How do I choose quality child care?

Many moms go back to work after having a baby and rely on child care for their children. Relatives or family members sometimes take on child-care duties, or children are enrolled in child-care programs. All parents wish the best start for their children. Child care is more than just a service that allows parents to work. It is a world that will affect a child's development in many ways ? physically, emotionally, intellectually, and socially. Finding quality child care that is affordable can be challenging. Many parents need inexpensive or cost-free day care where they know their children are safe and are being helped to grow and develop. Parents can contact their local social service agency (listed in the phone book) for information about government-sponsored programs such as Head Start and Early Head Start and other community programs. We recommend taking the following steps to choosing quality child care. Also, we have provided a Child Care Provider Checklist for help in choosing child care providers.

Steps to choosing quality child care

Look ? Visit several child-care homes or centers. Visit the home or center more than once and stay as long as possible so you can get a good feel for what the care will be like for your child. Continue to visit even after you start using the home or center. Listen ? Make sure the place is cheerful and not too quiet, which can mean not enough activity. Happy-sounding children means they are involved and busy. Count ? Count the number of children in the group and the number of staff members caring for them. The fewer the number of children for each staff member, the more attention your child will get. Your state will likely have child-to-provider ratios to follow, so make sure there aren't too many children. Ask ? Adults who care for children need knowledge and experience. Ask about the background and experience of all staff that will have contact with your child in the home or center. Be Informed ? Find out more about efforts in your community to improve the quality of child care. Ask if the home or center is involved in these activities. Consider getting involved yourself.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.