There may be no place like home for your child, but finding a quality in-home child care provider can be the next best thing. Many families tout the benefits of using family child care, where early childhood educators care for a smaller number of kids in the comfort of their home. Here are reasons to consider family care.
Family child care is an attractive option for many families, in part because the care setting is essentially a home away from home. Quality care providers can offer families the comfort of care in a setting similar to what kids are used to at their own home, complete with a living room, play area, kitchen, back yard and bathrooms. In-home providers typically treat their charges as extended members of their own family, and a small (and manageable) number of children in their care means that the brood can often take "family" outings to the park or story hour, or even nature hikes or sidewalk strolls. Meals are usually served family style in a central dining area, and comfort, familiarity, and small group activities are enticements.
Licensed home providers operate within the regulations specified by the state in which they reside, and one of those requirements is how many kids can be kept by any one family provider. While the number may vary, most in-home providers care for six or less children. Often, providers may choose to keep less. Compare that to a daycare setting where sizes may be larger, and it is easy to understand why this can be a preferred option for many families. When considering in-home care, an important question to ask is how many kids will be cared for during any given day, and whether that number changes based on circumstances.
Family care providers can often be found in the same neighborhoods, or at least nearby, where you live, so convenience plays a key role. Depending on the provider, some may even offer transportation assistance to enrichment activities or to other programs that working parents can't provide.
While some parents prefer to move their toddler or preschooler to a daycare setting prior to entering school to become used to more children and activities, many families like the small and more calm and quiet home environment for infants and young children. Nurseries at daycare facilities can sometimes appear to look institutional, which can be offsetting to parents with a baby. However, having an in-home provider who can care for a child in a nursery-setting with only one or two babies can be appealing to many. Many providers limit the number of kids they watch in any particular age group to provide a better balance of care.
Every family provider will have a different experience level and training qualifications, so ask. But in order to appeal to parents and to be ready for any potentially-dangerous situation, most providers have completed safety training, have had their home inspected by state regulators for safety conformance requirements, and have gone the extra mile for extra peace of mind (yours and theirs). Check with your state about what you should look for with a licensed care provider, and if you choose not to use one, be sure you understand what the implications are of that as well. While most child care workers receive some training, parents typically are most comfortable with experienced providers who have received extensive, ongoing training.
Whereas kids may come and go based on parent satisfaction and work requirements at commercial day care settings, family child care providers tend to keep the same kids from birth until they are ready for kindergarten. This creates a loving bond between provider and child, as they participate in all the stages of a child's early years and partner with parents to help raise a child.
Parents often get to know their child's providers personally. After all, they are in their home and become acquainted with their family. Because of this, parents and providers can develop strong relationships in teaming together to successfully raise a child. Issues such as food choices, potty training, behaviors (good and bad), socialization, and early education can be resolved through mutually beneficial communications. Parents should learn the provider's philosophy and routine, and providers should see how any particular parenting requirements can be incorporated while ensuring all needs of all kids are met. Since not all parent and provider approaches are compatible, making sure there is a good match before placing/taking a child!
Many family providers develop a strong network of other in-home educators. State and national associations offer training and support, and local providers get together to brainstorm and exchange ideas about activities, challenges, and ways to enhance care services to kids. This is good news for parents, who are on the receiving end of up-to-date advice and networking of providers. Another plus is that family providers often establish a back-up plan in the unlikely event they become ill another provider is available to provide care on a short-term basis. Some providers even meet at a park on occasion and let kids in their care get to know one another, so the back-up care plan won't mean children would be meeting someone for a first time.
Cost is an understandable consideration by families choosing child care. While rates vary dramatically depending on where you live and even the age of kids, most in-home providers charge comparably to day care. Many charge less, especially when factoring in supply fees that corporate care facilities often charge. Parents may have greater flexibility with helping with snacks or providing sack lunches, or bringing in diapers or other supplies, as a way to help save on costs. In-home providers may also be more flexible with parents only needing part-time care or may offer sibling discounts. Parents must also keep in mind that child care is a business, and that a provider will expect on-time payments and timely drop-off/pick-ups of kids.