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Information for Parents

Why Do Parents Choose Family Child Care Providers?

Parents choose family child care because they want to keep their children in a home-like environment. They prefer to relate to a single caregiver and believe that children are healthier, happier and more secure in smaller groups. Some parents like having all their children in the same group, or trust what they learned about the provider from friends. Sometimes they choose family child care because they find it closer to home, less expensive, more flexible and allows for more adult and child interaction and attention.

Helpful Links for Parents

United Federation of Teachers

New York State Office of Children & Family Services

Top 10 Questions Parents should ask their prospective childcare provider

1. What is the policy regarding sick children?

Working parents have the additional stress of determining what to do when a child is sick. Home based childcare providers have varying policies, and you want to ask how a particular program handles the problem of sick children. Do they not allow moderately sick children into the program or do they send kids home with any sort of sniffle or is fever a requirement? Or, are they extremely lax in allowing sick kids to remain creating an exposure risk to otherwise healthy kids? Parents should also find out what care options exist when a child care provider becomes ill.

2.  Does the program or provider administer medicine?

For some parents, finding a child care provider who has a "sick care" option for mildly ill children is a job-saver. A contagious child will not be allowed at most facilities. However, once antibiotics have begun some programs will allow re-entering into the program. Some providers are certified to administer medication as allowed by law. This may benefit a parent’s schedule that does not have great flexibility in taking days off from work. You should understand if your provider is allowed to administer medicine, and this decision should be based in part to your child’s physical or special needs.

3. Will I have to pay for days when my child is absent due to illness or vacation?

If your child is out for three days due to illness or away for a week on a vacation, do parents still have to pay for child care? In many cases, the answer is "yes." After all, a program's or providers overhead costs continue. Some programs offer a break if a child has an extended illness and others offer a certain number of days per year to be used for vacation, illness, or other type of absences. This detail should be clearly agreed upon by both the parent and the provider.

4. What is your discipline policy?

This can be a really sensitive topic for parents, and it is important that you thoroughly understand what discipline approach is utilized and that you are comfortable with it. Most programs and childcare providers have written guidelines for review. Not only do you want to find out what they do, but you also want to clearly understand what types of practices are prohibited. If you have a particular concern, you should be sure to have a one-on-one with the childcare provider.

5. What types of meals and snacks do you serve?

Parents and providers often have different notions about what is a nutritionally balanced and suitable meal or snack. Parents must be sensitive to the fact that child care providers cannot tailor meals to individual children (unless parents bring the food); however, particular requests or items to avoid should be noted. Any food sensitivities must be stated and clearly understood (such as allergies). After that, ask what the stance is on occasional treats and food preparation.

6. Do you charge extra if I’m picking my child up late?

Some child care providers charge if a parent is late picking a child up after closing hours. Others are more lax and a few may even offer parents a couple of exceptions due to extenuating circumstances. However, a “few minutes” is one thing; 30 minutes late is typically never acceptable. After all, your lateness prevents providers from caring for their families and resuming their family responsibilities. Some facilities may even have firm rules for tardy parents in which they can choose to cease care.

7. What is your staff turnover rate?

It should come as no surprise that staff turnover rates at childcare programs are high. While 30 to 40 percent is the average annual turnover, it doesn't mean that is the rate at your preferred day care program. It is important, however, to ask. You want to know what the frequency of staff changes because it can affect your child's comfort and sense of security if changes are too frequent. And, high turnover can signal a serious problem in the programs operation.

8.  What is your childcare philosophy?

Does this daycare focus more on nurturing and providing quality care or does it have an academics component as well? What early childhood training if any has this provider received and what they determine is "age appropriate?" What types of enrichment activities are done and how will parents be informed of these? Do kids all do everything or is there a way for youngsters to choose their interests? Does the provider offer choice? Is there a daily schedule that is adhered to each day?

9. What are your safety and security policies?

Parents should look around at the overall environment and determine their level of comfort in its cleanliness and overall safety protocols. What is the supervision ratio? Is there a daily sign in and sign out log and is this policy enforced? What is the visitor policy? Is the daycare area well-ventilated, well-lit and at a comfortable temperature? Are toys sanitized on a regular basis? Are there outlet covers and clean table or countertops?  Is the indoor play area organized? Is the outdoor play area safe for apparent harm?

10. Can I observe or visit my child whenever I like?

Parents should feel welcome and wanted, and know that they are given access to their child at all times. Does your potential child care provider invite parents and extend an invitation for parents to visit without advance notice? Do you feel welcomed to come and go at any time or are there regimented visiting times only? Some programs may want to limit access because it can cause a disruption to learning time and the program schedule; others embrace parental interaction at any time. You should clearly discuss with your provider your preference and come to an agreement on this matter.