Part I of this SharePost emphasized how difficult it can be to find quality childcare if you are a parent of a high-needs child and are ready to return to work. In this SharePost, I provide information you can use to make sure you are leaving your child in the best hands possible.
What is quality care?
There are many ways to measure the quality of child care, including:
1) A child's interactions with the teachers and other children and
2) The physical characteristics of the child care facility, such as the formal education of the caregivers and the parent to child ratio.
These are the same for typically developing, healthy children too. The challenge is determining your family's unique needs and finding an appropriate child-care match.
My son has multiple food allergies as well as severe reflux, so it was important for us to determine if these were conditions the staff was comfortable and familiar with.
I met with the teachers when I looked for childcare. In our son's preschool, his teachers told me they had a previous child with a similar condition. That was a plus. I was also curious about all of the social activities that would be happening throughout the year that centered on food, and they assured me that we would all work together to create a positive experience for my son.
The second measure of childcare looks more at the physical set up. This could involve whether or not the care is in a home or center, how many teachers or caregivers are present on any one day, and the qualifications of the caregivers. If your child requires special equipment, this measure of quality may be a big consideration for you.
Again, I think staff experience matters most. I personally would prefer a smaller number of caregivers who are experienced and competent, over a larger number who may not be seasoned professionals.
Of course, the cost of childcare will almost always play a role. Overall, parents of a child with a disability have less income compared to other parents, so quality of care must often be balanced against the cost.
Tips for finding quality childcare
Since communication will be key, I have included some typical questions you may want to ask the potential care providers:
1) Do the children bring their own food, or is it prepared for them? This may be important if your child has food allergies or dietary restrictions. The children in my son's preschool all bring their own food with them, so we can send food he can tolerate.
2) What is the staff-to-child ratio? Licensing requirements will vary from state to state. However, some in the field recommend ratios of three children to one teacher for children younger than 18 months, and six children to one teacher for children 18 months to three years. These ratios may need to be reduced depending on how many other high-needs children are being cared for. In my own son's school, we are comfortable with a child to teacher ratio of seven to one.
3) Do the children take naps during the day? Lying down may present a problem for a child with reflux, and special arrangements may need to be made to prop up the place where the child will be sleeping. My son's preschool does have a nap time, so before he gets on his cot, one of his teachers uses Styrofoam blocks to prop up his bed.
4) What are the teachers' professional qualifications? The training and qualifications required of child care workers vary widely. Each state has its own licensing requirements ranging from a high school diploma to community college courses to a college degree in child development or early childhood education. Childcare workers in private settings who care for only a few children are often not regulated by states at all. In my son's school, all three of his teachers have four-year college degrees.
In all cases, make sure the day care providers act in a professional manner at all times, and are excited about taking care of your child, reflux and all.
Published On: December 12, 2007