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Top 10 Considerations When Evaluating Your Child's Care

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If you haven't done so lately, there is no better time than now to revisit your child's caregiver and child care setting to ensure your choice remains what is best for your child and your family. Here are things every family should frequently consider in terms of evaluating child care arrangements.

1. Is Your Child Happy?

Your child's environment may be safe and offer all sorts of early education activities, but a primary question that every parent should ask is "Is my child truly HAPPY at child care?" While all kids must have bouts of separation anxiety or days where they simply don't want to go to daycare, parents should assess whether their tot is truly happy at child care (at least most of the time). Does your youngster have friends, look forward to special events or days, and seem to have a bond with the care provider? Does she engage socially and seem to thrive in her care setting? If not, it might be time to re-evaluate.

2. Is Your Child's Caregiver Passionate About Kids?

Your child's teacher/provider may have an impressive pedigree, but most parents really want a caregiver who is wild and crazy with passion and genuine love for kids...especially their own! Deciding whether your child's caregiver possesses the right amount of "passion for kids" is subjective, of course, but parents want to feel like their child's caregiver views his/her job as a blessing and that kids are a joy to be around.

3. Is Your Child's Care Environment Safe?

Anyone with kids knows that tots seem to be drawn to dangerous objects and potentially hazardous playthings. Turn your head, and small kids are checking out outlet plugs, cabinets with glassware, or even the kitchen knife drawer. Be sure to carefully evaluate whether your child's in-home provider has all the bases covered in terms of home safety; daycare centers should have a list or at least be able to provide detailed explanations of safety precautions and procedures. While you're at it, be sure to ask about drop-off and departure safety protocols and be sure you're comfortable with the answers given.

4. Are You Pleased with Your Child's Growth and Learning at Child Care?

Experts and parents alike differ on the importance of structured early education to prepare kids for pre-school and kindergarten. Some argue that attending to basic needs, providing lots of safe and fun free play and encouraging social interaction is sufficient. Others, however, believe that a focus on early reading and math as well as introducing academic concepts and even foreign language is essential for success later. Determine what your goals and expectations are for your child at his current stage; then, be sure they are being met to your satisfaction.

5. Do You Communicate Well with Your Child's Care Provider?

Communications continues to be a primary "make-or-break" factor with long-term satisfaction of child care arrangements. Be sure to utilize an early educator/care provider whose communication style works with yours. Do you want a daily report of activities and to know your child's eating/sleeping habits in detail? Some parents do; others consider it unnecessary. Do you like a provider who sets weekly themes and creates special days (like wearing red on Thursday), or do these types of activities drive you crazy? Does your provider request regular conferences? This is a partnership; make sure it works for everyone.

6. Do You Have That Lovin' Feeling About Your Babysitter?

Most of the time, parents have an intuitive feeling about a babysitter or caregiver and rely on those instincts to make child care decisions. While those "feelings" shouldn't be the sole reason to choose or not choose a care provider, they should be strongly considered. After all, you want to feel confident in your provider's abilities and truly want to like her as a person as well as a caregiver for your tot. Spend time with your babysitter chatting about interests, career plans, etc., to make sure your "parent radar" bodes good feelings and then keep the first few outings short until that lovin' feeling is felt.

7. Do Discipline Approaches and Care Styles Mesh?

There is no one right way or wrong way to raise a child. When it comes to your own kids, however, you want them raised YOUR way. Make sure you and your child's care provider agree on such approaches as discipline, character development, religious observances, and other social and emotional issues to avoid any conflict or misunderstandings.

8. Does Your Caregiver Know Latest Medical Advice?

Advice on how to safely care for infants and toddlers changes as new information is discovered or additional medical findings are released. Parents should have regular conversations with their care providers to make sure the latest recommendations by pediatric organizations and other health associations are known and the advice followed. For example, doctors have changed their advice to parents on how infants should sleep to minimize the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Immunization recommendations and advice regarding flu shots also change. The key is to communicate and together agree on any care changes.

9. Are Credentials/Licensing Up-to-Date?

Licensing requirements and regulations regarding child care providers may differ by state or organization, but parents should remain in-the-know of requirements and whether their provider is up-to-date. Day care centers often have additional credentialing options. Ask about any inspections and credentials, and what criteria is used. This information is typically available online for easy review so that parents can understand standards and expectations. If you choose to use someone who is not licensed (such as a part-time babysitter), at least require that the caregiver has basic first-aid/CPR training.

10. What is Your Provider's Back-Up Plan for Sickness?

Parents usually hire caregivers so that they can work themselves, so when the child care provider can't work, it can leave parents in a predicament. The most common outcome is that someone has to remain at home with the kids, often to the detriment of work. But, with advance planning, a Plan B can often be put into place effectively. While another teacher can be brought in easily at a daycare, in-home providers can also arrange for a back-up caregiver for times when they are sick or unable to work. Parents should also make plans for when their own tot is sick and can't attend daycare.

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