The search for childcare ideally should begin when you discover your due date. This gives you plenty of time to research your childcare options. Depending on the type of childcare you choose, there are several items of importance to consider before selecting a provider. Are you going to need in-home care in which a single caregiver comes to your home If this is the type of care you need, be aware that many of these providers are not licensed nor are they needed to be licensed. In this case it is especially important to get references from previous employers for at least 5 years. Ask for names and phone numbers; don’t hesitate to call the parents who have used their services. If the provider refuses or is unable to provide this information for you, move on. In-home caregivers may be left alone with your child, they may be unlicensed and are often costlier than other types of childcare; caution should be exercised when choosing this type of childcare.
Another option is family childcare, which is a more casual environment with a limited amount of children enrolled, and is usually less expensive than day care centers. This type of childcare needs you to drop off and pick up your child at the person’s home. Often there are charges made if you are late in picking up your child; the caregiver is more like a nine-to-five business and may strictly enforce this rule. These types of childcare providers should be licensed, and the type of care provided is left up to the individual so again, references from other parents are crucial.
Still another option is a day care center, which must be licensed. Your child will be among more children, receiving less individualized care than the previous two types of childcare mentioned. However, there are many benefits to this type longer hours of operation, less stringent rules on pick up and drop off times, and more activities with more children to interact with. The down side may be the more children your child is exposed to the more chance of illness and other problems resulting from interacting with many young children at once.
Before you have your baby is the best time for you to visit your prospective childcare providers. Take along a notepad with you; make notes of any positive or negative items you will want to check into later. Checklists provided by several websites can be printed out, using your notes for comparison. If you are going to be returning to work after maternity leave, having several providers lined up will make your intro back to work less stressful. If you are working out of your home, or work part-time, it is still beneficial to have a childcare provider on call for emergencies. This would be a drop-in provider who can be called at the last minute and basically is an on-call provider. Having a drop-in childcare option will also afford you some time to get back into the routine post-baby. Even a few hours a week can give you time to do the grocery shopping, keep doctor’s appointments, have lunch with a friend or just get out of the house for an hour.