Monday, August 23, 2010

How Do I Find Quality Child Care?

This is a question I have been asked numerous times, most often by parents expecting their first child.  It can seem like a daunting, and even scary task for new parents.  However, like many things in life, it's simply a matter of thinking positively and educating yourself.  This post seeks to serve as a resource for those of you who are in this situation or may be considering selecting a new child care provider.

1. Take into consideration the hours of your workday and your commute to determine what hours your child will need care.  This will allow you to narrow down your child care search to providers that offer the hours you require.

2. If you are a commuter, figure out where you will seek child care: near your home, along your commute, and/or near your work place.

3. Now you can begin your child care search with some direction.  The State of Maryland offers a free service to help parents find licensed child care that meets their needs.  LOCATE can be reached via telephone at 877-261-0060 or online at

4. As you contact potential providers, be sure to have pen and paper handy to make notes.  There are many questions you will want to ask, but keep in mind the provider may not have the time to answer them all at that moment.  They are, after all, busy caring for children.  You may want to ask your top three questions to rule out providers that may not work for you.  Three I suggest: Are you licensed? Can you provide care between the hours of * to *? and Do you/will you have an opening available for a * year old?  I don't suggest you ask about pricing at this point, because pricing is complex and best discussed during a visit.

5. From here, set up an appointment for a visit.  If you visit during hours of care, you will have the advantage of observing the caregiver interact with the children and the program in action.  If you visit when the children are not present, you will enjoy more leisurely and intensive discussion with the caregiver.  Each has their benefits and drawbacks.

6. Prior to your appointment, be sure to visit any websites or blogs the provider has for the business.  This will help you understand the program better and may spark questions to ask the provider.  Bring a pen and pad of paper and a list of questions to your appointment.  

As you speak to and visit with different caregivers, you will become more aware of the options that are available.  It's also a fine idea to talk with coworkers, friends, family, and neighbors about their experiences with care.  They may be able to recommend a quality provider or give you some valuable food for thought.  Finally, if you are seeking infant care, begin your search as soon as possible, even if you are early in your pregnancy. Infant spots are scarce and fill up very quickly.  

Best wishes to you in your child care search!