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Last Updated: Jan 10th, 2011 - 11:11:15

Parent Pamphlets  


Finding and Selecting Good Child Care: A Guide for Parents Returning to Work
By Sara Gable
Apr 8, 2008, 11:26 PST



[Get PDF of this document]This guide is also available in Portable Document Format. Click the PDF button to the left to get it

Finding and Selecting Good Child Care: A Guide for Parents Returning to Work

Sara Gable
Human Development Extension State Specialist

"Who will take care of my children?"

A big question for anyone going back to work is, "Who will take care of my children?" Finding good child care takes time and thought. Parents need to think about the types of child care programs, what good child care is and which arrangement best meets their needs.

This guide provides information that can help parents and guardians find child care that meets their needs and is good for children's learning and growth. The early years of life are very important for children's future health and well-being. Finding good child care can help children to learn and grow and can also assist parents to have a clear mind at work because they know that their children are receiving safe and healthy care.

Licensing and types of child care

Some child care programs are licensed, others are not. What is child care licensing and why is licensing important? Any person planning to offer child care for more than four unrelated children needs to apply for licensure and meet the requirements before providing child care.

Why is licensing important?

Licensing guarantees that child care facilities meet health and safety standards. When a child care facility is licensed, families know that the Department of Health has agreed that the child care program is safe and healthy and that someone inspects the facility each year. To learn more about licensing, call the Missouri Department of Health, Bureau of Child Care Licensing, at (573) 751-2450, and ask for the child care licensing information to be mailed to you.

Here are several types of child care programs that you may want to consider.

Family child care homes
A family child care home provides care in a home setting for 10 or fewer children. If more than four unrelated children are being cared for, the family child care must be licensed by the state and follow rules for safety and health, the number of children who are cared for by adults, and the training of caregivers. Family child care homes may have daytime and nighttime hours for when they take care of children.

Group child care homes
A group child care home provides care in a home setting, away from the provider's own living space. Group homes are licensed to care for 11 but no more than 20 children and must follow rules for safety and health, the number of children who are cared for by adults, the number of children in a group, and the training of caregivers. Group child care homes may have daytime and nighttime hours for when they take care of children.

Child care centers
A center provides care for children in a building other than a home. Unless run by a church or operating as a part-time nursery school, centers are licensed; they must follow rules for safety and health, the number of children who are cared for by adults, the number of children in a group and the training of caregivers. Centers have set schedules for when they take care of children.

Before- and after-school child care
Children who are in school during the day often need child care before and after school. Before- and after-school care can be found at schools, at child care centers and at group or family child care homes.

In your own home
Some parents have their children cared for at home by a friend, a family member or a neighbor. These arrangements are not licensed. On page 5 of this guide, ideas are listed about how to make sure your children get safe, healthy and good care when they are taken care of at home.

DFS-registered child care program
If your family needs financial assistance from the Division of Family Services to pay for child care, you will need to find a DFS-registered child care program. If you select a child care program that is not licensed, the child care provider will first need to contact the local Division of Family Services and apply for DFS registration before caring for your children. This must be done first, so that the child care provider can receive direct payments from DFS for caring for your children. As with having a child care provider in your own home, use the ideas listed in this guide to make sure your children get safe, healthy and good care when they are taken care of by an unlicensed, DFS-registered child care provider.

Whether you choose a licensed family child care home, a church-operated child care center or an unlicensed DFS-registered child care provider, you need to make sure that your children are receiving good child care.

What is good child care?

Good child care programs provide a healthy and safe place for children to be social, to learn and to grow. Good child care depends on many things. The three most important are the number of caregivers who work with children, caregiver education and training, and the way that caregivers get along with children.

Number of caregivers and children in the group

Family child care homes
a. For one adult caregiver who is licensed to care for 10 children, a maximum of two children under 2 years of age.
b. For one adult caregiver who is licensed to care for six children, a maximum of three children under 2 years of age.

If the family child care home is not licensed, Missouri law says that no more than four unrelated children can be in the child care program.
If a DFS-registered family child care home is not licensed, Missouri law says that no more than four unrelated children can be in the child care program.

Child care centers and group child care homes
Children do best in small groups because it is easier to interact with each other and to get care and attention from caregivers. Missouri licensing rules regulate how many children can be with a caregiver and how big the group of children can be in a licensed child care program. The standards say:

a. For children birth through 2 years old: One adult with four children; groups no larger than two adults with eight children.
b. For children only 2 years old: One adult with eight children; groups no larger than two adults with 16 children.
c. For children 3 and 4 years old: One adult with 10 children.
d. For children 5 years and older: One adult with 16 children.
e. For groups of mixed-age children: For children 2 years and older, one adult with 10 children, and only four 2-year-olds present in the group. If there are more than four 2-year-olds, the group can have no more than eight children.

Caregiver education and behavior

Many people think that providing child care comes naturally, but teaching and caring for children in groups takes special skills. The best child care providers have education and training about children. Licensed caregivers in Missouri are required to have 12 hours of child care training every year.

Education and training are important because they teach caregivers how to help children learn and grow. Caregivers learn how to plan the day, provide nutritious foods and offer fun activities that children will like. Caregivers also learn how to get along with children and families in positive ways.

When you see a good caregiver interacting with children, you will see her/him:

  • Smile at children a lot
  • Talk in ways that children understand
  • Show children a positive attitude
  • Show children they care about them
  • Take care of crying children
  • Help children understand how they feel
  • Answer children's questions
  • Encourage children to get along with each other
  • Make the most of daily routines to help children learn
  • Create moments for children to learn new things in a fun way
  • Help children handle failure and learn ways to be successful
  • The best caregivers know what children can do and understand what it is like to be a child.

Finding out about child care

To find out about child care programs in your area, call the Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. They are located all over Missouri to help families find good child care programs. Use the worksheet below to write down some things about yourself and your children so that you are prepared when you call.

When you talk with the Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, they will give you the name and phone number of at least three child care programs. Write down the names and phone numbers so that you have them when it is time to call.

Table 1. Worksheet for finding and selecting good child care
Your name  
Your address  
Your county  
Your phone number(s)  
Your children's names and ages  
 
 
Do you need a DFS-registered child care program?
  • Yes
  • No
Name and address of employer  
 
Hours of the day and/or night that you will need child care:  
Do you need child care in a certain part of town?
  • Yes
  • No
If Yes, what part of town?  
Which type(s) of child care interest you?
  • Family child care homes
  • DFS-registered child care program
  • Group child care homes
  • Care in your own home
  • Child care centers
  • Before- and after-school care
  • Interested in all types

Contacting and visiting child care providers

When you call the child care providers, set up a time to go and visit. The only way to know if a child care program is GOOD is to talk face-to-face with the person in charge, look carefully at the facility, and watch how the caregivers interact with the children.

Child care in your own home, unlicensed child care programs, and unlicensed DFS-registered child care programs

If you have your children taken care of in your own home or in an unlicensed child care program, use the checklists in this guide to make sure that they are in a safe and healthy environment and that the caregivers act in ways to help your children learn and grow.

If you do not know the caregiver well, ask other people who know the caregiver to tell you about her or him. Ask the neighbors questions such as, "How does she or he get along with children?" and "When the children are playing outside, who is with them and what are they doing?" Also ask any other questions that are important to you. The answers will help you decide if this child care provider can give your children safe, healthy and good care.

Child care in your own home and unlicensed child care programs may not be as dependable as other child care programs. To guarantee that you have child care when you need it, make backup arrangements for your children with friends and family members in case of an emergency.

Table 2. Checklist for contacting and visiting child care providers
When you visit the child care programs, ask many questions and look for the items listed below. You can write notes on this guide to help you remember the different child care programs that you visit. Child care #1
Name:

Phone:

 

Child care #2
Name:

Phone:

 

Child care #3
Name:

Phone:

 

1. Ask if the child care program is licensed. The license should be in plain view near the front door. If not, ask why.
  • Yes
  • No
  • Yes
  • No
  • Yes
  • No
2. Ask about the caregivers' background, education, and training. Do they attend training sessions throughout the year?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Yes
  • No
  • Yes
  • No
3. Ask for a copy of the child care policy handbook. This book will tell you what the program believes is important and how they do business.
  • Yes
  • No
  • Yes
  • No
  • Yes
  • No
4. Look closely at the building. Do you see:
  • Enough toys and learning materials to keep the children happy and busy?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Covered electrical outlets?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Safety gates protecting stairs and unsafe rooms?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Fire escape plans?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Emergency phone numbers near the telephone?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Cleaning supplies and harmful substances securely stored?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Clean and fenced outdoor play area?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Soap and paper towels at the children's sink?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Caregivers washing hands after diapering and toileting children?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Patient and cheerful caregivers?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Healthy and happy children busy at play?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Children eating nutritious snacks and meals?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
    5. Spend time watching the caregivers interact with the children. Do you see caregivers:
  • Smiling at children?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Talking in ways that children understand?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Showing children a positive attitude?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Showing children that they care about them?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Taking care of crying children?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Helping children understand how they feel?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Answering children's questions?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Encouraging the children to get along with each other?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Helping children learn from daily routines?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Creating moments for children to learn new things in a fun way?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes
  • Helping children handle failure and learn ways to be successful?
    • Yes
    • Yes
    • Yes

    Table 3. Child care resource and referral agencies
    SDA #1 YWCA — St. Joseph
    304 North 8th Street
    St. Joseph, MO 64501
    (816) 232-4481
    1-800-404-9922 (restricted to NW Mo.)
    FAX: (816) 232-4481
    Atchison, Nodaway, Holt, Andrew, Buchanan, Worth, Gentry, DeKalb, Clinton, Harrison, Daviess, Caldwell, Mercer, Grundy, Livingston, Carroll, Putnam, Sullivan, Linn, Chariton
    SDA #2 Children's Link
    P.O. Box 103
    Shelbina, MO 63468
    (573) 588-2533
    1-800-201-7745
    FAX: (816) 327-5128
    Schuyler, Adair, Macon, Randolph, Scotland, Knox, Shelby, Monroe, Audrain, Clark, Lewis, Marion, Ralls, Pike, Lincoln
    SDA #3 Heart of America Family Services
    3217 Broadway
    Kansas City, MO 64111
    (816) 753-9981
    1-800-755-0838
    FAX: (913) 342-3632
    Platte, Clay, Ray, Jackson, Lafayette, Saline, Cass, Bates
    SDA #4 Central Workshop on Wheels
    Grinstead 201
    Warrensburg, MO 64093
    (816) 543-8321
    1-800-666-1461
    FAX: (816) 543-8393
    Johnson, Henry, Pettis, Hickory, Benton, Howard, Cooper, Moniteau, Morgan, Miller, Camden, Dallas, Laclede
    SDA #5 Childcare Connection
    P.O. Box 30674
    Columbia, MO 65205
    (573) 445-5627
    1-800-243-9685
    FAX: (573) 446-0342
    Boone, Callaway, Montgomery, Cole, Osage, Gasconade, Maries
    SDA #6 Child Day Care Association
    2031 Olive Street
    St. Louis, MO 63103
    (314) 241-3161
    1-800-467-2322
    FAX: (314) 241-8429
    Warren, St. Charles, St. Louis, St. Louis City
    SDA #7, #8 Council of Churches of the Ozarks
    1461-A East Seminole
    Springfield, MO 65804
    (417) 887-3545
    1-800-743-8497
    FAX: (417) 882-4792
    Vernon, Barton, Jasper, Newton, McDonald, St. Clair, Cedar, Dade, Lawrence, Barry, Polk, Greene, Christian, Stone, Taney, Webster, Wright, Douglas, Ozark, Pulaski, Phelps, Texas, Dent, Howell, Shannon, Oregon, Crawford, Washington
    SDA #9, #10 Southeast Missouri State University
    1 University Plaza
    Cape Girardeau, MO 63701
    (573) 651-5118
    1-800-811-1127
    FAX: (573) 986-6068
    Franklin, Jefferson, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Perry, Iron, Madison, Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Reynolds, Wayne, Stoddard, Scott, Mississippi, Ripley, Butler, Dunklin, New Madrid, Pemiscot

    Making a decision

    Now that you have visited child care programs and collected information, you are ready to make a decision. The decision about who is going to care for your children is usually based on three things.
    1. First, do you think that the child care program is GOOD? Will your children be safe and have the opportunity to learn and grow? Is the facility clean and is nutritious food served? Are the caregivers trained and nice to the children in their care? Is the person in charge interested in your family's needs?
    2. Second, can you AFFORD to pay for the child care program? When you call the Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, they will talk with you about different ways to pay for child care, depending on your income level.
    3. Third, does the LOCATION of the child care let you easily drop off and pick up your children without conflicting with your work schedule or the child care's schedule?

    After you think about these 3 things, making a decision about a child care program may be easier. If you visited more than one child care, you can compare them to decide which one best meets the needs of your family and your children.

    Summary

    Choosing the right child care program for your family is an important decision. This guide is intended to help you be a smart child care shopper and to confidently answer the question, "Who will take care of my children?" The first years of life are very important to children and to families. Finding good child care helps your children to learn and grow and helps you to have a clear mind when at work because you know that your children are receiving safe and healthy care.

    References

    Bredekamp, Sue, and Copple, Carol. (1997). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

    Child Care Action Campaign. Information Guide 19: Finding Good Child Care: The Essential Questions to Ask When Seeking Quality Care for Your Child. New York, NY: Child Care Action Campaign.

    Child Care Action Campaign. Information Guide 13: "Care for Your Child: Making the Right Choice". New York, NY: Child Care Action Campaign.

    Frede, Ellen, C. (1995). The role of program quality in producing early childhood program benefits. In Richard E. Behrman (Ed.), The future of children: Long-term outcomes of early childhood programs. Los Altos, CA: The Center for the Future of Children.

    Whitebook, Marcy, Howes, Carollee, and Phillips, Deborah. (1989). Who cares? Child care teachers and the quality of care in America. Oakland, CA: Child Care Employee Project.


    Copyright 1999 University of Missouri. Published by University Extension, University of Missouri-Columbia. Please use our feedback form for questions or comments about this or any other publication contained on the XPLOR site.

    Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension Work Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. Ronald J. Turner, Director, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Missouri and Lincoln University, Columbia, Missouri 65211. • University Extension does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability or status as a Vietnam era veteran in employment or programs. If you have special needs as addressed by the Americans with Disabilities Act and need this publication in an alternative format, write ADA Officer, Extension and Agricultural Information, 1-98 Agriculture Building, Columbia, MO 65211, or call (573) 882-7216. Reasonable efforts will be made to accommodate your special needs.




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