Thursday, June 12, 2008

Health Care and Childcare

Childcare has become a modern day necessary evil. In the current age of single parents and two-income parents, the need to use facilities designed to oversee, manage, educate, and otherwise babysit children has become big business. There are corporate facilities offered by some employers and small individual "Mom & Pop" locations that provide daily watch care for children. Many of these child care facilities are great options for busy parents. The Day Care offers a safe and secure place for infants, toddlers, and pre-school children.

However, there are some inherent problems associated with leaving children at day care facilities, no matter who operates them. As a parent or guardian, you need to know the pros and cons associated with leaving your kids with caretakers charged with their oversight. Day care operations are big business in America, and there are literally thousands of locations across the country who do a very good job of working with and taking care of children. If you are considering a child care facility, the folks at Daycare.com have some great tips for evaluating child care facilities:

1.) How does your child-care provider greet your child in the morning? Does she seem genuinely happy to see him? Or does she give a curt "Hello" while she busies herself with other things? Studies show that the warmth of the relationship between children and their providers is key to quality care. If children don't feel safe and cared about, they will have difficulties learning and growing.
2.) Is your caregiver tuned in to your child? Pay close attention to how she relates to your little one. Does she squat down and talk to your child eye to eye? The provider who is responsive repeats the sounds your baby makes, or when your three-year-old gets excited about something, the provider asks questions, listens, brings a storybook on the subject, and encourages your child to know that he can learn and enjoy learning. Quality caregivers are responsive and able to read a child's cues, and these characteristics are essential for promoting emotional and intellectual development.
3.) What do you see at the end of the day? Is your child busy at play, engaged in art projects, reading books and interacting with other children? Or does she rush up and cling to you when you arrive? If it is the latter, she may be bored and starved for attention and in need of a new daytime environment.
4.) What is the adult-to-child ratio? Each state has different regulations for how many children a teacher can care for at once. Still, being in compliance with such laws does not necessarily mean that a center is a quality operation. Often, official standards are lower than what child-care experts recommend. A group size of six to eight infants for every two adults, and six to 12 one- and two-year-olds per three adults, is ideal. For preschoolers, look for 14 to 20 children for every two teachers.
5.) What is the teacher turnover? Constant turnover can be disruptive and potentially disturbing for children. If you're hiring a nanny, look for one who does not have a history of job-hopping, or one who can commit to at least a year or more. If you are investigating a child-care center, find out how well it retains workers. Good centers, which pay their workers reasonably well and treat them with respect, should have a turnover rate of less than 25 percent.
6.) Do the teachers have advanced training? Do not dismiss the value of well-trained providers; they understand how children develop and are better able to meet their needs. They also tend to be more intentional. Those who bother to learn how kids grow are more likely to put some thought into furthering your child's development.
7.) Is the environment safe, clean and inviting? At a minimum, providers should follow basic health and safety measures, such as washing hands after changing diapers and keeping a list of emergency numbers so you or a doctor can be quickly contacted if necessary. Check to see that a variety of interesting and age-appropriate activities and toys are within easy reach. Finally, look for more subtle signs that all is well, like displays of children's work on the walls. This simple action shows that the kids' efforts and creations are praised and appreciated, just as they would be in your home.
8.) Do you feel supported as a working parent? The best teachers should seem like part of your extended family. Does she help you to be a better parent? Or do her comments and actions make you worry and feel guilty about leaving your child all day? If she is doing her job well, a provider should help you feel confident in your decision to work or have time alone while your child stays with her.
9.) Would you want to stay there all day? If the answer is no, then look for another arrangement. Your child should not have to tolerate a situation that you would find unpleasant. After all, with the right provider, your child will thrive; and, in turn, so will you.

Leaving a child in the care of another person, especially for a new environment with new people, can be very stressful for both the parent and the child. A child care facility worth its salt will be one where the anxiety of separation will be eased by the knowledge that the child will be well cared for during your absence. Do your homework and make sure that you are satisfied with the references and the quality of the location. Although it may be difficult to leave your child with a "stranger", the provider of these services should be able to satisfy your needs and answer all your questions, leaving no unanswered issues. Day Care can be a positive learning experience for your child.

Make sure that you find one that helps enrich the daily activities in preparation for social skills and early learning. Children need to learn how to interact with others and be prepared to start school when they reach the appropriate age. The best situation for a child is to be in a wonderful, loving and nurturing home environment with attentive parents and lots of stimulation. However, in today's society, it's tough to sustain that when parents work. The next best alternative is to provide a safe location for them to stay during the day. Remember, children are like sponges. They will soak up everything they see and hear. Keep them safe and secure.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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