What families should be looking for when searching for child care is a big question?
Choosing care for a child is one of the toughest and most important decisions guardians have to make. Families know that the care they secure will have an impact on their child’s development.
What they are looking for impacts not only how we are seen as early childhood educators, but also what we should be looking to provide families.
Let’s look at finding child care from a family’s point of view…….
Where do you look for care?
- friends, extended family, co-workers
- community organizations (churches, schools, libraries)
- printed media
- online searches
- state site for information about child care
Once you have some names of programs do a little more research. Many programs today have some type of online presence. You can find out contact (email or phone), about ages served, hours of operation, location, general policies, cost, licensed and meals/snacks. You might be able to remove some programs right away because they do not serve your needs. Once you have some options it’s time to start calling.
Also read through the current Licensing Rule, so you know what the minimum health and safety standards programs need to meet are. You can also read up on the QRIS program within the state. In Maine it’s a voluntary program, but it does support improving quality of programs, so information there might provide you with more questions to ask.
What do you ask when you place the call?
- The first question should not be “What do you charge?”
- Start by letting the provider know what type of care you are looking for.
- Ask if they have availability when you are going to be needing it. If not, when might they?
- Ask questions about what you could not find out in your research or to clarify.
- Ask it you can come visit. Some programs without openings still allow families to visit to have a comparison.
Choose at least 3 programs to visit.
- compare how what is offered meets your needs
- compare program environments – not it’s newness, but things like available equipment, natural light, and general cleanness
- watch interactions between provider and children, and children to children
- what is your comfort level with the provider – remember you are going to have to work as a team to provide the most positive experience for your child. Trust your feelings. Most providers are happy to provide references or contact # for current families.
For licensed programs you know that the minimum safety and health standards are being covered, so you can focus on questions about meeting your care needs and parenting style. Most providers will go over their policies around payments, holidays, illnesses, meals, conferences, family engagement. Get a copy of all policies/handbook, read it through and call provider to clarify any issue.
Found your program…. now what?
- Be sure the written agreement is clear and what you talked about.
- Honor your agreement.
- Stay involved once your child starts in the program. That’s as simple as talking with the provider about what is happening at home and at care. Maybe staying a bit one day to interact with your child within the space. Arranging to sharing a special talent or interest with the program.
As your child grows and changes, you might find the program you are in doesn’t continue to meet their needs. Do not be uncomfortable about making changes. It is always about what is best for the child. If you have had a positive relationship with the current provider, talk with them about options they might know about.
As a Family Child Care provider, what does this tell you about your program, what it offers and how you relate to both current and potential clients?
- Are you licensed?
- Are you part of QRIS (Quality forME)
- Do you have an online presence?
- How do you respond to inquiries, especially when you are full?
- How do you continue to build relationships with your current families in care?
- How are you dealing with maintaining policies and handbook?
- Are you networking with other providers, especially in your immediate area?
- Are you aware of the care needs within your community?
Family Child Care programs are small businesses that offer an invaluable service to families within their communities. Providers need to continue to reflect on how searching families are seeing their business and the service provided.