How to Arrange Quality Child Care
How to Arrange Quality Child Care
Congratulations! You’re expecting a new bundle of joy. Have you got
your child care set up yet? Believe it or not, some programs are so
popular that parents put their child on a waiting list at conception.
Good-quality child care is available in most areas if you’re willing to
look for it, and there are many options for parents to choose from.
Use this primer to find a great fit for your child and your family.
General tips
1. Decide when you want to put your child in care. Some parents prefer to keep their kids at home as long as possible and don’t enroll them in a program until they are around three years of age. Other parents choose to put their children in a child-care setting much earlier. Still others prefer mixing time at home with time in care. Lifestyle and your child’s personality will play a role in this decision–social, active children benefit greatly from the stimulation and activity offered in a structured group environment.
2. Ask friends with children, other families and mothers’ group members for recommendations. Find out what their experiences have been like. Listen to what excites them and see if your gut tells you the same things would work well for your child. You can also search local parenting Web sites or child-care referral centers, or go to for advice.
3. Consider the available options and decide which type of child care best meets your needs.
Home-based care
1. Check out family day care in your area. Typically, one licensed adult cares for up to six children in his or her home (the number is determined by state law). These situations tend to offer the most flexibility in scheduling, but you’ll need a backup if the care provider becomes ill. Family day care is often a good opportunity to expose your child to another language.
2. Give your child the next best thing to Mom or Dad with a nanny. If that’s too pricey, sharing a nanny and splitting the cost with one or two other families can make it affordable. Your child will get one-on-one loving care and one or two playmates.
Centers and preschools
1. Draw up a short list of potential care providers and contact them. Ask for brochures or visit their Web sites. Find out if there is space available when you need to enroll or if there is a waiting list. Make appointments to visit providers and show up promptly.
2. Review the programs offered by various providers in your area. You’ll find ones that offer full-time, part-time and flexible schedules. Consider the amount of structure and the location. Look at staff qualifications and turnaround, teacher-to-child ratios, curriculum, accreditation, discipline strategies and more. If you have an infant, you’ll want a high caregiver-to-child ratio. Parents with several children may need a provider that caters to both babies and older kids.
3. Leave your child at home (if possible) for the first visit so you can focus on learning about the program. Bring a list of questions: What is a typical day like? How are behavioral issues dealt with? Are children divided by age? Does your child have to be pottytrained to gain admission?
4. Take a good look at the space. It should be safe, well maintained and cheerful, with separate areas for quiet play and for group activities and plenty of toys. Check the outdoor space. Is there room to run around? Are there climbing structures, a sandbox and lots more toys?
5. Observe how the director and teachers interact with the kids. Are they approachable, flexible and respectful? How do the children respond to them? Is there a lively atmosphere that doesn’t seem out of control? Do the kids and teachers seem happy?
6. Use your instincts as a parent and look for a good fit. Some programs have an extended family feeling, while others are more structured and businesslike. Make sure the program and its philosophy are suited to the temperament of your child. A situation may be great for one child but not for another.
7. Review details with the director. Find out what the fees are, what they cover, and how they are paid, including fees for late pickups. Confirm the hours of operation and what days throughout the year that school is closed. Ask how teachers are qualified, what the turnover is, and what the minimum requirements are. Inquire about enrichment programs such as art, music and field trips. Find out if and how often parents are required to volunteer. Ask if there is a board of directors or other parents you can contact for more information. Call them; they’re usually happy to talk to prospective parents.
8. Take your child for a short visit after you’ve narrowed down your choices. How does he or she respond to the environment?
9. Complete the application process, pay the deposit and set up a plan for entry into the program that will be most effective for your child. Some programs have a well-planned transition both for entering and for moving from one age group to another.
10. Build an alliance with all of your child-care providers. Stay in constant communication to keep abreast of how your child is doing.
Overall Tips:
The National Association for the Education of Young Children ( accredits programs. Contact it for a list of standards as well as recommended teacher-to-child ratios for preschools and childcare centers.
Ask for and call all references when interviewing potential child care candidates.
Stay involved in your child’s care. Volunteer to help out, talk to other parents and foster good communication with all caregivers.
Weigh the pros and cons of getting child care near your home or office. On the one hand, proximity to work allows for easy lunchtime nursing breaks and a swift reunion at day’s end. On the other hand, handling the commute (car seat, crowds, crying) when you and your child are exhausted may be far more stressful than letting him or her stay put for an extra half hour.
Leaving your child in someone else’s care can be a wrenching transition. If possible, start gradually to give parents and baby time to adjust.
Overall Warnings:
Schools and centers should fingerprint all employees.
Contact organizations such as TrustLine ( to get criminal background checks on any caregiver. Developed in conjunction with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice, TrustLine provides authorized screening of in-home caregivers in California. Check with your state for similar services.


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