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Education Connection
Preschool Pg.1

Solving the day-care mystery
Many first-time parents are confused about returning to work and leaving their child in someone else’s care. But if you plan carefully and research thoroughly, you can avoid the headaches that come with making this most important decision in your child’s early years.

What Is Good Day Care?
Good day care requires three important things:
-a caregiver who provides your child with care and guidance
-a setting that keeps your child safe and healthy
-activities suited to your child's stage of growth that help the child
develop mentally, physically, socially and emotionally.

Consider these questions as you choose day care:

What type of caregiver would be best?
A good caregiver should be well-trained, and warm and loving toward children. Whether your child is an infant, toddler, preschooler, or school-aged, the caregiver should encourage the child's interests and stimulate the child to explore and discover new things. When you interview caregivers you'll want to find out about their training and experience, and their attitude toward child rearing, guidance and discipline.

Is the setting suitable?
Whether you use in-home care, family day care, or center care, the facilities should be safe and healthy. Equipment--games, toys, and furniture--should be in good repair and appropriate for your child. The number of children in your child's group should be small enough to allow your child to receive individual attention.

What will the cost of care be?
Day care costs vary widely, depending on the type of care you use, the days and hours you need care, where you live, and other factors. Investigate the costs of different kinds of day care available, including the costs of transportation for your child to and from the day care setting. Find out if your family qualifies for financial assistance to help pay for care of your child.

Any kind of day care can be good for your child if the care provides the warmth, supervision and individual attention your child needs.

You may want to use more than one kind of care for your children.

In-home Care

An in-home caregiver is someone who comes to, or lives in, your home. The caregiver can be a relative or friend, or can be someone you pay to come to your home.

If you have three or more children needing care, in-home care may be less expensive than other kinds of care. It also can save you from the worry of getting several children, all with different schedules, to and from a day care arrangement outside your home.

You may want to use in-home care if your child needs special care because of a physical, mental, or emotional problem; if you need care for an infant or toddler, or care for a child at night; if you need only after-school care.
You should know, however, that in-home care can be costly, especially if you have only one or two children and are paying someone for full-time care.

Family Day Care

This kind of day care is provided in the home of the caregiver, who is sometimes a mother with children of her own. You may find a relative, friend or neighbor willing to care for your child in this way. Or you may find a family day care home run by someone you do not already know. Usually just a few children are cared for at any one time.

Family day care can be a good arrangement if you are a single parent raising a child alone; if you live in a rural area where family day care is likely to be easiest to find; if you have only one or two children needing care; if you have a school-age child or an infant.

Keep in mind that a family day care provider may go out of business or stop caring for children at any time. Because many of these homes are not registered and inspected by any government authority, it is up to you to make sure adequate health and safety standards are met.

Center-based Care

Day care centers are established settings where children are cared for in a group away from their homes for all or part of the day. There are many different kinds of center-based care, including preschools. Some of these centers are set up primarily to keep children safe and secure. Others are designed to prepare children for their school years. Center- based care is most frequently available in a town or city.

Many day care centers have an organized program of activities to help children learn. Some centers follow more formal plans. Others use a more informal program based on their day-to-day experience in working with children.
You may be interested in center-based care if you want to keep your child in the same day care setting for an extended period; if your child needs special care because of a physical or mental handicap or an emotional problem; if you want certain educational or religious activities for your child; and if, in addition to care, your child needs medical or dental checkups, or psychological or social services.

Keep in mind that center-based care may not provide the “home” atmosphere some children like. Your child may not be comfortable in a large group for a major part of each day.

In considering a particular day care center, check out the facilities available, the qualifications of the staff, and the number of children cared for by each caregiver (the "staff/child ratio"). Talk to the director to make sure the center's program has the approach you like, and includes the kinds of activities you want for your child.

Whatever day-care solution you choose, remember, it must be the best situation for your child.


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