Having been on both sides of the Childcare Services issue… as a Mom looking for childcare and as a Licensed Provider of Childcare with a BA in Child Psychology/Child Development, I bring a unique perspective to the question.
Here are some things to consider:
RELATIONSHIP WITH PROVIDER
Your relationship with the person/people who will be providing the hands-on care for your child is of KEY importance.
Understand that typically, you will want to select at least five candidates to interview, with the understanding that the ‘interviewing’ process will be a mutual experience.
In other words, the ‘fit’ between a family and the provider must be equally agreed upon by all participants. So realize that while you may be thinking YOU are interviewing them to see who qualifies as a good ‘fit’… the ideal provider will also be interviewing YOU and your family to see if you qualify as a good ‘fit’.
If you are philosophically coming from someplace different than the person who is providing care for your child/ren you will most likely face a host of problems. To get a sense of compatibility here ask value-based questions.
Value based questions are the kind of questions that require answers that reveal the values of the responder… either directly or indirectly.
Don’t think value-based questions are limited. In fact, the majority of the questions you’re likely to ask will be that very thing. I just want to remind you to pay attention to what is being revealed to you.
For instance… if you were to ask,
“What is your favorite thing about your work day?”
the answers will vary, yet they will invariably reveal what is valued.
A person who values ‘spontaneity’ is likely to give a different answer than the person who values ‘order’ and ‘rules’.
There is nothing wrong with either one. The point is that you want to find the ‘fit’ for your family.
Please don’t make the mistake of thinking this means you must match in 100% of all areas.
I happen to have an extremely high tolerance for ‘messes’ as my value for creativity and experimentation supersedes my value for ‘orderliness’ (not ‘cleanliness’ mind you ;-)) yet I often attracted parents who had a LOW tolerance for messes who also valued their child having the opportunity to be creative and (safely) experimental – my Childcare Home was a GREAT ‘fit’ for them!
Finally, I suggest you pay attention to comfort levels in discussing a variety of topics with the person you are interviewing. There are few services that place you in as intimate a relationship as the service providing your child care. Believe me, your child will be willing to discuss anything and everything under the sun with this person and you will want to be able to do likewise!
TYPE OF CARE SITUATION
It’s important to consider what kind of situation would serve you and your child. There are three main types, all with pros and cons, and once you narrow down your choice to one type it’s simply a matter of weighing them to discover the right option for you.
No transportation issue. Whether the nanny is a live-in or arrives at your home each day care is needed, you save time without the extra stop in your day.
Your child gets one-on-one attention and the comfort of home.
Many nanny’s offer transportation to extracurricular activities.
Nanny’s frequently offer the greatest flexibility in terms of scheduling.
The cost can be significantly higher.
Typically fewer opportunities to develop social skills with peers.
CHILD CARE CENTER
Usually more cost effective than Nanny.
Trained staff mindful of developmental needs.
Many have the financial resources to bring in specialized instructors and tutors and take children on Field Trips.
Extra staff means no worries about a Provider taking time off.
Age segregated. Typically different age groups spend their day together away from other aged children. The benefit here is that providers in each room are consistently dealing with the same developmental issues, honing their sensitivity. It also minimizes safety issues that can crop up with mixed age groups.
Age segregated. There are benefits that come naturally for children exposed to a mix of ages (these are discussed below) and these benefits missed, while perhaps not truly detrimental, minimize potential enrichment.
Large Staff turnover. The salary in this field is typically low, while the challenges are typically quite demanding. As a result, the turnover of staff at Child care centers is usually high. This can pose some emotional issues around bonding for some children.
Space. Though Child care centers can appear large it’s important to understand how much space your child will actually have available to them. Since they are typically age-segregated there are more areas ‘off-limits’ to a given child than available. One of the issues that results is that there is a lack of flexibility due to scheduling of the day.
Depending on your child’s temperament, this may be more or less of an issue. Since most activities take place in the same room your child may frequently have to disengage from an activity of interest before they are prepared. In other words, the day runs more by the clock than by inspiration.
A good Family Childcare home truly offers a welcoming sense of FAMILY.
The environment, while child-safe and child-friendly, provides the rich variety of accommodations that naturally arise in a family environment.
Mixed ages – There is a dynamic that occurs when children are together. For good…or not so good ;-) they teach one another, love one another, and encourage one another in ways that adults just can’t touch.
Whether it’s the endearing pat on the head offered an infant by the only slightly older toddler… or the energetic encouragement of the five-year-old to that same, wobbly toddler to “catch the ball, catch the ball” there is simply nothing that can replace the growth and development from these interactions found in Family Childcare homes.
Curriculum flexibility – Because care is typically taking place in various rooms of the home, the curriculum provided by an in-home Childcare Provider has more flexibility than care in Centers. Activities in-progress can be left ‘as is’ to be resumed after a brief break. The child ‘slow to warm up’ is more likely to have the time to experience something she otherwise may have missed out on.
Extended hours often possible. While it’s unlikely you’ll find the flexibility you might get from a nanny, the Family Childcare Home is more likely to offer hours to fit unusual schedules than Center care.
Typically the lowest cost option. There is GREAT variation depending on neighborhoods so if cost is a significant concern, consider checking a variety of areas near your home or work.
Finding a truly good Family Childcare Home may take more interviewing before a ‘fit’ is discovered.
There are many reasons why people will choose to open their home to child care and you will want to take the time to find a provider who is truly passionate about providing quality, child-centered care. The last thing you want is to have your child plunked in front of a television by a disinterested and uninformed ‘babysitter’.
Depending on a Family Childcare Provider means you’re depending on their availability. Thoroughly discuss their vacation, holiday and sick policies
because when the Provider is unavailable… you may need to provide your own backup!
Consider these factors and then follow your heart… it won’t lead you astray!