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Solutions and Options for Quality Daycare

by Dianna Graveman
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Every decision you make concerning your baby, from the moment you find out you're expecting until your child reaches adulthood, is an important one. Sometimes making a lot of decisions at once when your child is little can seem overwhelming--and a decision like which daycare or childcare provider to use can be monumental. Take time to do some research about your options and remember to thoroughly check every reference for each provider you interview. Here are some options to consider:

Licensed Daycare

One of the most obvious advantages to a licensed daycare is that it is dependable. Even if some of the center's staff is out sick, the center typically remains open. If the center is licensed and has a good reputation, it generally provides adequate supervision with trained staff who are used to working with babies and very young children. A daycare provides plenty of opportunity for little ones to socialize with others, too. This solution is almost always more affordable than a private nanny.

However, your child will likely not have a staff member who cares just for him or her. Check with the center to find out its caregiver-to-child ratio. Most daycare centers will not take your child if she is sick, and being around so many other children may prompt your child to get sick more often. If your job requires you to work weekends and holidays, you will probably have to make other arrangements on those days, and you may be charged extra if you arrive late to pick up your child.

Home Daycare

Hiring a childcare provider to care for your baby in her home might provide a more nurturing atmosphere that seems less like an "institution." Be sure to check references. A licensed childcare provider is your best option--even if she works from home. Make sure she is not caring for too many children, including her own, and can provide ample supervision for all. Do keep in mind that the caregiver may not be trained in early childhood like staff members at a daycare center. Stories in the news suggest some unlicensed in-home childcare providers do not keep up-to-date with the latest findings about safe sleep conditions and SIDS--so be sure your caregiver is intelligent and well-informed. Remember also to have a "backup" plan in case your sitter gets sick or has an emergency and can't take your child one day.

Grandparents or Relatives

A really inexpensive option and sometimes a great one is to ask one of your baby's grandparents or another trusted relative to provide daycare. This often works well if a grandparent is retired and relishes the idea of spending so much time developing a strong bond with his or her grandchildren. Even if the caregiver won't accept regular payment, consider giving an occasional gift certificate or offer to do some yard work or another errand in return. The benefits are many: grandparents or other caring relatives have a special, personal interest in doing what's best or your child, and you may share many of the same values. But be aware that older grandparents may tire easily when dealing with small children, and there are times when generational experiences may cause a difference of opinion about childcare.

Nanny

An often more expensive but very convenient option for parents who are both employed in demanding jobs is a nanny. Your child will get personal one-on-one attention she will probably not get at a daycare or with an in-home provider, and a nanny is sometimes more flexible about start and end times than a daycare, especially if she is well-compensated. Your child will stay in his own home, with his own belongings and toys, providing a sense of stability and security, and a nanny will have the time to take your child to community or cultural events and play dates. Nannies are not always an option because of expense, and it is important to remember that no one will be supervising your nanny--so choose with care and check every reference. You will need to fill out more paperwork, especially at tax time, so retain an accountant or tax attorney. And just like with other childcare providers, your nanny could get sick or quit, so have a backup plan.


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