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Know Your Needs


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It’s important to think specifically about your needs and those of your child, as well as what might be available. Knowing your child care needs sounds simple, but make sure you’ve thought through specifics such as:

  • Your Child’s Age: You’ll feel more confident about leaving your child in care when you make sure that the setting you choose meets the particular needs of the age of your child. For example, infants thrive when they are allowed to set their own schedule of naps and feedings. Preschoolers need lots of time to explore their environment. And school-age children need a variety of activities and materials to keep them interested. Select a setting that meets the child development needs of his or her age.
  • Time of Day ... or Season: matches the hours of care you will need with what might be available. Be sure to get clarity before choosing a particular child care setting:
    • Full time care is considered a full week, at a minimum of five hours a day in most settings.
    • Part time care could be just a few days a week or a few hours a day.
    • School-age care is before and/or after school, and some settings don’t offer both so it’s important to ask. You may also need transportation so be sure to ask what schools they serve or if the school bus stops at that center or home.
    • Most family child care homes and child care centers offer care between approximately 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, but some options exist beyond those hours, including: evenings, overnight, weekends, and special summer camp programs.
    • Some settings offer options such as occasional or drop-in care, 24-hour care, or temporary or emergency care; however, there are fewer options available for non-traditional work schedules/hours/days.
  • Location: If you have an infant or young child, you might prefer child care closer to your workplace. Few employers offer onsite child care. If your child is in school, you might prefer child care closer to home or school, or on the school bus route. Some schools offer before and after school care onsite.
  • Financial Considerations: will certainly be part of your decision. Care for school-age children, for example, will be less than care for toddlers and infants. Quality child care is can be expensive, and so is the cost of providing quality care. Overhead costs for child care providers include maintaining up-to-date materials and environments, insurance, salaries, and professional development; as well as additional expenditures if they are working toward accreditation or further academic credentials.
  • Financial Assistance: You could be eligible, depending on your income, through your local county Department of Job and Family Services. Many child care centers, homes, and school-age programs participate in subsidy programs. Other options available to Income-eligible families to help offset costs include the possibility for no-cost health insurance through Healthy Start! or taking the child care credit on your taxes.
  • Specific Needs of Your Child: These needs could be health-related, such as allergy to pet dander or cigarette smoke, or they could be related to physical, cognitive or emotional needs that require special accommodations. If your child has special needs, it will be beneficial to be up front when interviewing potential child care providers. The provider’s response can often help you decide whether or not to proceed with the next step of setting up an onsite interview.
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