How To Find The Best Child Care
Hooray! You got the job! The pay is great, the office location is perfect and the bennies are fantastic.
Just one more hurdle: who’s going to take care of Little Robert (or Roberta) while you’re working?
It’s a dilemma faced by many new parents and those returning to the workforce. Finding acceptable childcare is a tedious, time-consuming challenge. Parents can easily feel overwhelmed by the various choices.
For example, which is better: private in-home care or an established day-care center? Perhaps a family member can ease the strain of childcare costs and worry. What about church-sponsored day-care centers or employer-sponsored day care such as those offered at Mayo Clinic and Petsmart? A private nanny or babysitter is another option, though much more expensive than a center or home provider would charge.
So, where do parents begin and what is the best way to go about the search? These steps may help:
First, establish a budget amount, what days and times you will need childcare and the location. Do you want your childcare provider close to your work location (in case of sudden illness or emergencies) or close to home? Once you’ve decided on these facts, you can move more easily through the maze of information available.
An excellent starting point is www.azchildcare.org. This web site is a cornucopia of information for parents. You will find information on all kinds of providers and a checklist to help you in your search.
Another good way is through referrals – ask a friend, a neighbor, or a co-worker who they use and what it costs. Are they happy with their choice? Are there openings?
Network-If you know a teacher, ask her or him if they know of any reliable day care providers. Often a teacher will know a family that provides home childcare.
Once you have narrowed your search to several prospects, it’s time to do some investigating.
- Schedule a visit with the provider. Is the children’s space clean, well organized and fairly calm? Do they children appear happy interacting with caregivers?
Ask for three references in writing. Any in-home provider will be happy to oblige you. Day care centers probably will not supply this information.
You may have to rely on the center’s reputation.
- Find out what their policies are regarding paying for holiday closures and absences. It’s also important to find out their rules for allowing sick children. If you’re putting a very young child in day care, you’ll need to know if you supply diapers and wipes or do they? What foods do they supply and what must you bring, if anything?
- Finally, many parents worry about the provider’s background and rightfully so. All licensed facilities require employees to be fingerprinted and checked against an FBI master list. For checking on private providers, there are web sites that will run a background check on anyone, for a small fee. One that I’ve used is www.instantcheckmate.com. A word of caution: there are sometimes errors on these sites. I’ve found them on my own background check. You can also check for a criminal record on www.maricopa.gov. If it’s a concern, you can also find out if there are registered sex offenders in the area at www.azsexoffender.org.
Leaving your precious child in someone else’s care for 40 to 50 hours a week can be hard on everyone, so do your homework and makes the best-informed decision you can. It’s worth the peace of mind.