Choosing Infant and Toddler Child Care
Finding child care for your infant or toddler may feel like one of the most difficult and scary responsibilities you have ever shouldered. If you are a first-time parent, you may be even more anxious about the process. Just remember that you are not alone in this task. As our society and economy change, more and more parents face child care decisions earlier in their children’s lives. You can find good child care for your child. But be prepared that, most likely, it will take time and energy.
The first step is to look at the options for infant and toddler care in your community. While not all options are available in every neighborhood, this next section provides an overview of the types of infant and toddler care used by other parents. All of these types of care are available in the referral files at the BANANAS office.
Options for Infant and Toddler Child Care
Family Child Care – these programs operate in the caregiver’s own home and are regulated by the state. Popular with many parents, family child care can be less expensive then other forms of care. Some family child care providers include your child as part of their extended family; others have programs that are more structured like a “mini” preschool, which just happens to be in a home setting. There are no educational requirements for obtaining a family child care license.
However, all licensed providers are required to take a 15-hour child care health and safety course which includes CPR and first aid, as well as other state requirements and background checks. As part of the check, everyone 18 and older who lives in the home is fingerprinted for referencing in a criminal and child abuse index.
Family child care programs come in a variety of sizes and age configurations. What follows is a brief review of the number of children allowed in family child care homes. (That number includes a provider’s own children under ten years of age when they are on the premises. For more details, see our Handout “How Many Children Can Be Cared For in Licensed Family Child Care Homes?”)
- A “small” family child care provider is licensed to care for six children; this is the most common type of care. Of these children, only three can be under two years of age.
- A small family child care provider can take care of two additional schoolage children, increasing her group size to eight. But doing so requires lowering the number of infants (under age two) from three to two. The provider must notify all parents (present and prospective) in writing of this change and keep on file statements from parents that they have been notified. If renting, she must also get written permission from her landlord.
- A “large” family child care provider is licensed to care for 12 children. Any time there are more than six children present, an assistant is required. Of these 12 children, four can be under two years of age.
- A large family child care provider can take two additional schoolage children, which lowers the number of infants from four to three. If she cares for two schoolage children and only two infants, an assistant is not required until there are more than eight children in care. In these situations, a large family child care provider, like the small provider, must notify all parents in writing and obtain her landlord’s permission.
- A family child care provider who cares only for children under two years of age is licensed for four children. This type of care is not very common.
- A family child care provider who cares for children from just one family is not required to have a license. This might be a mother who wants companionship for her own young child or someone who just wants to care for one or two children. The group size with this type of care is determined by the number of children the family has. As soon as the provider decides to care for children from another family at the same time, s/he must get a family child care license.
Child Care Centers – these programs are licensed by the state to operate in facilities that no one lives in. Centers usually accept children after they are toilettrained but there are a growing number of centers which care for infants and/or toddlers. These centers frequently have long waiting lists. The licensing regulations require that infant centers have one child care worker for every four children under the age of two. The director and head teachers are required to have at least 12 units of early childhood education and there must always be someone on site who has 15 hours of health and safety training. All workers must be fingerprinted for the background check. Infant centers tend to be more expensive than family child care homes.
Reprinted with the permission of BANANAS, Inc. © 2007 BANANAS
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