A Guide To Child Care Services

Many parents find choosing child care services a harrowing experience. After all, you’re entrusting your child’s well-being to strangers. As a parent, you can opt for in-home child care, private family day cares or day care centers.

In-Home Child Care

Nannies, au pair and babysitters all provide in-home child care, although each offers slightly different services and skills. The most common in-home child care provider is the babysitter, who offers short term child care when parents are unavailable.
The babysitter is often a young person, either a local teen or college student, although older individuals also offer babysitting services. College students studying child care and early childhood development may take babysitting jobs to practice their new skills, gain experience and, of course, earn some extra cash.
The babysitter may have little practical child care experience, although many teens take babysitting courses that provide basic child care and first aid instruction. You can also find babysitting agencies who match parents to babysitters.
A nanny offers more experienced child care services. A nanny may live with the family or have her own residence. Nannies care for children while parents are unavailable, and may perfume light housework if it pertains to child care. Nannies can often be found through placement agencies.
An au pair lives in his employer’s home. Au pairs are often young and work far from home, often in other countries to experience different cultures. Au pairs tend to have less child care experience than nannies. Instead, they provide child care while under the parent’s supervision. An au pair may also perform light housekeeping duties, but is not considered a domestic servant (the term au pair is French for “equal to,’ indicating that the au pair is considered more as a temporary family member than a servant).

Questions to Ask In-Home Child Care Providers

Before you hire an in-home child care provider you want to be sure that you trust the individual. A criminal background check is essential for au pairs or nannies. Many nanny agencies will already have performed background checks. A babysitter may not require a background check, but you should still ask for references and talk to other parents who use the babysitter.
Questions you may want to ask when interviewing a potential nanny or au pair include:

  • How do you deal with disciplinary problems? Ask how the applicant would respond to different discipline scenarios.
  • How will you handle toilet training, separation anxiety and other common issues?
  • How will you help my child develop physically and mentally?
  • What special skills do you bring to the job?
  • Why did you leave your last position? Be sure to phone the previous employer and ask about the caregiver.
  • Why do you want to work with young children?

Day cares and Preschools

Out of home childcare includes day cares centers, day care offered in the caregiver’s home and preschools. Out-of-home family day care facilities offer child care for children from birth to age five.
Family day care providers usually care for a limited number of children supervised by one or two caregivers. Day care facilities usually have more staff and a larger number of children. Larger groups of children increase the risk of exposure to disease, but also help socialize children in preparation for school life.
Parents should expect their child be assigned to the same caregiver every day to foster a sense of continuity and security for the child. In this situation a family day care offers more security, as the caregiver owns the home. In day care centers staff turnover can disrupt a child’s routine.
Preschools offer part-time child care with an emphasis on early childhood education. A preschool program helps prepare children for elementary school or kindergarten.
Whether set in a private home or a day care facility, child care services should have clear policies on hygiene, safety, discipline and child development. Both children and staff should be up-to-date on immunizations, and frequent hand-washing should be part of the established routine. All staff should wear disposable gloves when changing diapers and toys need to be disinfected regularly.

Discipline policies should be in line with your own philosophy of child rearing. Ask the day care how discipline is maintained, and what course of action day care providers take when children are upset or misbehave.