The child care dilemma, how do you choose?
Tragically, we sometimes see in the news a report about a child’s injury or death in a day care setting. This is certainly rare, but the safety of child care is a topic that needs to be discussed for all new parents. As parents, there ARE times that we will not be able to care for our child. Some of us work outside of the home, and all of us need and deserve the occasional day or evening away. Finding daily child care or just occasional child care is a source of worry and anxiety for most parents. How do you find a caregiver that you trust for your precious child? First START EARLY! It takes time to do your research and find the best caregiver for your child! Do not rush the process and always trust your gut! If a child care center, home or sitter does not feel right to you, then it isn’t! Ask friends, family members, and other parents for their suggestions. The best referral comes from a parent that uses the child care provider.
There are resources in each state that will help you get started with your search. Child Care Aware is a website that you can access. This site will direct you to your area’s child care referral system. This will give you the local licensed and unlicensed day care centers, in home day cares, and church ministries. By using the Child Care Aware website you will also be able to access any violations these centers may have. The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care produced a list of guidelines for parents that are looking for childcare. These guidelines are as follows:
- Are children supervised at all times, even when they are sleeping?
- How do the caregivers discipline children? (Hint: Discipline should be positive, clear, consistent, and fair.)
Hand washing and Diapering
- Do all caregivers and children wash their hands often, especially before eating and after using the bathroom or changing diapers?
- Is the place where diapers are changed clean?
- Do caregivers always keep a hand on the child while diapering?
- Do caregivers remove the soiled diaper without dirtying any surface not already in contact with stool or urine?
- Do caregivers clean and sanitize the surface after finishing the changing process? (Hands should be scrubbed with soap and warm running water for at least 20 seconds and then rinsed and dried. The water faucet should be turned off with a paper towel.)
- Does the director of a child care center have a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field?
- Has the director worked in child care for at least two years?
- Does the director understand what children need to grow and learn?
Lead Teacher Qualifications
- Does the lead teacher in a child care center have a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field?
- Has the teacher worked in child care for at least one year?
- Does the teacher give children lessons and toys that are right for their ages?
Child:Staff Ratio and Group Size
- How many children are being cared for in the child care program?
- How many caregivers are there? (Your child will get more attention if each caregiver has fewer children to care for. The younger the children are, the more caregivers there should be. For example, one family home caregiver should only take care of two infants.)
- Is your child up-to-date on all of the required immunizations?
- Does the child care program have records proving that the other children in care are up-to-date on all their required immunizations?
- Are toxic substances like cleaning supplies and pest killers kept away from children?
- Has the building been checked for dangerous substances like radon, lead and asbestos?
- Is poison control information posted?
- Does the child care program have an emergency plan if a child is injured, sick, or lost?
- Does the child care program have first-aid kits?
- Does the child care program have information about who to contact in an emergency?
- Does the child care program have a plan in case of a disaster like a fire, tornado, flood, blizzard, or earthquake?
- Does the child care program do practice drills once every month?
- Can caregivers be seen by others at all times, so a child is never alone with one caregiver?
- Have all caregivers undergone background check?
- Have the caregivers been trained on how to prevent child abuse, how to recognize signs of child abuse, and how to report suspected child abuse?
- Does the child care program keep medication out of reach from children?
- Are the caregivers trained and the medications labeled to make sure the right child gets the right amount of the right medication at the right time?
Staff Training/First Aid
- Have caregivers been trained how to keep children healthy and safe from injury and illness?
- Do they know how to do first aid and rescue breathing?
- Have they been trained to understand and meet the needs of children of different ages?
- Are all child care staff, volunteers, and substitutes trained on and implementing infant back sleeping and safe sleep policies to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, crib death)? (When infants are sleeping, are they on their backs with no pillows, quilts, stuffed toys, or other soft bedding in the crib with them?)
- Is the playground regularly inspected for safety?
- Is the playground surrounded by a fence?
- If there is a sandbox, is it clean?
- Are the soil and playground surfaces checked often for dangerous substances and hazards?
- Is equipment the right size and type for the age of children who use it
National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care (1-800-598-5437)
What do you do when you need an occasional babysitter?
- Start early—don’t wait until the last moment to try to find a sitter.
- Recruit from relatives, friends and neighbors. Ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers for suggestions. You can ask churches, high schools, your doctor, local colleges. Network!
- Think about “training” a sitter. Use a “mother’s helper” while you are in your house. Have a younger sitter come to your house and help you out while you are there. Gradually give more responsibility until you are comfortable leaving for shorter and then longer periods of time.
- Ask questions about a potential sitter.
- What other childcare experience do you have?
- What are the ages of other children you have watched?
- How would you handle certain, possibly difficult situations that might occur?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- What kind of activities do you enjoy doing with children?
- Tell me about school, sports, activities etc.
- Do you know CPR or emergency procedures? If you have a sitter that you may use frequently—why not pay for him or her to become CPR certified and take a safe sitter class?
- How much do you charge?
- Questions for me?
5. Orient a new sitter to your home. Point out where phones are, fire extinguishers, circuit breakers, first aid kit, what is off limits to the kids, how to lock doors etc.
6. Discuss how they are to get in touch with you.
7. Review rules of the home including those for meals, pets, TV, computer time, and play.
8. Explain possible behavior problems and how you would want them to be handled.
9. Introduce the sitter to your child and let them get to know each other. Allow some time together before you leave.
10. Leave a list of activities that your child would like and any bed time routine.
11. Make sure you leave your address, nearest crossroads, and any emergency numbers written by the phone.
12. Discuss what food is available to the sitter and what activities for the sitter you feel are appropriate once the children are in bed.
13. When you return home ask the sitter how things went and if your child is verbal, ask your child how he or she liked the sitter! Children are very honest!
Your work is not finished once you find the child care facility or occasional sitter for your child. As a parent, you must stay involved. Continue to ask questions and make surprise visits. Your child is your most precious possession, and you must be your child’s advocate for safe and loving care when you are not there!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.