Tips on finding the right care

Sunday, August 17, 2008

When you hear the news that you are having a baby there is a lot of excitement. You began to think about the changes that will take place in your life and how you will care for this new addition to your family.

One of the biggest decisions you must make is the type of child care you will use. For working parents finding quality child care, especially for an infant, is a difficult task. There are very few programs that care for infants so securing a place for your child before birth becomes an important task.

It is best to start as soon as possible to make a choice that meets your needs and to get the baby on a list for care. Whatever the age of your child, there are some important things to consider when choosing the best placement for your child.

When shopping for child care there is help available. Our local Child Care Resource and Referral -- 573-290-5571 -- will provide you information about programs that meet your child care needs. There are many types of child care available, and terms used in child care may be confusing.

Find out if the home or center is a licensed program. Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services' section of child care regulation issues licenses. Programs must pass health, safety and fire inspections as well as meet other criteria to obtain a license.

Licensing also sets limits on the number of children a home or center can serve. There are some license-exempt child care programs. These programs are under the control of a religious organization. However, they do have a yearly fire and sanitation inspection. A person caring for four or fewer children in their home is considered unregulated and does not have to meet any of the child care licensure regulations or have inspections.

When looking for a high-quality child care program, ask about accreditation. Child care programs that are accredited have met voluntary standards that are higher than licensing requirements. Programs are not required to become accredited and there is a lot of work required of the staff to reach this level of child care.

The educational requirements for staff are higher; the quality of care as well as the activities and experiences offered children are evaluated in the accreditation process. An accredited program will offer opportunities for child growth and development that will help them prepare for school. Children learn best through play and a high quality program will provide a variety of learning opportunities for your child.

If you want to check on a program's compliance with licensing you can call the Department of Health's section for child care regulation at 573-290-5809.

Finding child care is challenging, but by starting early and visiting programs you can find the best fit for you and your child. Quality child care gives parents peace of mind that their child is safe and cared for in a developmentally appropriate environment by staff who truly enjoy the challenges and rewards of working with young children.

Janice Jones is the coordinator for Success by 6 through the United Way of Southeast Missouri. Contact her at 573-334-9634 ext. 13.

This story first appeared in seParent, the region's first parenting magazine. You can find free copies of sePARENT on magazine racks at area businesses or by stopping by the Southeast Missourian.

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