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As a parent, you know more about your child than any other person. By carefully looking into available care and matching up services with your child's individual needs, you will be able to select the best situation for your child. You will find it well worth the extra time to choose carefully because if your child is receiving happy and secure care, you and the rest of the family will find your lives enriched as well.

There are different kinds of care you might choose. The two most common are child care centers and family day care homes. For information on how to choose a child care center, obtain a copy of *Checklist for Child Care Centers*.

If you are interested in a family day care home, obtain a copy of
*Checklist for Family Day Care Homes*.

For a listing of child care centers, look in the yellow pages of the telephone directory under Child Care or Schools - Pre-school.

The licensing bureau for child care centers and homes in your state may be able to tell you how to get a list of licensed child care centers and family day care homes for your area.

Another good source of information is other working parents. Find out where their children stay and what they think of the care. Several churches sponsor child care programs, which you can find out about by calling the church office.

If you need before/after school care, you might ask your child's teacher if she/he knows of a classmate's parents who provide such care.

Perhaps the most difficult kind of care to locate is a reliable sitter to come to your home. Check the "child care" ads in the newspaper or place a help wanted ad of your own.

As you make out a list of child care possibilities, keep these four thoughts in mind:

- You will need to find care that is affordable. Cost and quality do not always go hand in hand. The most expensive is not necessarily the best. On the other hand, it may be better to spend a few more dollars to get superior care. Remember to consider hidden costs, like extra gasoline to get to a center clear across town.

- Accessibility is the second factor to keep in mind. If you have to leave home an hour early and fight traffic to get to the center, your emotional energy as well as your gasoline may be in short supply.

- A third factor is reliability. Will the care be available when you need it? Will you be able to trust the sitter or staff with your child's well-being?

- The fourth and last factor is consistency. It is important for your child's sense of security to have at least one consistent caregiver, someone that you and your child can count on. Will this be a place where your child will receive consistent care with a minimum of problems and a maximum of opportunities for growth and development?

When you have narrowed your list, be sure to visit, using the checklists in this series. Ask questions, find out how the center or home or sitter feels to you, and get references wherever possible.

Family Day Care Homes and Child Care Centers should be licensed. You can find out how to get a copy of the regulations by asking the bureau in charge of licensing child care in your state.

Once you have selected care, begin to prepare your child for this new experience. You might say, "Soon we will be leaving right after breakfast. I will go to my new job, and you get to go to your new school where there will be lots of fun things to do. You will even get to eat lunch there. Then I will pick you up before dinner."

If possible, go with your child to visit and meet the caregiver. Then start with an hour or so, before you have to leave your child for all day. A skilled staff will help your child make this transition.

Take an extra pair of underwear and play pants in a bag marked with your child's name. Also be sure to leave your work number and an emergency number of a friend or relative to call in case you can't be reached.

Don't panic at the first problem. Talk over your concerns with the caregiver, and don't be surprised if it takes your child several weeks to get used to the new situation.

If your child is happy and looks forward to going to the place of child care, you know you've made a good choice. You can also check by asking the staff how your child is doing, what she/he likes the most or doesn't like, and whether there is a new friend to invite over to play on the weekend.

You might also tell the staff about experiences your child is having at home so that the caregiver understands your child as an individual If, for any reason, the situation is not working out for you or your child after a few weeks, let the caregiver know about the problems. Then look elsewhere for an alternative. If the problems don't go away, and you do decide to move your child, be sure to let the caregiver know and explain the reasons for the move.


Check with the Internal Revenue Service regarding income tax credits for child care. Considering the tax breaks, child care may cost less than it seems at first.

Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC.
Kees-Martin, S. (1981). Be choosy about child care (HE-3-81). Reno, NV:
University of Nevada Reno, Cooperative Extension.

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