Tips on How to Find Quality In-Home Daycare for Your Children

kids in daycare with provider
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In-home daycare, also known as family daycare, is a setting in which you pay a childcare provider to take care of your child on a regular ongoing basis in their own home, sometimes with other children.

Some home daycare providers have received training and some are state-licensed, but many are not. Generally, you can find in-home daycare providers through word of mouth, through flyers, or online.

When you are looking for childcare for your child, find other parents who are using or seeking childcare, and talk to them about their plans and experiences. Get references from them on any childcare leads they have. And follow your instincts as you make your decision.

Determine Your Preferred Type of Childcare

The most common childcare options for parents who want ongoing regular care are a nanny, an in-home daycare, or a daycare center.

  • Nanny: Nannies work in your home and typically only take care of one family's children. You may be able to find a nanny who works during the hours that you need, even if your hours are unusual or irregular. Some nannies come to your house in the morning and leave in the evening, while others may occasionally stay overnight, and some may live-in. A nanny might also take on other duties, such as putting away the children's clothes, making their beds, or taking them to activities. If you hire a nanny, you can look for someone whose child-rearing value system is similar to your own. Nannies generally cost more than a daycare.
  • Home daycare: A home daycare is usually run out of the babysitter's home. Home daycare providers may take care of their own young children at the same time or may also take care of other children, in addition to yours. Generally, a home daycare includes a small, mixed-age group of children. You can expect your child to remain with the same caregiver throughout the day. Generally, in home-daycare providers do not help you with errands, taking kids to activities or school, and do not usually offer overnight care. Some may offer extended hours or weekend babysitting. A home daycare should cost less than a nanny or a daycare center.
  • Daycare Center: A daycare center is generally a licensed facility with several trained teachers, classrooms and nurseries that are separated by age, a registration process, a calendar which includes hours of operation, and an educational curriculum.

Benefits of In-home Daycare

Parents choose an in-home daycare for a variety of reasons. It offers a home setting, rather than a facility setting, and it can feel more like a family than a classroom. These features are appealing for some parents but can be too informal for other parents.

  • Cost: In-home childcare is usually less expensive than formal daycare or hiring a nanny. 
  • Attention: There are fewer children at a home daycare than a traditional daycare center, which can mean more personal attention and less exposure to illness.
  • Continuous care: Most home childcare providers take care of babies at a very young age, and continue to care for them through toddler age, instead of the changing classrooms of a traditional daycare center.
  • Socialization: Your baby can get lots of face time and socialization with other kids in a home daycare, instead of the more private setting with a nanny at home.
  • Reliability: Some home childcare providers may offer more extended or flexible hours than a traditional daycare, which accommodates parents who have varying or nontraditional schedules.

Drawbacks of In-home Daycare

  • Lack of licensing and training: Licensing criteria vary by state, and it is typically not required. Unlicensed home daycares don’t need providers to have childcare training. They are not regularly inspected for quality, and may not follow guidelines regarding child-to-caregiver ratios, group size, activities, materials, and safety.
  • No back-up: An in-home daycare canter usually only has one or two caregivers, so if your babysitter gets sick or has to take care of personal issues, there is usually no backup caregiver.

Choosing Your In-home Daycare

When choosing a daycare, you should ask similar questions to those you'd ask when looking at a traditional daycare on topics, such as cost, safety, hours and sick policy. 

When considering a home daycare, you should also ask additional questions:

  • Who else will be in the house when my child is there? Ask about all adults, teens, and elders in the home. Find out what roles, if any, they will play in your child’s care and if they have experience with kids. 
  • What is the policy for discipline? Be sure that you and the babysitter are on the same page when it comes to managing behavior issues, crying kids, rules, and any other concerns you may have.
  • What about policies for personal emergencies and time off? Ask the babysitter about vacation time, a backup plan, and whether you are still expected to pay if either of you cancels.
  • Does your insurance cover my child? Find out if the childcare provider's homeowner’s insurance covers injuries to your child during childcare hours - even though you hope you will never need to use it.

What to Look For When You Visit

When you have narrowed down your search, schedule a visit. When looking for a daycare, visit it twice or three times at different times during the day. Be mindful that the childcare provider needs to avoid disrupting other children, but also must provide you with access to as much information as you need to ensure your child's well being as you are making the decision and after you have hired him or her.

Keep your eyes open for the following things:

  • Happy children
  • Compassionate caregivers
  • A stimulating environment
  • The interaction between age groups
  • A clean and healthy setting
  • Adequate space
  • Safety measures
  • Open communication
  • Licensing
  • Good reputation
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