What is child care?
Child care is short-term care
by someone other than a parent. There are two basic types of child care:
individual and group.
- Individual providers care for only your child
or children. The provider may be a family member or friend, a nanny, an au pair, or
- Group providers care for your child and other people’s
children. Your child may attend a small or large home day care, a child care
cooperative, or a child care center such as a preschool or Montessori
Finding good child care can seem overwhelming and a bit
scary. It is an important decision. But if you take your time and do some
research, you can find a place where your child can play, learn, and be well
taken care of.
How can you find good child care?
child care, consider your child's safety, how much you can afford to pay, and
your daily routine.
When choosing child care, make sure that
- Safe. Check that it is
licensed with your state and county (also called registration or
certification). Licensing guidelines vary by state. So make sure that all
care providers know how to handle emergencies and are trained in first aid and
CPR. Also, ask for references. Get the names of people
and agencies you can talk to about the care center’s safety
- Right for your child's age, skill level, and natural outlook. Ask what ages of children go to the care center.
Think about whether your child would do best at home, in a family home setting,
or in a group center. For example, a child who makes friends easily may do well
in a group center. A shy child may do better in a small, home-based
- Right for your family’s values. Ask
what kind of learning programs the center has. Think about whether these fit
with your family’s beliefs and values.
- Well staffed. Make sure there are enough staff members to care for the number
of children at the center. Ask if caregivers are able to give each child
one-on-one attention as needed. Check that the main caregivers and program
directors are trained in child development and have a college degree or are
otherwise highly experienced. Also, find out how long staff members have worked
there. It can be upsetting for a child if the staff changes often.
- Caring. Watch how the staff works with the children and
if they are kind and caring with them. A good caregiver helps your child learn, interact, and solve problems while protecting him or her from making choices that could be harmful.
- Affordable. In the United States you can deduct part of child
care costs from your state and federal income taxes. Your employer also may
offer benefits or help with child care. Or you may qualify for a reduced rate
at some child care centers.
- Reliable and consistent. You'll want to know that your provider will be available
when needed. Have written agreements outlining specific hours, holidays, and
- Convenient. Think about the
location of the care center and whether
the hours work well with your schedule.
What if your child has special needs?