Be Child Care Aware: Knowing Your Child-care Options Can Help You Choose The Best

Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A., White, Rebecca E.  |  4/8/2006 2:03:40 AM

News You Can Use For April 2006

Knowing the variety of child-care options available to you can help you choose the one that’s best for you and your family, experts with the LSU AgCenter stress.

"Are you in the market for child care? Do you want to find just the right setting for your child, but you don't know enough about the all options to choose one?" Gioe asks. "If you answer yes to those questions, it may be time to learn about the options that are available."

Gioe explains there are a variety of child-care settings you can choose from – ranging from child-care centers to in-home care.

"What type of setting you choose for your child depends on you – and your child’s individual needs and interests," Gioe advises. "After you’ve assessed your needs, you are ready to explore the options available to you and to find the child care that best fits you and your child."

To help you along that way, Gioe and other experts in the LSU AgCenter provide this information on the possible child-care options. Those options include:

–Child-care Centers. Child-care centers generally care for children from ages 6 weeks through 5 years. Some child-care programs also offer after-school care for children of other ages. Children in child-care centers most often are separated by age groups. As the children develop, they generally are moved to older age groups. Child-care centers typically accommodate families who have traditional work hours. They usually have set hours each week, which most often correspond with normal working hours, but it is possible to find some centers that offer extended hours.

–Early Head Start: Early Head Start is a federally funded program for children ages 6 weeks to 3 years of age. This service is free and may be offered as a part-day or full-day program depending on the location. Early Head Start follows the typical school-year schedule – with holidays and summers off.

–Head Start: Head Start is a federally funded program for 3-year-olds to 5-year-olds in low-income families. This service is free and may be offered as a part-day or a full-day program depending on the location. Head Start follows a typical school-year schedule with holidays and summers off.

–LA4: LA4 programs are funded by Temporary Assistance to Needy Family money from the federal government, as well as local and state government funding. Under this program, school districts must provide preschool services to all children who meet age eligibility. Schools also must provide before-school and after-school programs. Children who qualify for free lunch may attend LA4 programs for free, but others may pay a minimal tuition.

–Preschools: Preschools provide services for children from 36 months to school age (kindergarten). These preschools could be located in a church or synagogue, as an extension of a public or private school or in a privately owned setting. Many child-care programs also offer a preschool curriculum.

–Family Child Care: This type of service usually is located in a caregiver's home. In Louisiana, family home providers may care for only six children on their own. The provider’s own children are included in the number they may care for. In addition, in Louisiana, family child-care providers are not mandated to be licensed.

–In-home or Nanny Care: In this type of care, the caregiver will come to your home and care for your child. This type of care is very costly, since the child-care provider may require benefits. In addition, by law, you are responsible to pay a share of employment taxes on an in-home provider, since that person is considered to be your employee.

–Drop-in Care: This care is provided either separately or with other services in a child-care center or home setting. These types of caregivers will provide care on an irregular or as-needed basis. The care usually is provided for three hours to four hours a day and generally is based on an hourly rate. The staff may be professionals, volunteers or parents. This type of child care is a good option for those times when your regular child-care routine is interrupted.

–Relative or Kin Care: This type of care could be in your own home or in a relative's home. The caregiver is a family member or friend who is available to care for your child while you are at work. Financial arrangements for this type of care and the responsibilities of the caregiver should be discussed in detail before the person begins caring for your children, so that there are no misunderstandings about expectations.

–School-age Child Care: Beginning in kindergarten and continuing until age 13, this type of care provides supervision and planned activities for children both before and after school and during holiday breaks. This type of service may be found in a public or private school, churches, child-care centers, family home settings and other community groups. The fees depend on the ages of children, hours, services provided and sources of funding.

"All these types of care are valid options," LSU AgCenter family development specialist Dr. Becky White says. "You must assess what you want in a child-care setting. Also, talk to your child, if appropriate, and discuss what he or she might think is a good option that fits you both well."

The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.


Cheri Gioe at (225) 578-6701 or
Becky White at (225) 578-3921 or
Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or

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