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January 2, 2019

Finding the Right Child Care for Your Little One

By Jonna C. Johnson, Communications & Outreach Manager

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I began the hunt for child care. For me, I knew staying home wasn’t an option financially and I have no family near to help raise my child -so I was on a mission to find the best care possible. Here are the steps I took that helped relieve some of the angst of finding the right care for my family and these tips may help you too.

In true millennial fashion, I jumped on the internet and visited the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County’s website. I was able to fill out a simple intake form covering the age of my child, types of care environments, location, hours needed for care, and within two days, I received a customized list of care options from a Family Services Specialist. With this list, I called the locations I was most interested in visiting and scheduled a tour.

Seeing is believing!

Visit the location and stick around for a while. You can tell a great deal by watching and listening to what is going on in a classroom or home. Do the children seem to be happy and enjoying their activities? Do the teachers seem loving, nurturing and responsive to all children in their care? Are problems handled promptly and appropriately? Do the teachers seem like people you can trust with your child’s health, happiness and well-being? Is this a place where you would feel good about your child spending many hours each day? Are the children learning? Yes, babies learn daily. Ensure that there is active play and ask how long babies are typically placed in swings, rockers, high-chairs, etc. For me, It was important to me that my husband also had positive feelings about the care environment, so I encouraged him to pay a visit.

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Ask about everything.

I’m sure “New Parent” was written all over me, but information was important to me. I asked everything I could remember when I visited the location and If I forgot a question, I called them later to ask. Is there open-door policy? How do they communicate with parents? What are their policies and procedures? Also, If you happen to be around during typical drop-off or pick-up times, ask a parent how they feel about the environment and teachers.

Instincts are most important…

You know your child best! Pay attention to any uneasy feelings you may have had during your time there. Were the toys and activities you observed the kinds your child would enjoy? Were they clean? If your child was with you, what was his reaction? Children respond in their own unique ways to new situations. Trust your instincts and your ability to make wise decisions for your child.

Cost (Because quality care isn’t cheap!)

Which programs met the greatest number of my priorities at a rate we could afford as a family? It’s important to keep in mind that higher costs doesn’t always mean the highest quality, the best staffing or safest facilities and conversely, the less expensive rates don’t necessarily mean lower quality and poor facilities.

Compare experiences, programs, convenience, locations, and cost. Once your decision is made, ensure there will be an open line of communication about your child with the teachers and caretakers.

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