Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Choosing a childcare that is best for your baby...

Hi blog friends!

It is the day us mommies (and dads!) dread... the day when maternity leave is up, and it is time to go back to work, and leave our sweet little baby in the hands of someone else.  For some lucky enough to stay at home with your babies, what a blessing!  For others, help comes in the faces of grandparents, aunts, friends... but for alot of us, our only choice is to bring our sweet babies to childcare.

I went back to work when Ledoux turned 3 months...hardest day of my life.  I cried for weeks before (perhaps some of those tears were because I actually had to return to work, lets be honest) but I was devastated at the thought that I would have to leave my baby with someone else.  And scared. So scared.  There was no way anyone could take as good of care of Ledoux as myself.  This, in alot of ways, is so true.  Then I remembered, isn't there a saying "It takes a community to raise a child?"  I think it is something like that.  Anyway, at the end of the day, my only option was to trust that someone else would love, nurture, and help me raise my sweet baby.  And giving that trust to someone else is soooo hard.  But I did it.

I did ALOT of research on what made a quality program.  I am lucky, in that my Masters is in Education and Early Childhood, and my mother is the department head of the Early Childhood department at a local I had some tools in my belt when the time came to select who I was going to trust with the most important job in the world... my child's care.  TIMEOUT: I just said the most important job in the world.  If you haven't thought about this yet, think about it.  These are the professionals we are entrusting to raise the next generation of our cities, states, country, future... they are shaping the minds and development of our children.  If that isn't the most important job EVER, I don't know what is.  Ok, I am off my soapbox.  When it comes to choosing your child's care, there are so many things to consider, so I thought it might be helpful to compile a list of important things you may not think of when it comes to selecting who you will trust...

How could I leave this silly little face?
1.) What is the name of the program? Ok, you are thinking this is silly, but this is my biggest pet peeve.  Think about it...would you want to bring your baby to somewhere called Kidz 4ever, or Skool Time?  WOW.  That just screams professional, doesn't it?  A place of education... that doesn't even spell their name correctly?  And it is on purpose?  EEK.  Also, if the world "babysitter" or "daycare" is in their name, look elsewhere.  A quality program will refer to themselves as childcare.

2.) Education of staff.  Do I need to continue?  DO NOT bring your baby somewhere that doesn't value education of their staff.  You need to ask the director of the program, and each teacher that will interact with your baby, what their education level is.  If they haven't made it past high school... or look at you like your question is cray cray, leave. now.  Early childhood is an ever evolving field, with new discoveries being made daily as it relates to your baby... Your baby deserves the best, which starts with the people who will be with your baby everyday.  The first question I asked when visiting programs was education level.  I was looking for either a staff who holds their CDA or AA in early childhood (of course I prefer a BA!), or currently enrolled in a program. 

3.) Staff Retention.  What is the turnover of the staff?  How long have the teachers been in the field of early childhood and working with young children?  The people working with my baby need to be passionate about the field... continuity of care is CRITICAL with our babes (meaning they bond and have the same teacher, consistently.)  In a center with high turnover, that is not going to happen, which will leave your baby lacking a strong bond with their main teacher.  I also ask how long they have/want to be in the Early Childhood field.  I do not want someone watching my baby who is teaching as a job... I want it to be their career. 

4.) Spend at least 3 days in the classroom.  This is important for multiple reasons.  First, you want to help your sweet baby transition (especially if they have never been away from you!).  On day one, you spend a couple hours with your babe in the room.  The next day, perhaps you stay for an hour, and leave for an hour.  The third day, leave your baby for a full 2 hours.  It really helps the transition easier.  I also do this simply because I want to see what the teachers are like, what the dynamic of the classroom is like... are the teachers responsive to the needs of the babies?  What happens when there are two babies crying?  How is the day scheduled? Talk to the teachers... what does your gut tell you?

5.) Accreditation.  Is the program accredited?  Easy as that.  Did you even know that childcare programs can be accredited.  Yep.  They can.  And the quality ones are.  Accreditation holds the childcare program to a standard that is far higher than the others, which means the quality of care is going to be higher.  Period.  And with accreditation comes a higher probability that the staff is educated (or in the process).  Accreditation and the means in which quality is measured differs from state to state, but a good place to start is by asking the director of the program. If they give you a deer in the headlights look, run. fast.  If they start telling you, that's a good sign, but ask them what standards their accreditation requires.  Knowing they are accredited is great... but if you don't know what the accreditation requires, what good does that do you?  NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) is a biggie-- they set the standard for early care in alot of ways.

6.) Go to your local childcare licensing agency.  You can find yours simply by googling "childcare licensing in... (your state)"  Did you know that all licensed programs have visits by them to make sure they are meeting the requirements for licensing?  Any and all infractions, warnings, and penalties are public information and you need to know what they have been warned/written up/fined for.  In Arizona (where I live) I can find the information online about any licensed program in the state.  Anything, from cleaning products not being locked up to major things like child abuse, will be listed. 

7.) What is the teacher to child ratio.  This one is easy... the less children, the more teachers, the better.  In an infant room, I look for nothing more than 1 teacher to 4 babies (which is still high to me...)  I am lucky that my baby is in a room that is 1:3 right now, which is awesome. 

This is a list that is living... meaning I think of new things that I want to share with the mommies out there ALL THE TIME.  I wrote all of these questions, and more, down and did an interview with every center I visited.  And then I compared my notes. That being said, I will continue to share things that may not be top of mind as I think of them. I cannot stress enough how critical quality care is for our children, especially early care.  Hopefully, someone out there will be able to use some of this to help find a great place to help in raising their sweet babies.

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