Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A., White, Rebecca E. | 7/14/2005 2:00:56 AM
Choosing child care is one of the most daunting tasks parents have to do, but it’s often necessary to complete such tasks.
"A myriad of emotions occur at the mere thought of letting someone else care for your tiny bundle of joy," LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe says. "But while emotions seem to dominate these decisions, the reality also eventually sets in when you have spent your last nickel on formula and diapers or you have exhausted your leave from work and know you will have to return to your job."
Although making decisions about child care can be overwhelming, Gioe and LSU AgCenter specialist Dr. Becky White say it doesn’t have to be so bad.
Families simply need to keep in mind a variety of factors that should be considered when attempting to find quality child care, White advises.
"All parents, at one time or another, need to find someone to help in caring for their children," White says, adding, "Parents need the peace of mind that comes with the knowledge that their children are in quality child-care environments."
The LSU AgCenter experts stress the critical importance of selecting quality child-care arrangements, since research shows the quality of child care affects the quality of life for parents and young children.
"The social and mental development of children is fostered by contact with caring adults and other young children," White stresses.
While cost and convenience are important considerations in selecting care, parents also should consider what is the best child-care arrangement based upon their children’s ages, abilities, interests and personalities, the LSU AgCenter specialist says.
In addition, parents should think about their own beliefs and attitudes about education, training, child guidance, nutrition and health – as those relate to their children – and a caregiver should be selected that respects your family values, White says.
"Most important, parents will want to select a child-care provider who genuinely likes and responds in a positive way to their children," White emphasizes.
Research studies conducted in different child-care settings can help parents make informed decisions about child-care arrangements for their children, according to White and Gioe.
"In-home care by relatives and friends is selected by a majority of parents," Gioe says, adding, "This arrangement may best suit your needs if your child is under age 3 or older than 6. But research indicates that being licensed as a center or home is more important to quality child care than being related to the child."
White also says the research shows licensing or regulations have a stronger impact on quality child care than any other factor.
"Relatives and friends may not really wish to take care of the child. They may just be trying to help out a working parent," White says, adding, "In such a case, the quality of care is lower and possibly even harmful to a child’s development."
Research also indicates that different arrangements have different effects on different children, according to the experts, who explain that the variety of different types of child-care arrangements include family child-care homes, child-care centers, Head Start, child-care sitters and nannies.
"It is critical that parents find the arrangement that is best suited to their child or children," Gioe says. "Even more, parents need to keep in mind that no one type of arrangement is best for all children. Usually, it is quality of care that matters, not the type of care."
Although generalizations about the type of care are difficult to make, the LSU AgCenter experts say it is clear that smaller group sizes work best for children.
"Parents should select arrangements that place their children among a small number of children with a few adults," Gioe says.
In Louisiana, licensing and registration standards determine maximum group size in child-care centers and family day homes.
"Parents will want to make sure their children are not changing groups, teachers and group size frequently – just to keep ratios within licensing limits at a child-care center," White cautions, however. "Excessive changing of caregivers is stressful for children and affects their development negatively."
White also says studies show that child-care providers who have received training in child development and care do a much better job.
"Parents may wish to ask potential caregivers about their educational background in child development and any training they participate in – to determine how knowledgeable they are about children’s growth and development," the LSU AgCenter specialist advises. "Some caregivers and early childhood educators have college degrees or associate degrees (two-year college program). And some caregivers in centers and Head Start programs have earned a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, a national early childhood professional credentialing organization."
The Child Development Associate candidate completes a CDA assessment process that includes 120 hours of specific training and preparation of a professional resource file. In addition, the Child Development Associate candidate must pass a parent opinion survey, a written test on child development, an oral interview and an onsite observation.