As a parent, choosing a person or facility to care for your child when you aren’t around is one of the most difficult decisions that you’ll ever have to make. The truth is, there is no way to make it easy, and chances are that even once you choose one, you’ll second guess yourself, at least at first. But having a good idea what to look for and what will work best for your family will help the process along. Here are some things you need to consider when looking for that perfect child care arrangement.
Nanny, in home, or center? There are a couple of different types of child care arrangements. You could hire an au pair or nanny who comes to your home, you could use in home childcare – this is a person who runs a small daycare out of their home – or you could use a daycare center. A nanny arrangement is probably going to be the most expensive, but it will also give you the most control over the child care arrangement. An in-home daycare is usually cheaper, and is likely to be a better option if you work nights, weekends, or odd hours, but it can be difficult to find one that meets the same standards as a commercial day care center. Daycare centers can range in price from very cheap to highly expensive and are held to strict standards by the government, but if you work anything other than a 9-5 job, it can be difficult to find one to suit your needs. Only you know best which arrangement will suit your family best.
Interview and preview. Once you know which type of childcare setting you want to place your child in, you’ll need to choose one. For nannies, you’ll have to hold interviews. Arrange for interested candidates to come to your home, and schedule ample time to allow them to meet and interact with your child so that you can observe. For daycares and in home cares, you will have to go to them. Get a tour, inquire about licensing and certification, and meet the staff members. Spend some time observing the children. Are they engaged in activity, or parked in front of a television? What is the staff to child ratio? Does the home or building appear safe and clean? These are all important factors you’ll need to consider.
After you choose. Even after choosing your childcare, you should make it a point to make occasional unscheduled visits. A childcare provider that refuses to allow you to observe their daily routine that should send up major red flags. If you have an older child, pay attention to the things he says about his day. Is he happy to be dropped off, or does he complain about going to daycare? If you have a baby, it’s trickier to tell if her childcare experience is a good one, but be alert for telltale signs such as diaper rash or irritability. Above all, trust your instincts. Remember that as a parent, you know your child best, and it’s up to you to ensure that the childcare you choose is the best possible fit for your child.