A child day care center offers supervision and learning activities during the daytime hours for children from infancy through preschool age. A center may be located in a private home, a school, or a private business. Families with two working parents often seek child care services to ensure their children are professionally cared for during the day. Child care centers are required to meet various regulatory and safety requirements, and teacher training requirements may vary depending on the setting.
Fees and services provided also vary for child day care centers. Some programs may offer discounts or free services if a child is economically disadvantaged or meets other criteria. These programs tend to be in high demand, and as a result, many families turn to private day care companies, which are generally more expensive.
The cost and time associated with child care can bar some parents from seeking full-time daily employment. Given the significant cost of child care, some employers provide child care centers on site or offer other benefits for employees. These benefits may include sponsoring a care program off-site or offering financial assistance to employees who need to purchase child care. These programs can help a business, as well, by boosting morale and increasing employee productivity.
A child day care center typically has teachers and service workers who either teach or care for the children. According to age group, teachers focus on the teaching beginning language and math skills children will need to succeed when they enter school. Service workers are more concerned with the general care of the children, including feeding and diapering infants and organizing activities for older children.
Parents should ask about teacher qualifications and requirements for service-related workers when researching a child day care center. This can be important, as the work tends to be very demanding emotionally and physically. The best teachers are skilled at multi-tasking and keeping pace with the needs of each child. Taking a tour and talking to other parents is also a good way to determine if a particular child care center is the best choice.
Several other criteria can also be used to evaluate a child day care center. An important factor is the child-to-staff ratio. A staff person can reasonably handle up to five small children and as many as ten older children. Discipline polices are also important. Parents should ask about the policies and request a written copy. Potential problem signs to watch for are frequent staff turnover, complaints from other parents, and a lack of communication between staff members and parents.