Avoiding Day Care Nightmares
Feb. 7, 2001 -- OK, you have a child -- and you have a
job. You don't, however, have a friend or relative who can take care of the
little angel, and hiring a nanny or governess is not in the stars. The next
step, then, is to find a suitable day care center or babysitter in a private
home. But where do you start looking?
First, you should know that no national standards exist for
licensing or monitoring facilities that look after children. States generally
handle that, and most of them require licenses for centers that take in more
than 12 children. They also require background checks for the caregivers -- not
only in day care centers, but also for people caring for three or more children
in their homes.
"In a licensed setting someone visits, inspects, and writes
a report on the center," says Sherry Workman, executive director of The
National Association of Child Care Professionals. The state keeps these annual
inspection reports on file, and parents can ask for a copy.
A good standard to go by in choosing a day care facility,
Workman tells WebMD, is whether or not it is accredited by a professional
organization such as hers. Other accrediting agencies are the National
Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Child
Care Association. All these groups require centers to meet certain criteria and
evaluate them regularly to make sure they do. Ask your day care center director
if the facility is accredited.
No matter whether the care takes place in a home, a church, or
a commercial center, Workman says, parents should ask for references and
details of the caregivers' training and the director's credentials. In Texas,
for instance, caregivers are required to have 20 hours of education per year
and to know CPR and first aid.
Workman and other experts say it's not enough for someone to be
with your child; the caregiver needs to offer the children activities and toys
that are age-appropriate.
"You should look at the play area. If the children are 2 or
3 years old and there are a lot of toys around that can easily be swallowed,
this is probably not the place for you," says Kirk Davis, MD, a
pediatrician in Fort Worth, Texas.
It's also important for children to be challenged and
stimulated mentally. This is especially true for infants and toddlers, because
they are developing rapidly physically, mentally, and psychologically.
A measure of how well a child care facility handles this is
whether youngsters are allowed to pursue activities they enjoy. Workman calls
this "child-centered care" rather than teacher-centered. In other
words, the children shouldn't all be forced to do the same activity at the same
time for the convenience of the teacher.