Daycare programs provide supplementary childcare on a regular basis inside and outside of a child's home and are administered by adults other than the child's parents. Care can be given in the child's home, at a caregiver's home, or at a daycare center, and may involve other children. In seeking the best program, parents must become clear on what they want from a program and consider only those that clearly state their philosophies and objectives, and how their day-to-day activities address these philosophies and objectives. The decision to put a child in daycare can be difficult, so adults must also reconcile themselves with the idea of putting their child in another's care and above all, to be totally confident in the quality of that care.
Keywords Child Development; Cognition; Daycare Center; Daycare Programs; Early Childhood Education; Family Daycare Homes; Group Daycare Homes; In-home Caregiver; National Institute of Child Health & Human Development's Study of Early Child Care; (NICHD/SECC); Parent-Program Partnership
Daycare programs provide supplementary childcare on a regular basis inside and outside of a child's home and are administered by adults other than the child's parents. Care can be given in the child's home, at a caregiver's home, or at a daycare center, and may involve other children. Some adults operate small programs out of their own houses, while others run large businesses out of leased or purchased space. Programs fall into three categories: in-home caregivers, who are single adults caring for a child in the child's home; family daycare homes, which are run out of private residences and generally provide care to no more than 12 children (which may include the provider's own children); and daycare centers, which care, typically, for 12 or more children ("Five Steps to Choosing Quality Daycare"). Family daycare homes are often governed by state regulations, though the number and types of regulations vary. Daycare centers in all states must be licensed. In-home caregivers, however, are exempt from state licensing.
Families turn to daycare for a number of reasons. In some situations, financial necessity dictates that both parents work, while in others, the reasons have nothing to do with money. In single-parent families, however, the reason is usually economic. Many single parents must work, so enroll their children in a daycare program.
Each family must weigh its own situation and its child's needs and decide whether or not daycare is the right solution. In seeking the best program, parents must become clear on what they want from a program and consider only those that clearly state their philosophies and objectives, and how their day-to-day activities address these philosophies and objectives. The decision to put a child in daycare can be difficult, so adults must also reconcile themselves with the idea of putting their child in another's care and above all, to be totally confident in the quality of that care. While many programs provide excellent care and early education, a poor program can harm the development and emotional well-being of a child and be an immense stressor to parents.
Types of Daycare Programs
The three types of daycare programs are:
• Daycare centers
• Family daycare homes
• In-home caregivers
In choosing between in-home caregivers, family daycare homes, and daycare centers, parents must consider their child's unique personality and weigh his or her needs for intimacy and one-on-one relationships with adults against readiness for socialization. Some children thrive in large groups of children; others do better in smaller groups. Some may not be ready to handle a group situation at all and need to be cared for by an adult at home. Once the type of program has been selected, parents must examine a number of attributes, including caregiver-to-child ratio, group (class) sizes, and provider experience and qualifications. These factors all form the basis of either a positive or negative experience for the child and significantly impact his social, emotional and intellectual development.
Day Care Centers
Daycare centers are required by law in all states to be licensed and to be inspected annually. Laws governing their licensure vary from state to state, as do the types of agencies that grant licenses. In Arkansas, for example, licensing is done by the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education. In Connecticut, licenses are given out by the Department of Public Health. In Michigan, they are handled by the Division of Child Day Care Licensing. Being licensed has no bearing on the quality of care a center gives. A license means only that the center has met its state's minimum safety, health, and caregiver qualification requirements. Parents who place their children in centers usually do so because they feel the exposure to larger numbers of children and staff, the larger space and greater abundance of toys and learning equipment, and the greater number of scheduled activities, will provide a more stimulating learning environment. Also, the fact that the center is licensed means it is a safe and clean place.
Additional oversight is gained through accreditation. Accreditation means a program has met standards beyond those required for licensure. The two biggest organizations that accredit childcare programs in the U.S. are the National Association for Family Child Care and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Family Daycare Homes
Unlike daycare centers, family daycare homes do not need to be licensed, though all states have minimum nutrition, health and safety requirements. These are enforced in most states through inspections of homes where programs exist. Most states have regulations governing homes serving more than four children, and some have voluntary regulations for homes with less than four children. Several states also require providers to undergo training before going into business, and most states do criminal and child abuse records checks on providers. Parents who prefer these programs want their children in a homier, more intimate environment where they interact with fewer children and only one adult. Some home-based programs are also cheaper and offer looser payment arrangements and schedules.
Some parents prefer a one-on-one relationship between child and care provider and hire an in-home caregiver, such as a nanny or housekeeper. The in-home caregiver may or may not live on the premises. A few states regulate nanny placement agencies, but most do not regulate in-home care providers. Some, however, require background checks into criminal records and child abuse history, and a few require that providers undergo emergency and health training to be eligible for work. Parents who hire in-home care wish to provide their children with a safer, more secure environment over which they (the parents) have more control (NACCRRA, 2007, "Five Steps to Choosing"). Recommendations for providers often come to parents through friends, though many families post advertisements on websites and in newspapers or use nanny and housekeeper placement agencies.
The Parent-Program Partnership
Good programs invite a collaborative relationship with parents, so they can be informed, active partners in their child's development. Bumps, bruises or tears should not go unexplained by a caregiver, and any significant event at home that impacts a child's emotional state should be informed by parents. Further, concepts explored weekly - social skills, letters and words, math - should be made known to parents, so they can be reinforced at home. The most important thing is that children - infants and toddlers, especially - enjoy relationships with adult caregivers that are intimate and stable enough to engender feelings of safety, trust, and self-confidence. By working closely together, parents and caregivers create a feeling of harmony around the child that only expands his or her sphere of safety and acceptance. In addition, both derive tremendous satisfaction from the child's accomplishments and can greatly reduce the kinds of criticism and...
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