Last Updated: Jan 10th, 2011 - 11:11:15
| Finding and Selecting Good Child Care: A Guide for Parents Returning to Work
By Sara Gable
Apr 8, 2008, 11:26 PST
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Finding and Selecting Good
Child Care: A Guide for Parents Returning to Work
Human Development Extension State Specialist
"Who will take care of
A big question for anyone going
back to work is, "Who will take care of my children?" Finding good child care
takes time and thought. Parents need to think about the types of child care programs,
what good child care is and which arrangement best meets their needs.
This guide provides information that can help parents and guardians find child
care that meets their needs and is good for children's learning and growth.
The early years of life are very important for children's future health and
well-being. Finding good child care can help children to learn and grow and
can also assist parents to have a clear mind at work because they know that
their children are receiving safe and healthy care.
Licensing and types of
Some child care programs are
licensed, others are not. What is child care licensing and why is licensing important?
Any person planning to offer child care for more than four unrelated children
needs to apply for licensure and meet the requirements before providing child
Why is licensing important?
Licensing guarantees that child
care facilities meet health and safety standards. When a child care facility is
licensed, families know that the Department of Health has agreed that the child
care program is safe and healthy and that someone inspects the facility each year.
To learn more about licensing, call the Missouri Department of Health, Bureau
of Child Care Licensing, at (573) 751-2450, and ask for the child care licensing
information to be mailed to you.
Here are several types of child care programs that you may want to consider.
- Family child care homes
- A family child care home
provides care in a home setting for 10 or fewer children. If more than four
unrelated children are being cared for, the family child care must be licensed
by the state and follow rules for safety and health, the number of children
who are cared for by adults, and the training of caregivers. Family child
care homes may have daytime and nighttime hours for when they take care of
- Group child care homes
- A group child care home
provides care in a home setting, away from the provider's own living space.
Group homes are licensed to care for 11 but no more than 20 children and must
follow rules for safety and health, the number of children who are cared for
by adults, the number of children in a group, and the training of caregivers.
Group child care homes may have daytime and nighttime hours for when they
take care of children.
- Child care centers
- A center provides care
for children in a building other than a home. Unless run by a church or operating
as a part-time nursery school, centers are licensed; they must follow rules
for safety and health, the number of children who are cared for by adults,
the number of children in a group and the training of caregivers. Centers
have set schedules for when they take care of children.
- Before- and after-school
- Children who are in school
during the day often need child care before and after school. Before- and
after-school care can be found at schools, at child care centers and at group
or family child care homes.
- In your own home
- Some parents have their
children cared for at home by a friend, a family member or a neighbor. These
arrangements are not licensed. On page 5 of this guide, ideas are listed about
how to make sure your children get safe, healthy and good care when they are
taken care of at home.
- DFS-registered child
- If your family needs
financial assistance from the Division of Family Services to pay for child
care, you will need to find a DFS-registered child care program. If you select
a child care program that is not licensed, the child care provider will first
need to contact the local Division of Family Services and apply for DFS registration
before caring for your children. This must be done first, so that the child
care provider can receive direct payments from DFS for caring for your children.
As with having a child care provider in your own home, use the ideas listed
in this guide to make sure your children get safe, healthy and good care when
they are taken care of by an unlicensed, DFS-registered child care provider.
Whether you choose a licensed
family child care home, a church-operated child care center or an unlicensed
DFS-registered child care provider, you need to make sure that your children
are receiving good child care.
What is good child care?
Good child care programs provide
a healthy and safe place for children to be social, to learn and to grow. Good
child care depends on many things. The three most important are the number of
caregivers who work with children, caregiver education and training, and the way
that caregivers get along with children.
Number of caregivers and
children in the group
- Family child care homes
- a. For one adult caregiver
who is licensed to care for 10 children, a maximum of two children under 2
years of age.
- b. For one adult caregiver
who is licensed to care for six children, a maximum of three children under
2 years of age.
- If the family child care
home is not licensed, Missouri law says that no more than four unrelated children
can be in the child care program.
- If a DFS-registered family
child care home is not licensed, Missouri law says that no more than four
unrelated children can be in the child care program.
- Child care centers and
group child care homes
- Children do best in small
groups because it is easier to interact with each other and to get care and
attention from caregivers. Missouri licensing rules regulate how many children
can be with a caregiver and how big the group of children can be in a licensed
child care program. The standards say:
- a. For children birth
through 2 years old: One adult with four children; groups no larger than two
adults with eight children.
- b. For children only
2 years old: One adult with eight children; groups no larger than two adults
with 16 children.
- c. For children 3 and
4 years old: One adult with 10 children.
- d. For children 5 years
and older: One adult with 16 children.
- e. For groups of mixed-age
children: For children 2 years and older, one adult with 10 children, and
only four 2-year-olds present in the group. If there are more than four 2-year-olds,
the group can have no more than eight children.
Caregiver education and
Many people think that providing
child care comes naturally, but teaching and caring for children in groups takes
special skills. The best child care providers have education and training about
children. Licensed caregivers in Missouri are required to have 12 hours of child
care training every year.
Education and training are important because they teach caregivers how to
help children learn and grow. Caregivers learn how to plan the day, provide
nutritious foods and offer fun activities that children will like. Caregivers
also learn how to get along with children and families in positive ways.
When you see a good caregiver interacting with children, you will see her/him:
- Smile at children a lot
- Talk in ways that children
- Show children a positive
- Show children they care
- Take care of crying children
- Help children understand
how they feel
- Answer children's questions
- Encourage children to
get along with each other
- Make the most of daily
routines to help children learn
- Create moments for children
to learn new things in a fun way
- Help children handle
failure and learn ways to be successful
- The best caregivers know
what children can do and understand what it is like to be a child.
Finding out about child
To find out about child care
programs in your area, call the Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. They
are located all over Missouri to help families find good child care programs.
Use the worksheet below to write down some things about yourself and your children
so that you are prepared when you call.
When you talk with the Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, they will
give you the name and phone number of at least three child care programs. Write
down the names and phone numbers so that you have them when it is time to call.
Table 1. Worksheet for
finding and selecting good child care
|Your phone number(s)
|Your children's names and ages
|Do you need a DFS-registered child care program?
|Name and address of employer
|Hours of the day and/or night that you will need child care:
|Do you need child care in a certain part of town?
|If Yes, what part of town?
|Which type(s) of child care interest you?
- Family child care homes
- DFS-registered child care program
- Group child care homes
- Care in your own home
- Child care centers
- Before- and after-school care
- Interested in all types
Contacting and visiting
child care providers
When you call the child care
providers, set up a time to go and visit. The only way to know if a child care
program is GOOD is to talk face-to-face with the person in charge, look carefully
at the facility, and watch how the caregivers interact with the children.
Child care in your own home, unlicensed child care programs, and unlicensed
DFS-registered child care programs
If you have your children taken care of in your own home or in an unlicensed child
care program, use the checklists in this guide to make sure that they are in a
safe and healthy environment and that the caregivers act in ways to help your
children learn and grow.
If you do not know the caregiver well, ask other people who know the caregiver
to tell you about her or him. Ask the neighbors questions such as, "How does
she or he get along with children?" and "When the children are playing outside,
who is with them and what are they doing?" Also ask any other questions that
are important to you. The answers will help you decide if this child care provider
can give your children safe, healthy and good care.
Child care in your own home and unlicensed child care programs may not be
as dependable as other child care programs. To guarantee that you have child
care when you need it, make backup arrangements for your children with friends
and family members in case of an emergency.
Table 2. Checklist for
contacting and visiting child care providers
Table 3. Child care
resource and referral agencies
||YWCA St. Joseph|
304 North 8th Street
St. Joseph, MO 64501
1-800-404-9922 (restricted to NW Mo.)
FAX: (816) 232-4481
|Atchison, Nodaway, Holt, Andrew, Buchanan, Worth, Gentry, DeKalb, Clinton, Harrison, Daviess, Caldwell, Mercer, Grundy, Livingston, Carroll, Putnam, Sullivan, Linn, Chariton
P.O. Box 103
Shelbina, MO 63468
FAX: (816) 327-5128
|Schuyler, Adair, Macon, Randolph, Scotland, Knox, Shelby, Monroe, Audrain, Clark, Lewis, Marion, Ralls, Pike, Lincoln
||Heart of America Family Services|
Kansas City, MO 64111
FAX: (913) 342-3632
|Platte, Clay, Ray, Jackson, Lafayette, Saline, Cass, Bates
||Central Workshop on Wheels|
Warrensburg, MO 64093
FAX: (816) 543-8393
|Johnson, Henry, Pettis, Hickory, Benton, Howard, Cooper, Moniteau, Morgan, Miller, Camden, Dallas, Laclede
P.O. Box 30674
Columbia, MO 65205
FAX: (573) 446-0342
|Boone, Callaway, Montgomery, Cole, Osage, Gasconade, Maries
||Child Day Care Association|
2031 Olive Street
St. Louis, MO 63103
FAX: (314) 241-8429
|Warren, St. Charles, St. Louis, St. Louis City
|SDA #7, #8
||Council of Churches of the Ozarks|
1461-A East Seminole
Springfield, MO 65804
FAX: (417) 882-4792
|Vernon, Barton, Jasper, Newton, McDonald, St. Clair, Cedar, Dade, Lawrence, Barry, Polk, Greene, Christian, Stone, Taney, Webster, Wright, Douglas, Ozark, Pulaski, Phelps, Texas, Dent, Howell, Shannon, Oregon, Crawford, Washington
|SDA #9, #10
||Southeast Missouri State University|
1 University Plaza
Cape Girardeau, MO 63701
FAX: (573) 986-6068
|Franklin, Jefferson, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Perry, Iron, Madison, Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Reynolds, Wayne, Stoddard, Scott, Mississippi, Ripley, Butler, Dunklin, New Madrid, Pemiscot
Making a decision
Now that you have visited child
care programs and collected information, you are ready to make a decision. The
decision about who is going to care for your children is usually based on three
- First, do you think that
the child care program is GOOD? Will your children be safe and have the opportunity
to learn and grow? Is the facility clean and is nutritious food served? Are
the caregivers trained and nice to the children in their care? Is the person
in charge interested in your family's needs?
- Second, can you AFFORD
to pay for the child care program? When you call the Child Care Resource and
Referral Agencies, they will talk with you about different ways to pay for
child care, depending on your income level.
- Third, does the LOCATION
of the child care let you easily drop off and pick up your children without
conflicting with your work schedule or the child care's schedule?
After you think about these
3 things, making a decision about a child care program may be easier. If you
visited more than one child care, you can compare them to decide which one best
meets the needs of your family and your children.
Choosing the right child care
program for your family is an important decision. This guide is intended to help
you be a smart child care shopper and to confidently answer the question, "Who
will take care of my children?" The first years of life are very important to
children and to families. Finding good child care helps your children to learn
and grow and helps you to have a clear mind when at work because you know that
your children are receiving safe and healthy care.
Bredekamp, Sue, and Copple,
Carol. (1997). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs.
Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Child Care Action Campaign. Information Guide 19: Finding Good Child Care:
The Essential Questions to Ask When Seeking Quality Care for Your Child.
New York, NY: Child Care Action Campaign.
Child Care Action Campaign. Information Guide 13: "Care for Your Child:
Making the Right Choice". New York, NY: Child Care Action Campaign.
Frede, Ellen, C. (1995). The role of program quality in producing early childhood
program benefits. In Richard E. Behrman (Ed.), The future of children: Long-term
outcomes of early childhood programs. Los Altos, CA: The Center for the
Future of Children.
Whitebook, Marcy, Howes,
Carollee, and Phillips, Deborah. (1989). Who cares? Child care teachers and
the quality of care in America. Oakland, CA: Child Care Employee Project.
1999 University of Missouri. Published by University
Extension, University of Missouri-Columbia. Please use our feedback
form for questions or comments about this or any other publication contained
on the XPLOR site.
Issued in furtherance
of Cooperative Extension Work Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation
with the United States Department of Agriculture. Ronald J. Turner, Director,
Cooperative Extension Service, University of Missouri and Lincoln University,
Columbia, Missouri 65211. University Extension does not discriminate
on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability
or status as a Vietnam era veteran in employment or programs. If you have special
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in an alternative format, write ADA Officer, Extension and Agricultural Information,
1-98 Agriculture Building, Columbia, MO 65211, or call (573) 882-7216. Reasonable
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