Finding the Best Care for Your Baby
By Carol Harding
You probably began your search for the perfect child care program early, perhaps even before your baby was born. You've talked with your friends. You've visited programs at your workplace and in the neighborhood. You've read about good infant care programs and the best preschool programs.
Now it's time to enroll your baby. How can you be sure you're making the right choice?
Listed below are several guidelines. Keep in mind that a trusted guideline must be the one you always carry with you-your own good sense about your baby's well-being.
- National Accreditation
Ask about the credentials of the program and its staff. Recent concern about the quality of childcare has led many programs to seek national accreditation - a professional stamp of approval.
- The National Association for the Education of Young Children website includes a national directory of accredited centers.
- The National Association for Family Child Care provides accreditation for caregivers who offer care to children in their homes.
- ZERO TO THREE is another respected national organization that offers information to families.
- Stay awhile
Choose a program that encourages you to visit-even to drop in unannounced. Before you make a final decision, you and your baby should visit for several hours on several different days. After your baby is enrolled, continue to visit. Using your best instincts, make sure your baby is comfortable, safe, and well cared for.
- A special caregiver
Is there a caregiver that your baby is getting to know? Babies thrive in programs where there is consistency and stability and they are able to connect with one or two special persons.
- Does this program work for you?
For this to be a good program for your baby, it also has to work for you and your family. Is it convenient? Does it fit with your schedule? Are its fee structures flexible and reasonable? Can the caregivers provide a support system for you and your baby? It may take some time but you want to develop a partnership of good care for your baby.
- Advocating for better care
In your search, you may find that the best programs and caregivers are wonderful-but under-funded and over-crowded. The lack of funding for early childcare is a national tragedy. Become an advocate for providing excellent, affordable care for all children.
Professor Emerita, Research Methodology/Human Development
Loyola University Chicago