The news of child abuse or neglect in the child care system chills one to the bone, makes some physically ill, and for parents with children in day care, it makes the decision to relinquish the care of their child to someone else that much more difficult.
The , who was charged with sexual battery against and the forcible sodomy of a three-year-old female, was the second incident of child endangerment or abuse at a child care facility reported in Prince William County in the last three months. The previous incident was the in a Bristow family day care center providing care for 23 children under the age of four. While the Bristow day care was unlicensed, the abuse resulting in this week's arrest took place at a state licensed in-home day care in Dale City.
Parents looking for a child care facility should do their research, visit the child care facilities and interview the staff before making a decision about where to put their trust for the care of their child.
Center-Based vs. Family Day Care Programs
Your first decision is to weigh the pros and cons of choosing an in-home child care provider, where someone comes to the parents' home, a center-based program, located in a facility outside of a private home, or a family day care program, operated in the provider's residence.
The 2010 U.S. Census Bureau reported 14 percent of children ages 0-4 with employed mothers were cared for in a home-based environment such as a family day care, nanny, babysitter, or au pair. Twenty-four percent of the children received care in a center-based facility (preschool, nursery, day care, or Head Start). Other children may be watched by a relative or friend.
Family Day Care Programs
According to a babycenter.com article, a family child care facility offers the least expensive child care option next to a relative, and many times offers the greatest flexibility in schedules.
The American Academy of Pediatrics website suggests that if you are considering a family day care center as an option, you should ask questions regarding:
- the caregiver's policies and qualifications
- state license or registration, accreditation with a recognized child care organization
- condition of the caregiver's home, type of program offered
- any other children, teens or adults present in the home, backgrounds, and type of interaction if any with your child.
The Virginia Star Quality Initiative offers a five-star rating system for Standards for Family Child Care Homes. This rating system offers a means to evaluate programs parents are considering.
While family day cares providing care for less than six children do not have to be licensed by the state, they can do so voluntarily. A database of the Voluntarily Registered Family Day Homes can be searched on the Virginia Department of Social services website. However, voluntary registration is not authorized in areas where local ordinances regulate unlicensed programs (Arlington, Fairfax and Alexandria).
Center-based Child Care Programs
Center-based child care programs offer your child an opportunity to socialize with children his age, and a curriculum with that specific age group in mind. However, centers usually have a higher cost, and an increased chance of your child getting sick often. Center-based child care programs should be licensed and inspected on a regular basis, meaning they will likely have an appropriate child to teacher ratio, and clean facilities.
The website momtomomchat.com offers a Checklist for Choosing a Daycare, to help parents ask the right questions and observe important factors in choosing the best provider.
Once parents find child care programs in their area that meet their needs, the next step is to review the program's credentials, state licensing, and any possible inspection violations. State licensing for child day care centers is overseen by the Virginia Department of Social Services.
The types of child care facilities, definitions, and their licensing requirements can be found at Virginia Department of Social Services' website.
To search for a specific child care facility, see if it is state licensed, and review any state inspection violations, visit the site's database system.
The Virginia Child Care Resource and Referral Network, soon to be renamed Child Care Aware of Virginia, is a network of child care and education specialists who serve families, child care professionals and communities to increase the accessibility, availability, and quality of child care in Virginia. The website offers tips for conducting a search for child care as well as criteria by which you can search their database of child care programs.
Parents can also reach out to neighbors, churches, and moms clubs as resources regarding local child care options and recommendations.
However, don't just take anyone's word for it. Parents need to do the work themselves. Choosing a day care facility for your child is a difficult task, but it's worth the proper research and effort. Finding a child care environment with which you are comfortable can make a difference in protecting the safety and well-being of your child.