Finding the Right Childcare, Part 2

A setting that keeps your child safe and healthy.
Activities that are suited to your child’s stage of growth and that help the child develop mentally, physically, socially and emotionally.
Many experts in the field agree that finding out if a caregiver meets Labensohn’s three-part test requires a lot of parental effort. If a commercial day care facility or family day care home best meets your needs, experts say, then visit several times to observe the facility during different parts of the day — and ask a lot of questions.

Isabella has a simple test that works especially well for parents with infants. “Look at the caregiver around an infant and ask yourself whether it makes you feel like you’d like to be an infant again,” he said. At the end of the day, the comfort and richness of the experience, he says, are at least as significant for the child as more obvious health and safety concerns. “The heart of the matter is: ‘If I were a child here, would I feel good?'” Isabella concluded.

Sagel notes that if parents choose an in-home solution, they must treat it like a business. Two important aspects of that, she says, are rules and training. “Did you ever go to work in an office and not have rules about dress, phone usage and other routine things?” she said. “Crazy things can go on because parents hire someone and give them carte blanche.” The same holds true for training. “It’s very easy to point the finger or place the blame on the caregiver if they don’t do something right, but a caregiver is not a parent and needs to be trained for this, like any other job,” she said.

Isabella underscores the seriousness of the selection process in contemplating someone’s need to change a child’s day care situation. “Parents need to realize that, depending on how long each day a child is with the caregiver, that the loss of that relationship can be significant, almost like losing a parent,” he said. Even if a change must be made, he advises, a child should have the chance to visit the old setting.

“There are important lessons that can be learned in every step of this,” Isabella said. In the case of a changing caregivers, “a visit for the child can teach that people do come and go from our lives but it doesn’t mean the relationships have to end,” he said.

Ultimately, though, communication is the key, Isabella says. “You need to be able to communicate openly and honestly with the caregiver,” he said. “If you’re not comfortable talking with them, they are not the right ones.”