the Perfect Home Childcare Provider
As a childcare provider, I understand how parents
struggle with the decision to leave their child
in the care of another. Many parents, faced
with the reality that they must go back to work
after maternity leave, nervously bring their
baby to daycare that first time wondering if
they are doing their child a disservice, and
fearing whether their child will be properly
It's true that finding quality childcare can
be challenging, but there are many resources
that will help you in your quest.
Most states (in the U.S.) and provinces (in
Canada) have agencies or government departments
that can assist you in your search. They are
generally called "Referral Agencies"
and most often are non-profit organizations.
If you do not know what your local childcare
referral agency is called, ask around. You might
call a local pre-school or another non-profit
related to childcare. Or do an Internet search
for childcare referral agencies and include
the name of your state or province.
A referral agency can give you a list of home
daycare providers in your area. Now that you
have the list, the first thing you should do
is talk to your friends. Most home daycare providers,
if they are established, will have a reputation.
Your friends may be able to give you referrals
to providers they trust and sometimes they can
warn you about providers whom they don't find
adequate. Another great source of information
is playgroups. Take your child to a playgroup
and ask around.
Once you have a few providers in mind, give
them a call. The phone interview is an important
first step. A few things should be discussed
that will help you determine if you want to
take the next step, which is a face-to-face
interview. First, ask if the provider has openings.
If not, you may wish to be put on a waiting
list. If they do have openings, you may want
to ask about their capacity. How many children
are they caring for? Next, you should ask about
their hours. Do their hours match with what
you're looking for? If not, are they willing
to bend a little? Some providers will, others
won't, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
Finally, you need to discuss money. Don't feel
uncomfortable talking about money. Providers
appreciate this because they like to know that
you understand exactly what your monetary obligation
will be. After all, no provider wants to take
on a client who isn't willing to pay.
The phone interview is not the time to discuss
the provider's philosophies on things such as
discipline, potty training, and pacifier use.
These issues should be discussed during the
face-to-face interview. If your child has special
needs, you should discuss this during the phone
interview simply because the provider may not
have the required training or facilities to
care for your child.
At the interview, the first thing you should
do is ask for a copy of the provider's license.
If there is no copier available, look it over,
noting the capacity and which rooms are licensed
for use. The provider cannot use the entire
house if it hasn't been approved for use. Write
down the license number. You can find out if
there have been any claims made against this
license of inappropriate or ineffective care.
The provider may be insulted by your request
for the license. However, that's what the license
is for and you have every right to ask to see
Bring a list of questions to the interview.
These questions should cover topics such as
nutrition, nap, discipline, potty training or
diapering, outdoor time, the daily schedule,
curriculum, and anything else about the childcare
you may wish to know. You should ask about the
caregiver's experience and how she feels about
children and providing childcare services. Your
provider should be someone who loves children
and enjoys her job.
While at the provider's house, look for things
such as cabinet locks, smoke detectors, and
outlet covers. Even if your child is not yet
walking, these are signs that the home has been
adapted to a family childcare with the safety
of the children in mind. Also, check that the
home is set up efficiently for a childcare with
enough space for play; the home is clean and
free of clutter or obvious hazards such as radiators
or wood stoves, and the provider has suitable
materials for a childcare.
Last but certainly not least, watch the way
the provider interacts with the children. When
I did interviews with parents, the first thing
I did was greet the child. The parents should
be more concerned with how I interact with their
child, not about my conversation skills with
them. Can the provider get down on the level
of a two or a three year old? Is she patient
and loving towards the children? Is she equal
in her attention to the daycare children and
her own children? That's a difficult one as
most providers have children of their own who
are constantly vying for attention.
If you are satisfied with the home and with
the provider, ask for references. The references
should include at least one current parent and
could include previous parents. The provider
will give you a copy of her contract as well
as any other policies that you should be aware
of. Most likely you will pay even when your
child is out and you will pay for holidays and
other closings. These are standard issue daycare
rules and must be followed if you wish to keep
your slot. Sickness rules are very specific
and are meant to discourage transmission of
illnesses. If you are confused about any policies
or about the payment schedule, discuss them
with the provider before you leave the interview.
Once you have selected your home childcare provider,
the most important thing to remember is to stay
in constant communication. Always be frank and
direct about you and your child's needs. If
you are forthright, she will follow your lead
and openly and honestly discuss your child's
progress with you. Be willing to accept that
your child may have difficulties in daycare
as most children do from time to time. Resist
the urge to defend your child and hear what
she has to say. With a little listening and
continued communication, you and your childcare
provider can have an excellent working relationship.
Tanya Parker is a freelance writer
living in Massachusetts with her husband, two
daughters, and three cats. This June will mark
the end of her three year run as a childcare
provider. She plans to continue working on her
novel and pursue her writing career. Contact
Tanya at firstname.lastname@example.org