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How to Choose a Daycare Provider for Your New Infant

Going back to work and leaving your infant in the care of another person can be a very difficult thing for a new mother to do. However, if you spend some time carefully choosing your daycare provider, you can take comfort in knowing that your child will be receiving care in a loving and nurturing environment.

The best time to begin choosing daycare for your infant is before your child is born. Some facilities have waiting lists, and if you choose such a facility, you’ll want to get your name on the list as early as possible. Another good reason to choose your daycare provider early is the fact that you may be restricted in your activities in later pregnancy, especially if you’re placed on bed rest. Also, having these arrangements in place will allow you to relax and spend time with your newborn, instead of rushing around trying to find a day care provider before your maternity leave is up.

One of the first considerations is where the daycare should be located. Perhaps you’ll feel more comfortable having a daycare provider close to home, although you’ll need to consider whether or not this will create problems in picking up your child if traffic after work is bad. You could also choose a provider closer to your work, but this could create problems if you ever work at home. Will you be the person primarily responsible for dropping off and picking up your child, or will some other person share that role? If someone will be sharing that role with you regularly, should the day care provider be centrally located? As with most things in parenting, there are no absolute right and wrong decisions – just choices to be made.

Consider your budget for daycare. Know what you can afford to spend, and work to find a quality provider within your budget.

Once you’ve chosen one or more appropriate locations, ask your friends and family about their experiences with various day care providers. Don’t make your decision solely based on their input, but use it as an additional source of information.

Also, you should find out how daycare providers are regulated in the state where you live. Find out what criteria they must meet to be licensed, although you may have personal criteria that are more stringent than the state minimums.

Your next step is to call potential providers. You will want to ask a number of questions:

  • What is their certification status?
  • What is their staff-to-child ratio?
  • What kind of background check do they conduct on employees?
  • What would disqualify someone from employment?
  • How are their employees trained? Is infant and child CPR included?
  • What is their employee turnover rate?
  • Have they ever been the subject of an investigation?
  • What are their hours? Do they provide care on holidays, weekends, or during early morning or evening hours?
  • What is included in the fees? What must you supply?
  • What types of meals and/or snacks do they provide?
  • Do they currently have openings, or how long is the wait?
  • Are parents encouraged to drop in to check on their children at any time?
  • Do they provide closed-circuit monitoring via the web for parents?
  • How do they verify the identity of the person picking up the child?

Once you’ve received answers to these questions, you can probably pare down your list of potential providers to a few. Then it's time to see the facility for yourself in person. While you’re there, carefully observe what is happening.

  • Does the staff seem flustered at being observed, or do they seem comfortable?
  • Is the facility clean and neat? Are there age-appropriate toys and activities in each area?
  • Is it easy for a person to enter the daycare center, or is there some barrier to prevent unauthorized entry?
  • Do the children seem engaged with the caregivers?
  • How do the caregivers respond to unhappy children?
  • How do you feel when you interact with the staff?

After you’ve had a chance to review all of the daycare providers objectively, and narrowed the field as much as possible, let your mother's intuition guide you to the right choice.

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