Today's guest blogger is Anita Kulick, President & CEO of Educating Communities for Parenting in Philadelphia. ECP offers a variety of programs and services for teen and adult parents, adjudicated delinquent youth, young adults aging out of the foster care system, preschoolers, and children at grave risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of violence.
One of the toughest decisions parents have to make is choosing a child care provider. After all, you're trusting your child's wellbeing to someone else. Of course it's overwhelming, and you're certainly not alone. In America, nearly 11 million children under the age of five spend 35 or more hours each week in child care, according to a 2012 report from Child Care Aware of America.
Your mind is flooded with questions and concerns: What type is best? Can I afford quality care? Most importantly, will my child be nurtured safe, and happy? The good news is that there's lot of help. So don't panic. Take a deep breath (or ten), get organized, and move into action.
If you're interested in child care outside your home there are two basic types:
To find a listing of providers in Pennsylvania, go to CCIS - Child Care Information Services - Department of Public Welfare or Compass. For a national listing, Child Care Aware is an excellence source, even providing a Budgeting Child Care On-line Calculator .
Once you've come up with a list of potential providers, narrow down your choices by conducting telephone interviews to determine whether you should invest the time and effort in making an on-site visit. If at all possible, schedule a time when both parents or caregivers can come. It's always good to have more than one pair of eyes looking over the situation. The following checklist from Zero to Three offers key things you should be observing when touring the facilities:
After you've completed your visits and have a list of top choices, the next step is finding the center that best fits your child's needs. What might be perfect for one child, may not be suitable for another. In order for a center to fully support the physical, emotional, social, and cognitive growth of your child, it must be able to support and enhance your child's unique learning style. Zero to Three and Child Care Aware have developed a brochure that helps you determine what type of center would be best for your child's temperament whether he or she is adaptable, cautious or feisty.
Finally, keep in mind that even after you've completed your research, checked out references, and enrolled your child in a center; your job is not over. In fact, it's just beginning. Working with your child care provider is an on-going process. You need to be an active participant. Be aware of your child's daily activities, volunteer when possible, meet with staff and administration, and be visible!