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Day Care Centers Do More

Day care centers are doing a lot more than changing diapers and feeding kids nowadays ... they're also feeding the parents and cleaning their clothes, too!
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WebMD Feature

Day care centers are offering more than just babysitting services. Just ask Laarni Camerino, mother of three young boys. When she drops off her kids at Palcare in Burlingame, Calif., she knows they get a good education, take part in fun activities such as painting, and eat a nutritious hot lunch.

All the perks equally excite the 36-year-old mom. Shortly after she brags about her 6-year-old son's ability to read at a second grade level, the civil engineer gushes about the time she saves every night, not having to prepare lunch and snacks, and to clean Tupperware from the day's meals.

Palcare's flexible and extended hours also give Camerino the option to take a night off with her husband, to adjust work hours according to her family's needs, and to have extra assurance that her kids are safe. "Because parents are always in and out of there, I think it keeps the place on their toes," she tells WebMD.

Camerino is one of a growing number of moms discovering the benefits of today's child care. When parents bring their kids to The Little Leprechaun Academy in Mason, Ohio, they can also drop off their dry cleaning, get free Starbucks coffee, and, when they get to the office, check the center's live classroom camera via the Internet.

At a handful of Primrose Schools, located mostly in the southeastern and southwestern U.S., take-out meals, portrait-taking, and fingerprinting of kids for safety files are part of the routine.

And there's more. Some day care centers across the country run errands for families, give haircuts and manicures, provide immunizations and medical tests, have doctor, dentist, and veterinary referral services, offer parenting classes, organize community volunteer events, and host social gatherings for parents.

Something useful, nothing new

It may seem surprising, but additional services are not new in the child care world. Early education programs have traditionally supported families, says Susan Aronson, MD, FAAP, a former member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Board of Directors. She points to the federally-funded Head Start program as an example of an organization that has had a strong commitment to the family's overall needs.

Alan Simpson, spokesperson for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), agrees. "Many early childhood educators recognize that the children in their program need a lot more than just early learning services," he tells WebMD. "Educators want to work with families to make sure children are getting all the things they need to foster their development."

What's new is apparently the resources used to assist families. Aronson singles out web cameras, while Simpson points to the errands that some day care centers run for parents.

The NAEYC does not keep track of child care programs that offer additional services, but Simpson says there has recently been much discussion at early childhood education conferences about novel ways to help families.

Lee Scott, a representative of the Primrose Schools, says the extra services have arisen out of demand, and produce a win-win situation for parents, kids, and centers. "We find our families are just rushing constantly, and if we can ease some of that, it creates a good feeling about the school, and of course, it creates customer loyalty," she tells WebMD.

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