In my day job, I am a policy advisor to Congress on how to make child care more affordable and accessible for all working families. In my full time job, I am a parent to two wonderful children Aiden (two years old) and Lily (three months old). Having these two has taught me more than a multitude of degrees and work experience about the important role caregivers play supporting the development of children. My husband and I were incredibly fortunate to have our mothers help at various times in watching our children so we can work. With Aiden, I went back to work after 7 weeks, and at 6 weeks with Lily. When we were ready, and a spot opened up, we placed Aiden in child care at a fantastic center. One of the main reasons that we feel so fortunate is because of the great communication with our child care providers.
Here are my 5 recommendations on how to stay connected in a quality child care setting:
1. Start right away. We signed up when I was three months pregnant with my son and a spot didn’t open up for him until he was 15 months old. Finding a setting that matches your needs can take some time.
2. Visit. Choose an environment that’s ideal for your family: Choosing quality care that you’re comfortable with is important; no matter if it’s an in-home provider or a large center. Some important questions to ask about environment:
- Is the program licensed or regulated?
- Is the atmosphere bright and pleasant?
- Can the caregivers/teachers see the entire playground at all times?
- Are there different areas for resting, quiet play and active play? Is there enough space for the children in all of these areas?
3. Interview the child care provider and ask tons of questions. This is one of the most important steps in making sure the setting is one of quality. Child Care Aware has a great checklist for evaluating providers. Some of the main indicators of quality that are important to look for are: Visit the child care programs you’re considering and ask questions about key indicators of quality, such as licensing, adult to child ratio, group size, caregiver qualifications, background checks, staff turnover, and accreditation. Also, questions like, “What’s your plan in case of an emergency?” Will help you know and understand if they have a plan. You can also contact your local CCR&R agent who will know all the ins and outs of child care in your community. http://childcareaware.org/parents-and-guardians/child-care-101/evaluating-providers
4. Be involved and stay involved. Constant communication helps you and the child’s caregiver know that you both are in this together. Visiting and participating in events at your child's provider also sends a strong message. It tells your child care program that you think what your child is doing and learning is important. Come early, stay late. Go to an event or share lunch and a snack on a holiday or your child’s birthday.
5. Show your appreciation- I tell my son’s child care provider that she has one of the hardest and most important jobs on earth! And I mean it… try spending nine hours straight with eight two-year-olds. They are constantly teaching, nurturing, wiping noses and hineys and ultimately shaping little minds and hearts for their future.
It’s a partnership between you and your provider. It takes a village and your child care provider is a central part of it.
-- Guest Blogger, Michelle McCready, Director of Public Policy at Child Care Aware of America