Child Care Choices

Child Care Choices

by Muriel Jarvis

If you are the parent of a young child, at some point during the next few years you’ll need to find care for your child. This may happen because you return to work, or simply to allow you as parents to attend social events. Whatever the reason, finding quality childcare will require careful consideration.

Child development experts tell us that children’s early years set the foundation for the rest of their lives. Since children can spend a considerable amount of time with their caregivers, choosing the right one can make a big difference in your child’s future.

The type of care you choose for your child will depend on your child’s needs, your needs, and the type of care available in your community. In the Greater Saint John area, options vary from licensed daycare centres to licensed community daycare homes, to nanny services or informal arrangements. Licensed care is available in daycare centres and community daycare homes. To be licensed, facilities must meet provincial requirements concerning such things as caregiver ratio, group size, space per child, nutrition, training requirements for staff, health and safety features, and program and outdoor play requirements. Unlicensed care includes employing nannies, private babysitters, friends or relatives. Should you choose to have someone provide care in your own home, you are an employer and you should be aware of labour legislation that applies to you. Contact the provincial Department of Labour, Employment Standards Branch to find out about your obligations

Katina Feggos, who has several years of experience as a child and family counselor, suggests that parents should look for a care giver who can help their child develop in positive ways. “To find the best care for your child,” says Ms. Feggos, “ you must take into consideration your child’s social, emotional, intellectual, and physical development as well as his/her personality. Consider such things as how active your child is; how he/she gets along in a large group; the importance of consistent discipline; the need for a balance of active and quiet play; and the type of experiences you would like your child to have. If you choose a warm, nurturing caregiver, then your child can benefit from non-parental care.” Beyond your child’s needs, it is important to consider your own schedule. Do you need to have childcare close to work or home? Do you need your child to have meals while in care or to be with siblings?

Once you’ve developed a list of potential childcare facilities that could meet these needs, it’s important to start looking at specifics. The caregiver’s qualifications are important, and whether or not they can provide references. How many other children are enrolled? How old are they? What are the activities for a typical day/week? What are the lunch and snack provisions? Are there any special features of the program? What is the policy regarding payment for days when a child is absent? Are there extra charges beyond the normal fees? Are tax receipts provided?

Ms. Feggos suggests that you interview the care provider or centre staff, then set a time when you can observe the facility and take your child along. Note your general impression of the overall environment and your child’s reactions. Ask specific questions about staff or care provider’s qualifications. Ask to see equipment and toys. Ask about activities and the daily routine, including outings and what arrangements are made to ensure safety on the outings. Ask about alternates and substitutes. Who else might be looking after your child if the caregiver is ill, on vacation, or has an emergency? Discuss who else may be in contact with your child such as the care provider’s spouse, teenage children, boarders, and neighbours. You have a right to screen anyone who may be involved with your child. Ask specific questions such as, “What do you do when a child in your care bites another child?” Ask for references.

Trust your instincts!

If a potential care facility does not feel right to you, maybe it isn’t. You need to be committed to the choice that you make, because the more positive you are, the more positive your child will be.

About The Author
Muriel Jarvis is the past Executive Director of Family Plus/Life Solutions, a United Way agency in Saint John, with over 20 professional counsellors delivering counselling, education and wellness services.