Oklahoma State University
Patricia S. Tweedie
Child Care Aware Project Assistant
Oklahoma State University
All parents, at one time or another, need to find someone to help with child care. Good child care arrangements can improve the quality of daily life for children and parents. Contacts with caring adults can broaden the child's experience and give the parent some relaxation and important information about the child's development. Play with other children can help a child gain mental and social skills.
It is not unusual for parents to feel guilty when leaving the care of their child to another person. However when parents select quality care, spend quality time with their child and keep up with their progress, it is easier to dispel these guilt feelings. Parents who work outside the home can be excellent parents. Your child can adapt to new situations, but she will need the security of knowing that you are there to help her feel comfortable in her new arrangement. You are still the most important person in her life.
Selecting child care is an important decision. Even if the child care is only for an occasional evening out, a parent will want a caring individual with special training. Consider hiring youth in a 4-H Child Care Project or those in Scout training in child care.
If you need regular care while you work, start your search early and take advantage of agencies that can help.
Oklahoma Child Care Aware:
By calling 1-800-799-1699, Oklahoma parents can receive printed information on how to choose quality care, as well as how to contact their local resource and referral agency, Department of Human Services licensing representative, and Oklahoma State University Extension Center.
Resource and Referral Agencies:
These agencies serve many Oklahoma counties and have lists of licensed facilities, can help locate local care and guide a parent toward the type of care they want. Call Oklahoma Child Care Aware at 1-800-799-1699 for information on agency service to certain counties. Call National Child Care Aware at 1-800-424-2246 for information on resource and referral agencies nationwide.
Department of Human Services:
Department of Human Services has lists of licensed homes and centers. Call to request a list. Visit the office to read the records of facilities you might use. Their publication "Quality Child Care: A Handbook for Parents" [In Oklahoma] can help parents in evaluating child care facilities. Other publications are also available.
Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Centers:
County home economists provide research based information to parents and caregivers on child care. Oklahoma State University staff present talks on child development issues, and can refer parents to other helpful resources. She can help parents and community leaders get organized to improve the quality of child care for economic and community development.
National Academy of Early Childhood Programs:
By calling 800-424-2460, parents can receive a list of accredited programs in Oklahoma.
National Association for Family Child Care:
By calling 615-834-7872, parents can receive a list of accredited family child-care homes in Oklahoma.
A licensed facility, whether a home or center, must meet minimum standards established by the Department of Human Services. Their
publications "Licensing Requirements for Day Care Centers"
and "Licensing Requirements for Family Day Care Homes" explain in detail. They include standards for health and safety,
adult-child ratios for age groups, training requirements for staff,
equipment, daily program, nutrition, and behavior and guidance. Licensing regulations apply to all programs serving children
more than 15 hours a week.
An accredited program has passed rigorous national screening by either the National Association of Early Childhood Programs or the National Association for Family Child Care. Accredited programs meet standards beyond those established by the state licensing agency. These standards include staff-parent communication, developmental curriculum, and anti-bias issues. As of the fall of 1994, there were 33 accredited child care centers in Oklahoma.
While cost and convenience are important considerations in
selecting care, you will want to think of what is best for your
child's age, personality, abilities, and interests. Think about
your beliefs and attitudes in such areas as discipline, education,
nutrition, and training. You will want the caregiver to respect
your family values. Most of all, you want a caregiver who genuinely
likes you and your child.
The names of the types of child care arrangements can mislead consumers. A play program is best for preschool children. A formal program is too stressful and interferes with a young child's natural enjoyment of learning. Some typical child care arrangements that may be available in your community are the following.
Family child care homes provide care for children of various ages in the provider's home. Licensed homes provide care for up to seven children. Infants and toddlers need much individual care and attention. If all the children are under 2 years old, Oklahoma regulations allow only 5 children to a home. This is the most popular type of care for children under three. Most parents want their baby to be with a small number of other children. A child who has no brothers or sisters can have an experience of being with children of different ages in a child care home. Children may participate in activities usually available in a neighborhood setting. They can visit the library, go to the park, and attend special events. Family child care may offer flexible hours. Some provide transportation to school and lessons. The child and family enjoy the consistency of one provider.
Day care centers may be in private homes, churches, or specially built facilities. Centers usually serve eight or more children and must meet state licensing requirements. Hours of operation vary. Child care centers offer less flexibility because they care for large numbers of children. Quality centers offer a program suited to the age and developmental ability of the children served. Child care corporation's offer franchised child care nationwide and regionally.
Head Start offers educational programs for children and supplemental health and social services for families. The ages of the children served vary, as do the hours. Most of the programs in Oklahoma operate mornings for children 3 and 4 years old. The program serves low income families or children with special health or handicapping conditions.
Nursery schools and mother's day out programs may enroll any children under the age of five. They usually operate mornings or early afternoons, two to five days a week. As of fall 1994, Oklahoma law requires that the Department of Human Services licenses these programs.
Kindergartens may be public or private and usually enroll children who are five to seven years of age, for all or part of the day. They provide an educational program. They usually follow the holiday schedule of the public schools. Many children express stress in structured and academic kindergartens. A formal school setting of desks and workbooks is not appropriate in early childhood. Look for a developmentally appropriate kindergarten.
Military child care centers on base serve dependents. Some branches of the military require accreditation to ensure quality. Military child care serves the largest number of children.
Employer supported child care refers to programs that a corporation operates or supports. Most employee supported child care is an on-site center at a hospital. On-site care in two Oklahoma hospitals reduced employee absenteeism and tardiness. Some employers buy spaces at local centers and family child care homes. Others help existing centers and homes gain accreditation or training to improve quality.
Sitters are perhaps the most popular child care arrangement. Parents ask or hire relatives or non-relatives to care for their children in their own home or in the home of the sitter. To locate a sitter, most parents ask friends and neighbors. Some use ads in local newspapers. If the sitter works on a regular basis, the parent must pay minimum wage and Social Security.
Nannies may have had specialized training in child care, health and safety, and nutrition. Families may hire nannies to live in the home or to come to the home daily. Wages will be higher for this skilled care. Two Oklahoma colleges graduate five to ten trained nannies each year.
Camps, fun clubs, and school-age child care serve children enrolled in elementary school. Schools, churches, parks, and community centers may house these programs. They operate after school, on school holidays, and during the summer months. Some have early morning before school hours.
Child Care Cooperatives offer child care to suit one group of parents. The parents usually form a corporation and hire a director. The parents set the policies and procedures, pay fees, and volunteer services in return for quality child care. Rural communities find that cooperatives work well.
The following results of research studies of different arrangements
for child care may help you make your selection.
The majority of parents select in-home care by relatives and friends. This arrangement may suit your needs, especially if your child is under three years of age or older than six. However, recent research findings show that being licensed is more important to quality child care and being related is less important than most parents believed. Being regulated or licensed has a stronger relationship to quality than any other factor. Relatives and friends may not really want to be taking care of children. They may do it to help a working mother. Their care is of lower quality and harmful to a child's development.
Different arrangements have different effects on different children. Find arrangements that best serve you and your child. No arrangement is best for all children. It is usually the quality of child care, not the type of care, that really matters. In almost all situations, good quality care is good for children and their families.
Smaller group sizes work best. Select arrangements that place your child among a small number of children with a few adults. Licensing standards determine maximum group size. Many centers operate at the maximum to reduce costs. Be sure your child is not changing groups, teachers, and group size frequently just to keep ratios within the licensing limits. The equipment, supplies, room size, and arrangement must adequately serve the number of children. Children experience stress when programs require lining up and sharing.
People who have received training in child care do a much better job. Cost increases with the caregiver's level of formal education. Their training in child care usually does not increase costs. Look for the Child Care Careers symbol on the wall or on a pin that the caregiver wears. This insures that the caregiver has completed specific training in child care. Many caregivers in centers, family day care homes, and Head Start programs are Child Development Associates. This is a national early childhood professional credential. Child Development Associate candidates complete 120 hours of specific training, and prepare a professional resource file. CDA candidates must pass a parent opinion survey, a written test, an oral interview, and an on-site observation.
STAFF: CHILD RATION
Infants (0-9 months of age) 1:4
Toddlers (10-23 months of age) 1:6
4 and 5-year-olds 1:15
6 years and over 1:20
MAXIMUM GROUP SIZE
Infants (0-9 months of age) 8
Toddlers (10-23 months of age) 12
4 and 5-year-olds 30
6 years and over 40
School-age children may prefer the quiet of a small group or
active involvement with many other children. Their needs depend
upon their personalities and type of experience they have at school.
Children in a highly structured kindergarten need a relaxed after-school
program. The location of the program (school, church, YMCA) does
not ensure quality. An after school program needs the same close
look that you would give any care arrangement. Look for the license.
Read the licensing records. Follow the same recommendations for
evaluation that you would for the care of a child of any other
age or at any other facility.
If the child is especially mature, some parents arrange for the school-age child to be at home alone. Latchkey children need definite guidelines. They must have access to responsible adults. The home and neighborhood must be safe. If you select self-care, contact your Oklahoma State University Extension Center for video tapes and literature to help you and your child.
Stability of care is important. Look for family child care homes with a year or more of experience and plans to stay in business. Look for centers where staff has remained at work for several years and plans to stay. A 1988-89 study of Oklahoma child care programs showed a staff turnover rate of 44% for teachers and 60% for assistants. Quality programs will have a much lower turnover rate, giving your child care from the same experienced, trained workers for a year or more. Changing caregivers stresses children and families.
Make preliminary screening of caregivers or facilities by phone. Ask caregivers about:
If your child will receive care away from your home, visit the home or center. Look around at the rooms and children. Remember that everyone has good and bad days. You may need to visit again to get a realistic idea of the atmosphere your child will experience. Plan to do so at lunch, nap, indoor and/or outdoor times. Ask yourself:
Observe the caregiver(s) as they interact with the children.
Ask the caregiver (whether at a center or in a home) some specific questions about discipline. Ask for any other information that you feel is important.
If your child is an infant or toddler, look for these practices or ask about:
Quality child care offers activities that are correct for each
child's age, interests, abilities, and family background. The
staff and other families respect and appreciate different cultures
and lifestyles. They do not require children to learn certain
things, to stand in line, or to sit quietly and listen for more
than five to ten minutes.
The classrooms are active and pleasantly noisy. You hear mainly and occasionally the teacher's voice. Children choose their own play activities and play at their own pace. Rarely are all the children doing the same thing at the same time. In developmentally appropriate programs, you see very creative art work, not ten little Easter bunnies all alike.
Appropriate programs welcome parents at anytime. Parents share their talents and culture with the group. Family members can come into the center or home and play with the children. Staff arranges time to talk with parents.
After you have selected the type of care and the facility,
be sure you understand details that can make the transition easier
for you and your child. Many family care homes may have, and all
centers should have, a brochure that explains many of these details.
It is wise to have them in written form.
1. Ask about fees. Is a payment necessary to reserve a space for your child on a waiting list? When are payments due? Is there a late pickup fee? Are there extra activity fees, especially during summer programs? Does the program accept DHS and Social Security rates if you qualify?
2. Get medical records and release forms. Provide up to date immunization records, emergency contacts, and the names of all those who will be picking up your child.
3. Keep tax records. Contact the IRS about tax credits and deductions for child care. Inquire about minimum wage, social security, and income tax withholding for the in-home care you employ.
4. Bring familiar materials from home. Provide a change of clothing for your child, and include a sweater for weather changes. Find out if your child may bring toys and food from home. Respect the caregiver's policy concerning these matters.
5. Plan an adjustment period. Plan to spend extra time when you take your child the first several days, or when the caregiver comes to the house. You may need to stay with your child for a while. It is natural for a child to show some anxiety by crying and clinging when you leave. A calm departure by the parent may help this transition. Some parents must go to work right away. Ask a friend or family member to help.
You have spent time and energy in selecting appropriate child
care for your family and opened communication with your child's
caregiver. Keep involved by asking how things are going, expressing
thanks, and offering help, suggestions, and materials. Keep the
caregiver informed about what is happening in your child's life.
Do not wait for a problem to happen. Make an appointment to discuss
concerns. It is hard to talk at pickup time with everyone tired,
hungry, and in a hurry. Have the caregiver call you when time
allows. Friendly cooperation will give the best results for your
child. When things are going well, let the caregiver know. We
all like appreciation for a job well done.
Visit with your child about the day's activities as you ride home, prepare dinner, or carry out other daily routines. Let your child know that you think of him or her when you are apart. Do not be so busy at the end of the day that you don't have time to spend with your child. Bedtime routines, which include a story, a review of the day, and a plan for tomorrow, can be especially important for developing a child's sense of security and well being. Children need plenty of physical warmth and affection from you.
Sometimes, despite a careful search and selection of a quality program, you may find that your child does not adjust to or like the child care arrangement. Some of the reasons may be the particular makeup of the group, personalities of a few children, or size of the group. Listen to your child. If it is not in his or her best interest to remain there, follow your intuition and do something about it.
Selecting child care is a difficult task, and one you will not want to do very often. However, your needs may change, or your child may show a need for a change. Work with the caregiver if you need to make a new arrangement. Your child and the caregiver need time to prepare for the transition. Help your child adjust by having him or her visit the new setting, bring a good-bye gift to the caregiver, and take pictures of friends. All people, regardless of age, need support for beginnings and endings in their lives.
Are you and your family becoming wise consumers of child care?
It takes much work to learn about quality child care. This information
and other materials can help you learn about developmentally appropriate
practices for young children.
Here are some true/false items for you to think about and talk over with others.
____ 1. In Oklahoma, the Department of Human Services licenses child care centers, family child care homes, and mother's day out programs.
____ 2. College graduates do a better job of teaching and caring for young children, even if they have a degree in an unrelated field, like history.
____ 3. Oklahoma does not license a child care program if it is in a church, or only cares for a few children.
____ 4. Young children learn best through play.
____ 5. In Oklahoma, child care programs must use positive guidance.
1. True 2. False 3. False 4. True 5. True
Atkinson, A. M. (1994). Rural and urban use of child care.
Family Relations, 43, 16-22.
Bredekamp S. Ed. (1989). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age eight. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Manfredi-Petitt, L.A. (1993). Child Care: It's More Than the Sum of Its Tasks. Young Children, 49, 40-42.
Isadora, R. 1990. Friends. New York: Greenwillow Books.
Rogers, F. 1985. Going to Day Care. New York: G. P. Putnams' Sons.
Yates, M. 1988. Mommy's Coming Back. Singapore: Abingdon Press.
FORMAT AVAILABLE: :: Series - In Print -
DOCUMENT REVIEW: Level 2 - Oklahoma State University Extension
DOCUMENT SIZE:: 27K or 9 pages
ENTRY DATE:: December 1996
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