Visiting and Interviewing Family Child Care Providers
Family child care is care provided in someone else’s home for a small number of children, usually of various ages. This type of care offers several possible benefits to children and their parents. Children are usually cared for in small groups, making it easier to meet their individual needs. The setting can be warm, intimate, and informal, like part of the extended family. This makes it particularly attractive for infants and toddlers, who need to be held and helped on their own personal schedules. Because the groups are small, children who are very susceptible to colds and other illness may stay healthier in a family setting than in a center. Often child care homes serve children of various ages, including school-aged kids before and after school, which adds to the family-like experience. Family-based providers may have more flexible schedules than child care centers, making it easier to arrange care outside the typical 7:30 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. time frame. Finally, family child care is less expensive than center care in many parts of the country, although you may want to pay extra so as to help your caregiver provide the highest level of care possible.
Family child care also has disadvantages. Most important, states and localities have only very basic rules governing who can look after children at home and how that care is provided. (Several states have no regulations at all.) What rules exist are not enforced well and are ignored by many home care providers. Often you may be the only judge of the health and safety of a provider’s home and how much she knows about looking after children. In most cases the family child care provider works alone. If she gets sick, you’ll need a backup arrangement. If she goes out of business, you have to scramble to find someone else. And many of the people who look after children in their own homes have no education or training in child development or child care. This isn’t necessarily bad, but in general, trained providers are better at what they do than caregivers without those educational experiences.
Reprinted with the permission of Cornell University. © 2008 Cornell University
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