February 21, 2006 at 1:18 PM CST - Updated July 10 at 11:25 PM
Finding Good Childcare 30 Days to a Better Life By: Lauren Keith
As hard as it is to leave the little one behind, parents do have to make a living. Moms like Kim Simon admit, her son is usually always on her mind, even at the office.
"it's very hard. it's extremely hard for parents to drop their kid off and leave for the whole day. The majority of their day is with these people and these kids," said Simon.
So, Kim decided to make several visits to her childcare center, to calm her nerves about the separation and to do ensure the quality of care her son would receive.
"I came in a few times, talked to the director, we visited, and then I felt at ease. He had fun and I knew I could drop him off and he'd be in great hands, and I wouldn't worry about him--at the same time he'd be learning," said Simon.
That's exactly what childcare expert Karen McDougal recommends all parents do. She also advises you to decide if you want your child to attend a licensed or non-licensed care center or private home.
"I think the biggest thing is considering your child's temperament. What your child can take--some do well in large groups and others need smaller groups with more attention," said McDougal.
She says good childcare centers or homes have organized and structured play--- with plenty of toys at a child's reach and lots of room to explore. Here, family pictures even line the walls, reminding kids of home. McDougal says you should look for good interaction between children and staff. So, once you feel good about a place, how do you really know what goes on while you're not there? McDougal says that's where you should do a little investigating, no matter your relationship to your child's provider.
"If the facility is licensed, they have safety checks done on them. That doesn't mean quality of care--it means criminal checks, child abuse checks, neglect screenings have all been done, fire and sanitation has been there and checked out fire safety," she says.
If the childcare provider isn't licensed by the state, Karen stresses that does not mean poor care. She says several "at-home baby-sitters" aren't licensed, simply because it would cost them too much money to renovate their home to state safety standards. Here's her recommendation on background checks for them.
"I'd start by calling licensing, the police department, and the health department. I recommend parents spend a good hour with a checklist watching the staff interact," she says.
Even after all this effort, you still may be left with few options, because childcare can be very tough to find, especially for babies. McDougal says licensed at-home babysitters can only have two children under the age of two, along with ten other children. Licensed childcare centers also have similar restrictions.
" I tell parents to get on a waiting list, to go and look, also, where you even want to be on a waiting list," she said.
While you're waiting, start saving your pennies, too. McDougal says it costs, on average, $125 a week for babies to go to a childcare center, and $90 for other children. She also says many at-home providers charge this rate, too. And, no matter the cost, childcare expert Gail Jones says the bottom line is--- look for experience. Jones has been at this center for 20 years, and she's a mom herself. she says parents really should go with their instincts.
"Mainly it needs to be a place where you feel comfortable, the child's comfortable, there's trust and there's love," said Jones.
Finally, you should also ask every provider how often they get training for first aid and CPR. . here are the numbers you can call to help you do some background checks.
Missouri - (573) 290-5809
Illinois - start with the Childcare Resource and Referral line. That number is (618) 985-5975
Kentucky - call the licensing and regulations department. That number is (270) 889-6052, then select option 3.