BY HEIDI WOODARD, RESOURCE & REFERRAL COUNSELOR, CHAUTAUQUA OPPORTUNITIES
Are you a parent that is looking for quality child care? Are you unsure where to look, and what questions to ask child care providers? There are many options available to parents and guardians looking for summer, back to school, or year round care. Some parents feel as though they don’t know where to start looking for child care. The Chautauqua Child Care Council can help parents in their quest for finding a child care provider. We can provide parents/guardians a listing of licensed or registered child care providers, which include people providing care in their own home, day care centers, and school age child care programs. Choosing quality child care is a necessity so that children will develop and grow in a happy yet healthy manner.
Parents will have many questions and concerns while looking for child care. Not only do parents need a child care provider that is available during the hours needed, but you also need a provider that will develop and maintain a good relationship with your children. When searching for child care, we suggest you contact child care providers first over the phone, and ask them the specific questions about the quality programming issues that concern you. After narrowing your list, we strongly encourage you to visit the remaining providers and take your children with you so you can see how the provider interacts with your children. Make a list beforehand to guide you, and make sure you ask all questions on the list. You should also jot down each provider’s answers.
Getting to know your child care provider and asking questions, are very important steps when seeking child care. Be prepared to talk to child care providers over the phone. If you receive a listing of child care providers from the Child Care Council, call all providers on the list. It is important to have many potential child care options available to you. You can narrow down the provider listing by asking the providers specific questions that matter to you regarding the care of your child.
Be prepared to ask specific questions that pertain to your child(ren). If you have an infant or toddler you will want to ask if the provider talks to the child during diaper changes and feedings. Does the child care provider have appropriate aged toys for infants: such as colorful cloth animals or cardboard books? Does the provider have safe toys that the infant/toddler can put in their mouth? Are toileting accidents handled calmly so the child is not frightened? Is the indoor space large enough for infants and toddlers to crawl, and use push/ride toys?
If you are looking for care for a three to five year old you can keep in mind some of the questions listed above. You should also ask if the provider will use meal times for the child to learn skills such as self feeding. Are meals appropriate and in smaller portions? Are stories, magazines, and videos educational in nature? Are there activities for children who do not want to watch television? Is the indoor space large enough for nap time? Are children encouraged to wash their hands before and after eating, after going outside, and throughout the day?
Parents know that as their children age, their child care needs will change. When a parent is searching for care for a school aged child they will ask questions that are different from the questions they would ask if their child is an infant. Some of these questions can be: Are video games limited? Are children encouraged to read, write, and participate in creative activities? Is snack time flexible? Can children use snack or meal time to talk with the other children and the caregiver? Are the school aged children able to have some privacy to be alone or play with one to two other children, while still being supervised? Is there an area where the children can do homework or school related activities?
Finding child care at times can be difficult, it is best to start looking for care before you will need it. The Council has a free service that can provide parents with a listing of child care referrals. We are able to search for care based on days of the week, shifts, hours, school districts, cities, extra care services (such as moderately ill/sick care), providers who can distribute medications, wheelchair access, special diets, among other attributes. Feel free to call 1-800-424-4532 or 661-9430 for more information.
Heidi Woodard is a resident of Jamestown, NY. She graduated from Jamestown Community College with honors, and earned an Associates degree in Social Sciences. She also graduated from SUNY Fredonia with highest honors earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She is currently employed with the Chautauqua Child Care Council a service of Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc.