How to Choose a Day Care Provider


In-Home Day Care

There are many wonderful day care facilities and family day cares available for families in need of child care. However, for some families, in-home day care may make the most sense. Even for families looking for an "occasional" babysitter, the search for the right person can be exhausting and nerve-wracking.

In any case, choosing a provider that you find trustworthy will be essential to maintaining your comfort level when you're out. After all, you don't want to spend every minute away fretting about your little one's safety! Here are some guidelines to finding your ideal in home care provider:

Nanny/Mother's Helper

This option essentially means you pay a sitter to stay in your home with your child. For a small baby, this may be the easiest option, since you don't have to worry about an outside environment. This is also the most expensive option, and it doesn't always pan out as the best one. In-home caregivers often burn out and have been known to put the child in front of the television and carry on with their normal routine. Finding a person who has an emotional reason for wanting to take care of someone else's child may help; financial motivation alone does not guarantee superior care.

If you're hiring a nanny, you should have a sense that she respects your child and understands the child's needs -- and yours. Is he or she willing to structure a nap into the afternoon so your child is not cranky when you get home? Most important, what do your instincts tell you about this person? Do you think you can have a cooperative relationship? Check the references of every candidate you interview. Once you've hired a candidate, find some reason to go home unannounced during the day to get a sense of what's happening. Does your sitter run out the door as soon as you arrive home, or does he or she take the time to tell you what your child did that day, giving you the sense he or she is involved and concerned?

Finding a Babysitter

Finding that just-right, reliable person to whom you entrust the care of your precious baby for a few hours may be something of a challenge, so begin your search before the baby is born. Many mothers feel most comfortable leaving their new babies with grandmothers or other relatives, but family members are not always available. And while you know and trust them, they may be critical or make you feel as if you are imposing on them. Later, you will probably look into the availability of teenage sitters in your neighborhood (you'll find it's wonderful when you can find a family with two or more young people who like to babysit, so when one is not available, another may be).

Be sure to provide your babysitter with the following:

  • Cell phone number
  • Address and phone number of your location and of your home
  • Doctor's name and phone number
  • Emergency room phone number
  • Police department phone number
  • Poison control center phone number
  • Fire department phone number
  • Phone number of neighbor and/or relative
  • Time you will return
  • Locations of:
  • Phone(s)
  • Exits
  • Bathroom(s)
  • Food and baby supplies
  • Medication
  • Fire extinguishers
  • First aid supplies
  • Timing of feedings and any medication
  • Bedtime

Until your baby is a little older, you will probably prefer someone more experienced -- perhaps a woman who has had a baby herself -- unless you can locate a mature teenager who has some experience. Other possibilities are a college home economics department or a hospital school of nursing. A good idea when you have a young, new sitter is to arrange for a get-acquainted visit before you leave him or her alone with your baby. You might wish to have such a young person come in on a regular basis to help you with the baby.

You may also find there's a capable neighborhood woman who wants to earn a little money. Agencies that supply trained and bonded adult sitters are listed in the Yellow Pages, but their fees are higher than those charged by individual sitters.

You may not be ready yet to accept the responsibility of caring for others' babies as well as your own, so you may not want to consider making reciprocal baby care arrangements with a friend or neighbor or looking at babysitting co-ops.

Your sitter has the heavy responsibility of caring for your child, but you have a responsibility to the sitter, also. Keep this advice in mind:

  • You should be as reliable as you expect him or her to be, returning home when you say you will and paying fairly and promptly.
  • Always leave a phone number where at least one of the parents can be reached in case of an emergency. It's a good idea to leave other emergency numbers as well, such as those of a nearby neighbor and of the police and fire department.
  • Don't make your sitter guess what's to be done; leave careful instructions about feeding and caring for the baby, and tell the sitter where to find diapers, bedding and other supplies. If you have pets, give instructions about them, too.

It's also a good idea to provide the sitter with basic information about your house, such as the locations of fuse boxes or circuit breakers, flashlights and fire extinguishers, and how the smoke detector and burglar alarm work.

Adjusting to Day Care

Once you've made a day care choice, whatever it is, finalize all arrangements in writing. If you hire a caregiver, you need to draft a letter that covers your agreement with this person with regard to hours, salary, responsibilities, sick leave, and vacation. A licensed day care center has forms available. Even if you're just hiring a babysitter for the occasional night out, make sure you both understand and agree to the rules and expectations.

You need to explain all of this to your child -- what's going on, where you'll be going, who will take care of her, and that yes, you'll be coming back for her. You may need to stay with her for a while the first few days; decrease the amount of time each day. Allow a reasonable amount of time for your child to become accustomed to the arrangement. If your child seems upset at the end of the day after a reasonable settling-in period, find out why. Stay in touch with the caregiver(s) on a weekly basis, and be available to discuss any concerns the caregiver has. Try to maintain a collaborative, supportive relationship. Work together to solve any problems that may arise.

The decision to leave your child with anyone other than a close friend or relative is never easy. But the truth is, most parents will do it at one time or another. There are many options available both in and out of your home. By following some of the basic guidelines laid forth in this article, you should be able to choose a day care provider that will fit your needs. And making an informed decision about your child's care is one of the best things you can do for your little one!

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This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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