For parents: Choosing the best childcare for your child and your life.
July 11, 2012
What are your childcare options?
So, its time to go back to work. After a year (or maybe longer, like in my case) at home with your baby, this is a hard transition for everyone. Finding the right care for your situation and your child makes this transition SO much easier. However, if you are a first time parent, the world of childcare can be big, scary and confusing! What are your options, what do you look for in a childcare provider, and how do you know you’ve found the right place for your child?
Today, I will outline your main three childcare options and the pros and cons of each, as I see them.
#1 Dayhomes: A small group childcare arrangement in a private home. On any given day, dayhome providers may not have more than 6 children in their care. Mothers who want to stay home with their own children, and still earn an income to contribute to their family often run dayhomes. Dayhomes offer a more “homey” option of childcare, and are often open to taking children on a part time basis. For example, my children go to their dayhome 2 days a week, and I only pay for 2 days a week.
Option #1A: A licensed or registered dayhome. This is a dayhome that is licensed or registered with an agency. The childcare is still provided in a private home, but the dayhome pays the agency a monthly fee to take care of the business end of things, such as payments, taxes, and advertising to fill open spaces. The agency also has guidelines that the dayhomes need to follow, such as more specific ratios of children in care (only 1 child under 12 months, 3 children under 36 months, etc.), discipline strategies, hours of operations and safety. Agencies usually will send out a representative to the dayhomes to check in and ensure everything is running appropriately.
Pro: Peace of mind that the agency is keeping tabs on the dayhome, ease of receipts at tax time. Offers more regulated care, but still in a homey environment.
Con: Lacks some flexibility when it comes to the children in care, and personally, I feel most of the guidelines about discipline are too lax. They are sometimes more expensive because the dayhome has the added cost of paying the agency.
Option #1B: A private dayhome. This is a dayhome that is NOT registered or licensed through an agency. They follow some of the same guidelines as agencies, but do not have the stricter ratios of children at certain ages. The dayhome provider themselves also runs the business side of things. The provider is able to set the type of program they wish to run, how they discipline the children and the hours/days they are open.
Pro: More flexibility in terms of hours of operation, programming and discipline. Can be cheaper because they do not have agency fees to pay.
Con: No outside person checking in to make sure things are running appropriately. Parents need to be more diligent about checking up on the dayhome and making sure everything is being run appropriately.
#2 Daycare: This is a more formalized childcare facility. Daycares can take large groups of children, and children are grouped into aged groups, usually into separate rooms or areas. Each age group is taken care of by a number of childcare providers; enough to ensure the regulated ratios are met. A manager or director oversees the childcare providers. They are more heavily regulated because they are bigger institutions. Some daycares provide a more school like atmosphere for older children.
Pro: Children are in groups of the same age, so your child will have playmates their own age. Many will pick up and drop off from school for older children. Daycares often provide a school like atmosphere for preschool and kindergarten age kids. There are generally more strict regulations in regards to the caregiver’s certifications. There are always caregivers on duty, so no need to find alternate care if one of the caregivers gets ill.
Con: Often more expensive, especially for children under 18 months of age. Generally not willing to provide part time care, or will take a child part time, but you will need to pay for a full time spot. A busy daycare may not be a good fit for a child who gets easily overwhelmed by a lot of people, noise and activity.
Option #3: A Nanny. A Nanny is an individual person whom you hire to come to your home to look after your children. If you are working part time, sometimes you can share a Nanny with a friend to help share the cost. There are a few different nanny situations. One is to hire a Live In Nanny, often from overseas. The nanny will live in your house and look after your children while you are at work. You will need to provide a private room for the nanny so she has her own space. Another option is a Live Out Nanny. The nanny will live in her own place, but come to you on the days you need childcare. Most nannies will cook and clean in your home if you make it part of the requirements.
Pro: Your children are cared for in their own space. Nannies will often cook and clean for you. Live in nannies will usually babysit in the evenings (for an extra fee of course). No need to get the kids up and out the door early if they tend to sleep late.
Con: You need to have the extra space for a live in nanny. There can be difficulties with visas and such with nannies from overseas. If the nanny gets sick, you have no backup. Kids do not get other socialization from other kids every day.
As you can see, there are benefits and drawbacks to any childcare situation. The key is to weigh all your options, investigate the ones that seem to fit your needs, and ensure you are picking the best person you can for your child. You also need to be flexible and remember that no childcare situation has to be forever. If it’s not working for you and your child, end the relationship gracefully and respectfully, and find something else that will work better.