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Finding Good Childcare

Tips for Working Parents

Selecting appropriate childcare is an important decision for any working parent. Finding a reliable and attentive caregiver for your child or infant can be a challenge, whether you’re considering an in-home provider, such as a nanny or au pair, or an outside childcare facility, such as a daycare center or home daycare. These guidelines can help you find a childcare provider who is the best fit for both you and your child.

Childcare options

It pays to think about your childcare options early, especially if you are in an area where there are limited options or long waiting lists for childcare facilities. To ensure more personalized attention for your child, look for a caregiving scenario that offers the smallest child-to-adult ratio. The smallest ratio is of course a nanny.

  • A nanny, live-in or live-out, offers the convenience and flexibility of in-home care and keeps your child in a safe, familiar environment. As well as the expense of this type of child care, there are several other downsides to employing a nanny. If she’s sick or quits, you have no immediate backup, and social interaction with other children has to be arranged via play dates.
  • A daycare center offers a more affordable and reliable option, with trained and certified staff, and a social environment for your child. However, daycare centers have fairly inflexible opening hours and the group environment also means your child is likely to get sick more often, in which case you’ll have to make alternate care arrangements. Look for daycare that offers a ratio of one caregiver to three or four children, depending on the age group.
  • Home daycare offers care by the same person in a homelike environment, usually with smaller groups of children and more flexible hours. Again, though, there’s often no immediate cover if the caregiver gets sick or is otherwise unavailable, and there’s no one to oversee or supervise the caregiver.

Other options include obtaining child care from a friend, neighbor, or family member.

Find someone who is in tune with your child-rearing philosophy

Whatever childcare option you choose, it’s important to find a caregiver or facility that shares a similar child-rearing philosophy with you. Some caregivers may be very experienced in handling babies but may be focused more on physical, scheduled needs of the baby. If someone is set in their ways, it is better to find someone who is more oriented to the whole needs of the baby and is sensitive to baby’s cues.

  • Check applicable licenses and references.
  • Talk to others who have used the nanny or daycare provider.
  • Ask lots of questions to get a sense of their child-rearing philosophy.
  • Once you’ve narrowed down your options, try the caregiver out to see how he or she interacts with your child. Does your child seem comfortable with the caregiver and/or in the daycare environment?

Questions to ask a caregiver

Whether you’re talking to a nanny or caregivers at a daycare center or home daycare, it’s important to ask open-ended questions to get a sense of what the childcare provider does in certain situations.

Many caregivers may not label themselves as “attachment caregivers”, yet naturally do many of the things inherent to attachment parenting. Some questions include:

  • How do you soothe a crying baby?
  • What do you think the best way is to get infants to sleep?
  • Do you ever use slings to hold a baby?
  • How do you feed babies?
  • How do you discipline a child?
  • What do you do with a child or infant while he or she is awake?
  • Are you certified in first aid and infant CPR and choking?
  • Are you in good health? Do you smoke?

Questions to ask at a daycare or other childcare facility

As well as the questions above, you can also ask questions such as:

  • Is the staff trained in childhood development?
  • What is the staff turnover rate? If the staff changes frequently it will affect the consistency of your child’s care and may point to underlying problems at the facility.
  • How many caregivers are there per child or infant?
  • Are you able to visit your child at any time during the day?

Tips for choosing a childcare provider

You may wish to try out different daycare centers or home daycare venues a few times each to see whether your experience on different days confirms your initial impressions. Try to do a trial period where you are on hand, but the caregiver is handling most of the work with your child. This is the best way to see how the caregiver handles your child, what her or his natural preferences are in caregiving, and if it is a good fit.

  • Make sure the focus is your child. Excessive cell phone use by a caregiver shifts attention away from your child. Talk to your caregiver about limiting phone and computer use while the child is awake to urgent situations only.
  • If your caregiver is working in your home, don’t expect heavy cleaning and cooking if you want the primary focus to be your child.
  • At daycare, does the staff seem friendly and to be enjoying their jobs?
  • Does the staff regularly cuddle and play with the kids? Do they hold and rock infants?
  • Is the home or daycare facility clean and large enough?

Maximize your own quality time with your children

Try to simplify and outsource as much as you can so that when you are home you can focus on your children and their needs.

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Resources & References

Finding an AP-Friendly Caregiver - Suggested questions to help get a picture of the caregiver and her caregiving style, including feeding, sleep, and discipline. (API Speaks)

Child Care 101 - General tips on fin ding a caregiver, including types of care, checking accreditation, and a searchable database of local child care referral agencies in the U.S. (Child Care Aware)

Authors: Joanna Saisan, MSW and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last Updated: May 2013

© All rights reserved. This reprint is for information only and NOT a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. is an ad-free non-profit resource for supporting better mental health and lifestyle choices for adults and children.