Experts: Take tours, ask questions and weigh your options before choosing a child care facilityStacey Smith said she felt anxious about choosing a day care for her baby after her maternity leave ended this spring. She and husband, Michael, hesitated to leave their son with a caregiver during the day, preferring one parent stay home with Haden, now 6 months old. Financially, however, the family was dependent on Stacey’s paycheck, so the couple relied on word-of-mouth advice from friends and coworkers in choosing child care.
Stacey Smith said she felt anxious about choosing a day care for her baby after her maternity leave ended this spring.
She and husband, Michael, hesitated to leave their son with a caregiver during the day, preferring one parent stay home with Haden, now 6 months old. Financially, however, the family was dependent on Stacey’s paycheck, so the couple relied on word-of-mouth advice from friends and coworkers in choosing child care.
“I had a lot of anxiety about it because it’s hard enough to leave your child with somebody else as it is,” Smith said.
Selecting child care is a difficult decision for many families, said Verla Jung, child care consultant for North Dakota Child Care Resource and Referral in Jamestown. The 2,700 children in the county under the age of 12 have many options in the Jamestown area, so knowing what to look for and which questions to ask may help find the best fit for providers and families.
“Don’t just take the person who says ‘I have openings for your child,’” Jung said. “Some have openings for a reason.”
One of the first things parents can do is obtain a list of providers from North Dakota Child Care Resource and Referral. The phone number for the Jamestown area branch is 252-0350.
Jung suggested parents visit with and interview those potential caregivers at least twice before making a decision. Visit once during evening hours and have a one-on-one talk with the caregiver, she said. And visit during the day, as well, to see how the caregiver interacts with the current children in his or her care.
The parent-provider relationship is the most important, said Kari Kapp, president of Jamestown Area Childcare Services.
“See if you (and the provider) click or not,” Kapp said.
Kapp said parents may get what they pay for, and should consider cost in their selection, but to be prepared to pay more for a higher quality of care.
The average cost of licensed child care in Stutsman County is more than $5,400 per year, according to North Dakota Child Care Resource and Referral.
Kapp said parents should inquire about the licensing and training of each provider. How many years of experience does the provider have? Has he or she taken any classes or training opportunities in addition to those required for a child care license?
In her child care quest, Smith said she visited several in-home care centers as well as center-based care. Smith wanted a place where Haden would be safe and have room to grow and play.
But her family also had special needs: sometimes Stacey and Michael worked past 5 p.m. and needed extended hours of care. Also, Haden was diagnosed with pneumonia and needed caregivers who could administer nebulizer treatments if he needed them, Stacey said.
Child care consultant Shannon Brown said families should consider those needs when selecting a child care provider. Are you OK with pets in the home? How do you feel about prayer during meals? Are parents required to pay a full-time rate even if the child only needs part-time care?
Brown also said families should tour the house — especially where diapers are changed and where children sleep, wash, play and eat. Also look for potential safety hazards, like covers on the electrical outlets, gates on stairwells, small toys or sharp edges, emergency exits, if the space is clean and provides adequate space for young children, she said.
“We want them to be able to roll around,” Brown said.
Find out if the provider has complied with rules and standards by calling Stutsman County Social Services at 252-7172. Also ask for references, contacting current and past users. Drop in unannounced to compare what is actually happening at the child care center and what your expectations are for good care, Jung said.
Smith said she’s satisfied with the provider she chose. The day care stays open until 6 p.m. and the child-to-provider ratio is lower than the ratio at many in-home licensed day cares, which can be as many as 12 children to one caregiver.
And for those on the lookout for day care, she has this advice: “Start looking early, interview as many as you can and follow your instincts.”
For more information, visit the North Dakota Child Care Resource and Referral website: www.ndchildcare.org.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan-Anderson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at kryan-anderson@ jamestownsun.com
Questions for Childcare providers
* Is there an opening at the time I will need child care?
* Is there a waiting list for care in the future?
* How many children do you care for? What are their ages? Do the provider’s own children attend?
* What experience do you have in providing child care?
* Do you provide transportation? To which schools/activities? Is there an additional fee?
* Is your program smoke-free 24 hours a day?
* Are there any pets in the program?
* What meals and snacks are provided?
* Are they included in your fee?
* What are your rates? Is there a minimum charge?
* What is the payment policy for holidays, vacation and sick days?
* When is a good time to visit your program and arrange an interview?
* What are your emergency procedures? Are they posted? Do you have practice evacuation drills? How
would I be notified in case of an emergency?
* Are children taken off the premises? How and when would I be notified? How are children transported?
* What is your policy for administering medication?
* Are hands always washed before eating and after diapering?
* Where will my baby’s diaper be changed?
* How frequently do you do diaper changes?
* What precautions are taken to reduce the spread of illness? What do you use to sanitize?
* Where will the children wash, sleep, play and eat? Are babies always put to sleep on their back on a firm, flat surface in a crib or playpen?
* How are children supervised at all times?
* How often do you take the children outdoors?
Source: North Dakota Child Care Resource and Referral