Finding the right type of child care for your son or daughter can be an anxiety-provoking task. There are many providers eager to lovingly care for your child and knowing the differences between them, as well as being sensitive to your child’s individual temperament, is important to consider before sending your child into the hands of another. There are three basic types of child care: in-home care, family care, and care centers. There are three sub-types of centers; chain centers, independent for-profit centers, and not for profit centers.
In-home child care providers come to your home to care for your child and may help out with housework as well. There are many advantages to this type of service. First, your child gets to stay in the comfort of his or her own home. It is also very convenient for busy moms and dads to not have the added job of getting the child dressed and transporting them to another facility. Your child will probably not be exposed to as many childhood illnesses that she would in a group setting with other children.
There are also some disadvantages to in-home care that must be considered as well. An in-home caregiver is only one person. This person, like anyone, gets sick, may have a personal crisis or may find a better job without warning, possibly leaving you in a tough situation. Most importantly, the provider will be caring for your child with no supervision from others. If your child is very young you will have no idea what is actually going on in your home while you are away. Finally, service may be more expensive than other types of child care since your provider will likely be relying on you for the majority of his or her income.
Family child care is a situation in which one or more people take care of a small group of children in their home. The caregiver usually cares for her own children at the same time. This tends to be less expensive than other forms of child care since a number of children are contributing to the caregiver’s salary. Other advantages of family services include playmates for your child, the experience of being in a home-like setting and flexibility in hours and activities.
With the exception of expense, family child care has the same general disadvantages of in-home care. In addition, you will want to make sure the child to adult ratio is acceptable. Depending on the ages of the children, there should be no more than eight children per adult for ages 4 and up and no more than three or four children per adult at younger ages, especially when there are infants present. The presence of more children than an adult can handle means a lack of individual attention at best. At worst, it could be difficult for the caregiver to ensure the safety of all the children.
Child care centers are also called nursery school, preschool, and day care centers, and vary widely. Chain centers are becoming very popular and often offer optimal hours for parents and very appealing activities for the children. Because they are a chain and run under central management they often do not leave room for variation and creativity in their operations. Independent for-profit centers can be very good, but are often more expensive than others. Not-for-profit centers are usually affiliated with churches, universities, and community outreach programs. These often offer financial aid or sliding scale fees to meet the needs of families. They also rely on families to help with fundraising and other tasks to keep the center operational.
Centers have clear advantages. First they are regulated by law and are more easily observed than private services. The child-to-adult ratio is regulated, ensuring that your child receives adequate individual attention. Most centers tend to be much safer and with a number of staff members, you can be sure that there is little opportunity for a person to get burned out or overwhelmed, compromising the well-being of the children.
The disadvantages of centers are that your child will be exposed to germs that quickly pass from child to child. In addition, there may be more of an impersonal atmosphere, and activities will not usually be tailored to meet your child's needs or interests.
No matter what type of day care you choose, be sure to check the references, reputation and child rearing philosophies of the provider, even in day care centers. Not all providers are created equal, even when they are operating under government regulations. It is definitely worth comparing all the providers available to you to ensure the best situation for your child. The telltale sign of an excellent provider is a waiting list, no matter inconvenient that may be.