Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A. | 4/8/2006 1:27:08 AM
Programs exist to help families make better decisions about child care, according to LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe.
Known as Child Care Resource and Referral Programs, these local agencies provide free assistance to families who are actively searching for care and need help with making informed decisions about the best care for their children, Gioe explains.
"Choosing child care is one of the most important decisions many parents must make," Gioe says. "But many times parents lack the knowledge needed to make an informed decision about appropriate child care for their children.
"These Child Care Resource and Referral Programs provide customized referrals for individuals to local child-care programs, information on state licensing requirements, information on child-care subsidies and other pertinent information regarding child care and child development."
Better yet, these resource and referral programs often offer these conveniences by phone, in person or via the Internet, fax or mail, according to Gioe.
The programs also offer workshops, hotlines and newsletters designed to help parents and families make informed choices that lead to quality child-care programs and healthy and happy children.
"In most communities, the demand for affordable child care is greater than the supply of child care," Gioe explains. "So Child Care Resource and Referral programs also help child-care providers meet licensing requirement and may offer low-cost or free training in diverse topics such as health and safety, child development and business practices."
In addition, the programs provide ongoing professional development opportunities for child-care providers, support child-care accreditation efforts and help create incentives for furthering education and advocating for better compensation for providers.
"Child Care Resource and Referral programs are a major source of information about the local supply and cost of child care," Gioe says. "This makes them able to track trends about the changing needs of families.
"These programs also collaborate with family support services and others to promote a vision of child care that includes health, literacy and special needs."
In Louisiana, Child Care Resource and Referral programs are primarily funded by grants from the Louisiana Department of Social Services and monetary and in-kind contributions from individuals and corporations.
The state’s programs are divided into regions. They are:
–DSS Regions 1, 3 and 4 – Agenda for Children/Child Care Resources serves the New Orleans and Thibodaux areas. More information is available at www.agendaforchildren.org or by phoning the New Orleans offices at (800) 486-1712 or Thibodaux at (800) 577-8052.
–DSS Region 2 – Volunteers of America/Partnerships In Child Care covers the Baton Rouge area. More information is available by phoning (888) 926-8005.
–DSS Region 5 and 6 – Excellence for Children’s First Three Years covers the areas of Lafayette and Lake Charles. More information is available by phoning 337-332-8551.
–DSS Regions 7 and 8 – Northwestern State University/Child and Family Network covers the Alexandria, Shreveport and Monroe areas. More information is available by phoning (800) 796-9080.
–DSS Region 9 – Children’s Coalition of Monroe covers the Monroe area. More information is available by phoning 318-323-8775.
For more information about Child Care Resource and Referral agencies, visit www.naccrra.org.
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.