often are available through local agencies, churches, hospitals, or schools.
If you use an individual care provider for your family on a regular basis, you may be obligated to comply with employer rules and regulations of the federal, provincial, and local governments.
Begin your search by asking friends and family and using your local library, newspaper, and phone book. You also may want to contact referral organizations. See the Other Places to Get Help section of this topic for more information.
Use a telephone interview and printed information to help you screen providers. Ask about or consider:
Set up a meeting with the director of each facility or home setting that passes your first screening. Plan enough time to take a tour and talk about their service guidelines, such as when payment is expected and scheduled closures. Make sure you are shown the entire facility or home. Notice whether the children appear happy and playful, and notice how they are treated by the care providers.
A child's environment should be safe, healthy, and clean. Make sure that staff are knowledgeable about preventing safety hazards and responding to emergencies. There should be:
High-quality staff and programs are also important:
At the start of a new child care routine, it's common for a child to show some signs of anxiety, such as clinging or crying when you leave. With your child's needs in mind, try to ease the transition.
Make sure your child is immunized. Illnesses and disease can spread easily among a group of children. Keep your child's immunizations up to date and give a copy of the record(What is a PDF document?) to your child care provider. For more information on childhood immunizations, see the topic Immunizations.
If at any time you suspect your child may not be safe, immediately remove him or her from the situation. Notify the proper authorities if you suspect abuse.
Budgeting for child care takes work. Plan ahead and think about your future child care expenses as far in advance as possible. Keep in mind that it may take time to process applications or that there may be a waiting list, especially if you are trying to qualify for financial assistance.
Child care referral agencies or other experts (such as some provincial or federal government agencies) can help you research your options for child care financial aid. Some general options may include:
Brainstorm ideas about ways you might be able to reduce the number of hours of child care you need or about ways to pay for it, such as:
Ask providers if they require a written contract. If you pick a provider who doesn't use a contract, prepare one yourself. Include the hours of care, payments, and other details that are important to you. Keep a copy with your records.
Whether you choose an individual care provider or a group care setting, make sure you communicate and have an understanding with your care provider about expected behavior, discipline methods, and appropriate activities.
Child care changes will occur and will require careful planning. As children grow, their needs change. Also, personal preferences, a move, or other life events may require a different arrangement. Allow time for both you and your child to adjust by talking about it ahead of time. You may want to plan something special for your child's last day at the child care center, such as bringing treats and taking pictures.
Talk with your child about what to expect. Stress the positive parts of the change, but acknowledge the challenges.
Many parents worry that the relationship with their child will suffer for having another caregiver. Research on the mother-child relationship shows that its quality is mainly affected by the mother's interaction with the child and other family influences.2
Another common concern of parents is whether children will develop and learn to their potential in a child care setting. Research shows that the quality of the parent's (in this study, the mother's) relationship with the child best supports a child's mental and behavioral growth.2 The more sensitive, responsive, and attentive the mother is, the better the child will do in child care.
Your child is more likely to become ill when he or she is frequently with other children. One study shows that children in child care with more than 6 other children and who are between 3 and 4½ years of age have more episodes of upper respiratory infections (such as a cold) than those in nonparental care with fewer children or who are cared for at home.3 The spread of many diseases can be reduced by practicing healthy hygiene habits regardless of what type of child care arrangement you have.
Use hand sanitizer to clean hands if soap and water aren't available.
Plan what you will do if your regular provider cannot keep your child or if your child is sick. Children with mild upper respiratory illnesses such as minor colds usually can attend child care. (Usually, mild upper respiratory illnesses are spread before symptoms develop.) Keep your child at home if he or she has a condition that prevents attending child care, such as a fever or a rash.
Some cities have child care centers just for sick children.
|American Academy of Pediatrics: Healthy Child Care America|
|141 Northwest Point Boulevard|
|Elk Grove Village, IL 60007|
This American Academy of Pediatrics website offers tips about how to improve early education and health and safety of children in out-of-home child care.
|Child Care Aware|
|1515 North Courthouse Road|
|Arlington, VA 22201|
This nonprofit organization helps parents locate quality child care and child care resources in their community by increasing the visibility of local child care resource and referral agencies nationwide. The website has information about how to choose quality child care.
|International Nanny Association|
|P.O. Box 1299|
|Hyannis, MA 02601|
The International Nanny Association (INA) is a nonprofit organization for nannies and those who teach, place, employ, and support professional in-home child care providers. The INA website lists nanny training and employment programs and has information on salaries and other aspects of nanny care.
|National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC)|
|1473 West Alexander Street|
|Salt Lake City, UT 84119|
This organization accredits family child care programs and provides resource materials. The NAFCC also organizes conferences for people with family child care programs.
|National Network for Child Care|
The National Network for Child Care (NNCC) offers newsletters, an e-mail group, and regional support and assistance for issues about family child care, center-based child care, and school-age child care. The Web site has many publications and resources about child care issues.
|National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education|
|P.O. Box 6511|
|Aurora, CO 80045|
This website has detailed information about child care licensing requirements in the United States. Each state's requirements are listed. There is also information about cleanliness, emotional health, healthy habits, illnesses, special needs, and safety.
- Alkon AD (2003). Nonparental child care section of Psychosocial issues. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph's Pediatrics, 21st ed., pp. 512–515. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2006). The NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Available online: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/upload/seccyd_06.pdf.
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Early Child Care Research Network (2003). Child care and common communicable illnesses in children aged 37 to 54 months. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 157: 196–200.
Other Works Consulted
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Early education and child care. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 421–456. New York: Bantam.
- Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care, American Academy of Pediatrics (2005, reaffirmed 2010). Quality early education and child care from birth to kindergarten. Pediatrics, 115(1): 187–191.
- Dworkin PH (2003). Families matter—even for kids in child care. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 24(1): 58–62.
- Moran D (2009). Childcare. In WB Carey et al., eds., Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 4th ed., pp. 159–163. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
- National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (2006). Why Care About Child Care? Available online: http://www.naccrra.net/why_cc.php.
- Phillips D, Adams G (2001). Child care and our youngest children. The Future of Children, 11(1): 35–51. Available online: http://www.futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/docs/11_01_02.pdf.
- Sosinsky LS, Gilliam WS (2007). Child care. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th ed., pp. 81–86. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||John Pope, MD - Pediatrics|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics|
|Last Revised||May 5, 2011|
Last Revised: May 5, 2011
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