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The child-care shortage is everyone's problem – for parents (whether you work outside the home or not), employers, and the children. The prospect of choosing the right childcare can be overwhelming. Put your mind at ease with Choosing ...
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The child-care shortage is everyone's problem – for parents (whether you work outside the home or not), employers, and the children. The prospect of choosing the right childcare can be overwhelming. Put your mind at ease with Choosing Childcare For Dummies. This reference guide is brimming with practical advice to help you find high-quality childcare for the child in your life – whether he or she is a biological child, stepchild, grandchild, foster child, or the child of your significant other.
From figuring out affordability to knowing what to do if you suspect neglect or abuse, Choosing Childcare For Dummies covers it all. Inside the book you'll find out how to
Because the United States has no countrywide child-care “system” in place, we’ve ended up with a patchwork quilt of regulations that don’t quite mesh the way they should. This is why so many child-care programs are exempt from the child-care legislation that’s intended to protect children. The bottom line? You can’t count on anyone else to guarantee your child’s health, safety, and well-being in a particular child-care setting. Like it or not, the buck stops with you. That’s why you owe it to yourself and your child to read books like this one that show you how to be a savvy day-care consumer.
Part I: Getting Started: Choosing Childcare 101.
Chapter 1: Getting a Bird’s-Eye View of What’s Involved.
Chapter 2: What’s on the Menu? Understanding Your Child-Care Options.
Chapter 3: Ages and Stages: Making Childcare Work for Your Child and Your Family.
Chapter 4: Adding Up Your Dollars and Sense.
Chapter 5: Playing Day-Care Detective: Investigating the Quality of Care.
Part II: Out-of-Home Childcare: Evaluating the Big Three.
Chapter 6: Evaluating a Day-Care Center.
Chapter 7: Sizing Up a Family Day Care.
Chapter 8: Figuring Out Where Nursery Schools and Preschools Fit In.
Part III: In-Home Childcare: Deciding Whether Nanny or Uncle Danny Can Do the Job.
Chapter 9: Searching for an In-Home Caregiver: Mary Poppins, Where Are You.
Chapter 10: All in the Family: Hiring a Relative to Do the Job.
Chapter 11: Me? An Employer?: Hiring Domestic Employees.
Part IV: Wanted: Part-Time and Occasional Childcare.
Chapter 12: When Plan A Fails: Having a Backup in Place.
Chapter 13: Not Workin’ 9 to 5: Childcare during Offbeat Hours.
Chapter 14: The Baby-Sitters’ Club: Finding a Teenage Sitter.
Part V: The Part of Tens.
Chapter 15: Ten Tips on Easing Your Child into a New Child-Care Arrangement.
Chapter 16: Ten Ways to Feel Connected to Your Child’s Day-Care “Family”.
Chapter 17: Ten Signs That Your Child-Care Arrangement Is in Trouble.
Chapter 18: Ten Child-Care Resources and Organizations.
In This Chapter
* Finding out why the child-care search requires so much time and patience
* Discovering what you can do to make the process go more smoothly
* Seeing what's on the child-care menu
If you're in the habit of comparing notes with other parents, you've no doubt heard your fair share of child-care horror stories by now - truly hair-raising tales of nannies caught hitting the bottle or hopping into the sack with their boyfriends while the tots in their care go completely unsupervised. Frankly, it's not unlike what happens when you announce that you're having a baby: People you barely know seem to take perverse delight in scaring you skinny with tales of their best friend's neighbor's 78-hour labor and foot-long episiotomy scar. Never mind the fact that these stories tend to be made up of 0.01 percent cold, hard truth and 99.99 percent urban legend. Why let something as boring as the truth get in the way of a rip-roaring story?
So if you're feeling totally shell-shocked by all the caregiver-from-hell stories that you keep being subjected to every time you dare to venture to the office water cooler, gas station, or grocery store, I'd like to offer you a bit of advice. Take these stories with a grain of salt. Finding a suitable child-care arrangement isn't going to be a cakewalk, but it's not going tobe mission impossible, either. I promise.
As for the details of your child-care mission, well, that's what this chapter is all about. I talk about why the search for childcare can be frustrating and exhausting and what you can do to make the process a little less stressful. I walk you through the various options on the child-care menu, both out-of-home and in-home. And I discuss how your child-care needs may be affected by your family's unique circumstances. Just as there's no such thing as one-size-fits-all pantyhose (trust me, I know this from personal experience!), there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all child-care solution. This chapter is about laying the groundwork for those child-care solutions. Sorry, you're on your own when it comes to the pantyhose....
Understanding Why the Search for Childcare Can Be Frustrating
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why the search for childcare can be so frustrating. You've probably heard the child-care facts of life more than once by now, but just in case:
What the quality child-care shortage means to you
You've probably seen the newspaper headlines talking about the shortage of quality childcare - in other words, childcare that meets or exceeds some basic standards for quality. (If you want a detailed breakdown of what constitutes quality childcare, by the way, flip to Chapter 5.) This shortage doesn't necessarily mean that you'll have trouble finding child-care spaces in your community (although, frankly, that can be an issue, too), but you can pretty much count on having trouble finding quality child-care spaces in your community, at least according to what the experts are saying.
If you're like most parents, you probably assume that child-care programs are carefully regulated and monitored for health and safety infractions. Although some programs are required to measure up to the kinds of standards that you and I have come to expect, other programs fall through the cracks - a lot of other programs, in fact. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation (a nonprofit foundation that researches child-care-related issues and other issues affecting the health and well-being of children), approximately 40 percent of child-care programs in America are legally exempt from state regulations that are designed to protect children. Forty percent! So if you're expecting some government bureaucrat to play the role of defender of good, you may want to give yourself a bit of a reality check. It may or may not happen in this lifetime - literally.
Because the United States has no countrywide child-care "system" in place, we've ended up with a patchwork quilt of regulations that don't quite mesh together the way they should. This is why so many child-care programs are exempt from the child-care legislation that's been put in place to protect children. And when centers aren't held accountable for the quality of care that they provide, serious problems can and often do result.
In recent years, national studies have identified some disturbing truths with the quality of childcare in this country - problems that should encourage every parent in America to scrutinize his or her child's child-care arrangement a little more closely. Here's a quick summary of their key findings:
The bottom line: You can't count on anyone else to guarantee your child's health, safety, and well-being in a particular child-care setting. Like it or not, the buck stops with you. That's why you owe it to yourself and your child to read books like this one that show you how to be a smart and savvy day-care consumer. So give yourself a huge amount of credit for facing up to the problem rather than trying to bury your head in the sand. As with anything else in life, recognizing that there's a problem is more than half the battle.
Part-time childcare, full-time headache
Finding standard, no-frills childcare (full-time daytime childcare from Monday to Friday) is hard enough. If you're looking for something a little out of the ordinary, such as half-day or every-other-day childcare, you could find yourself out of luck unless, of course, you're willing to pay for a full-time child-care space, even though you only need it part-time.
The administrator of the local day-care center or the home day-care provider isn't looking to make your life miserable, by the way, by refusing to accept part-timers. Because facilities are limited as to how many kids they can accept, they have to make every space they've got count. So unless you're willing to find another parent who's willing to sublet your day-care space, you may be stuck footing the bill for full-time care even if you use it only part-time or continuing to pound the pavement until you find a day care that welcomes part-timers.
Because the quest for childcare can quickly turn into a full-time job if your working hours are anything but nine-to-five, I devote an entire chapter to this topic (Chapter 13). If you want to get a handle on the types of child-care options that have worked particularly well for other families requiring part-time childcare, you may want to skip ahead to this chapter.
The affordability crisis
Of course, finding a suitable child-care arrangement is one thing. Being able to afford it is quite another. According to the Children's Defense Fund, full-time childcare can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 per child per year, which makes it the second or third biggest expenditure in the budgets of families with children between the ages of 3 and 5.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, millions of children who could benefit from high-quality child-care and early education programs are denied those opportunities because their parents simply aren't able to afford them. Ironically, although parents pick up the tab for roughly only 23 percent of the cost of a public college education (government and the private sector pay the rest), they're on the hook for 60 percent of child-care costs (local, state, and federal governments pay 39 percent of the costs, and business and philanthropic interests contribute the other 1 percent). Is it any wonder that families with children in childcare are feeling the pinch? (See Chapter 4 for more on the financial aspects of childcare.)
When Plan A fails: Finding backup care
Something else that can make the search for childcare tremendously frustrating is the need to think like an emergency services coordinator. Having one childcare plan (call it Plan A) isn't enough. You also have to be thinking about Plan B and Plan C. Now before you jump to the conclusion that I'm a card-carrying member of the International Order of Worrywarts, allow me to give you a concrete example of why a little bit of paranoia can take you a long way in the often unpredictable world of childcare.
Assume that your main child-care plan (Plan A) involves having your husband's mother come into your home each weekday to take care of her beloved grandchildren. (If you're thinking of asking family members to help you out in this capacity, head over to Chapter 10 where I discuss this topic in more detail.) Also assume that Granny - who's never even requested so much as a single week of vacation time because she so loves being with her grandkids - wins big at bingo one night and walks away with the grand prize: six weeks' use of a mobile home. Well, Granny's never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and before you can even ask her when she's leaving, she's backing out of the driveway, blowing kisses, and promising to send postcards.
So much for Plan A.
Fortunately, you once read a brilliantly written book about childcare (I'm blushing - you just confessed it was this book!), and the author stressed the importance of having a backup plan. So you came up with Plan B a long, long time ago. Plan B involves asking your neighbor, Jane, to pinch-hit in the event that Granny's suddenly unavailable. But wait! Jane is due to give birth to her eighth and ninth children any day now (yep, she's expecting twins!).
There goes Plan B.
So that leaves you with Plan C - hitting the panic button. (Just kidding! I wouldn't leave you in the lurch.) Because this is my book and I love happy endings, I'm going to give this story just that: a picture-perfect happy ending. Let's just say that the old adage about necessity being the mother of invention pans out, and you're suddenly struck with a brilliant thought while you're pacing the floor at 3:00 in the morning: Why not convince your mother to come and visit for the six weeks when your husband's mother is away?
As it turns out, Plan C is a hit with all concerned. The kids are thrilled, your husband's thrilled, you're relieved, and as for your mom - well, she's euphoric. As luck would have it, she's been trying to come up with a reason to hop on a plane and come visit her grandchildren, and now, you've given her the perfect reason. She couldn't be happier or more grateful - and neither could you.
As this heartwarming, three-tissue story indicates, you can never have enough child-care backup plans in place because you never know when life is going to toss another child-care curveball your way. All you can count on is that another curveball will be coming, so you'd better be prepared. And if you have a job that really does require that you make it to work as often as possible - for example, you're a brain surgeon, and you can't exactly ask your secretary to fill in for you in the operating room - you may want to move beyond Plan C. Heck, you may want to extend your backup plans all the way to Plan Z.
If you want the lowdown on how other families handle the need for backup care, you can find plenty of ideas and inspiration in Chapter 12.
When you and your partner don't see eye to eye
People tend to have strong, even passionate, feelings about childcare, so it's not unusual to run into conflicts with your child's other parent over child-care-related issues - something that only adds to the stress and frustration of searching for childcare.
There's no easy way to resolve these kinds of child-care conflicts, but you may find it helpful to try to understand the other person's point of view. If, for example, you have your heart set on a family day care around the corner, but your partner is totally sold on the highly regarded day-care center on the other side of town, you'll want to ensure that you've each had a chance to check out both facilities. Otherwise, you risk getting married to your own option just because it's, well, yours!
If you're still at an impasse at this point, you may have to resort to the childcare world's equivalent of flipping a coin: letting the parent who will be most actively involved in your child's day-to-day day-care life (the parent responsible for drop-off and pick-up most days) have the final say.
If a deep-rooted philosophical debate is what's causing your partner to get hung up on a particular child-care option, you may find that a little bit of information-sharing can take you a long way. Chapter 2 provides a concise run-through of your various child-care options.
Excerpted from Choosing Childcare For Dummies by Ann Douglas Excerpted by permission.
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