Child Care Resource and Referral at John A. Logan College Back to JALC

Making Child Care Work

Once a family has chosen their child care arrangement, it is important to form a close working relationships with the person(s) providing care. promote a positive child care experience.

Making the Transition Into Care:

Preparing your child for care

Consider your child's temperament, age, and prior child care experience when looking at ways to prepare him/her for child care. Some ideas to help prepare your child include:

  • Visit the program with your child before care begins to meet the teachers, see the rooms, the playground, play with the toys and play with the other children
  • Find out as much information as you can about the program beforehand, so that you can answer your child's questions about what to expect
  • Talk to the provider/teacher about how they transition children into the program, and telling your child exactly what will happen during the first few days
  • Read books with your child about starting child care or about new experiences in general
  • Making a family photo book with your child that can be taken with her/he to child care for comfort and reassurance
  • Talk to other parents who have recently transitioned their children into care for ideas on how to make it as smooth as possible

If you are leaving one program to begin care at another, make sure your child has the opportunity to say goodbye to the provider and the other children. Decide how you'll stay in touch with them, through photos, letters, etc.

Adjusting to Child Care

Both children and parents will feel the hardship of separating from one another, feelings of fear and loss are common during this period of adjustment. Here are some things to consider as your child begins a new care experience:

  • Always say goodbye to your child before leaving him/her at child care. Reassure your child that you will be back at the end of the day, or let her know who will pick her up, and at what time. Try not to drag out your goodbye -- and never try to slip out.
  • It's common for children to adapt to a new provider or program quickly, then later have feelings of separation anxiety.
  • Understand that it may take a few months for your child to adjust completely. You may see signs of regression during these months (for example, with toilet training or thumb-sucking). Soon, it will all become routine!
  • Your child may experience disturbances in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Older infants (9 to 12 months old) may have heightened stranger-anxiety at this stage of development; just be aware that the adjustment may be more difficult at this time.
  • Make sure your provider or teachers have a number to reach you at during the day. Talk to them about the best time for you to call them to check in during the first few days or weeks of care.
  • Place a short and sweet note in your child's backpack or lunch bag.

The End of the Day Transition

The end of the day can be a hectic time for everyone: parents are thinking about dinner preparation, providers and teachers are helping with goodbyes and clean up, and children are involved with activities. Here are a few things you can do to manage the transition from child care to home:

  • Greet your child first thing! Show her that you're happy to see her, perhaps with a big hug.
  • Next, greet your child's teachers and check in with them on how your child's day went. This will give you a good sense of her general mood, if she is feeling well, and if there is anything you need to know.
  • If your child is in the middle of an activity, or if their playing with other children, give them a few minutes to finish up. Tell your child how long they have before they need to say goodbye to their friends and go home.
  • Some children may be reluctant to leave, and may even ignore your arrival. If your child refuses to leave, stay calm and be firm; sometimes this may entail picking her up and bringing her out to the car. Have a small snack in the car for the ride home, especially if it's a long ride.

Communicating With Your Child Care Provider

Establishing a Good Relationship

A solid relationship with your provider, built on mutual trust and respect, is the key in making your child care arrangement work out well for everyone involved. Keep these tips in mind as you begin to build your relationship:

  • Keep the lines of communication open at all times. Let your provider know if there is something going on in your child's life that may be affecting her behavior.
  • Be aware of the program policies and honor them. Respect the drop-off and pick-up times, call if you are going to be late for any reason.
  • Express interest in your provider's professional development. Both the program and your child will benefit from this.
  • Get involved with the program. The more you participate, the more dedicated you'll feel, and your provider will appreciate the help you offer.

Daily Communication

Every day you have the opportunity to connect with your child's teachers or provider. Daily check in with the provider helps to build trust between you and the provider. Important information is passed between you and your provider. Here are some ways to foster daily communication:

  • Tell your provider how your child's morning has been so far, if he had a hard night, or if anything special has happened at home.
  • If there is a change of plans, let your provider know who will be picking your child up that day.
  • When you pick up your child, ask your provider how they day went, how was napped, slept, ate, etc.
  • Keep the more in-depth questions or issues you have to discuss for another time -- perhaps over the phone or at an arranged time.
  • If there are changes in your routine, let your provider know where you can be reached that day.
  • Ask your provider how your child day went!

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Another way to build understanding and communication between you and your child's care providers are through parent-teacher conferences. These are a more formal way for teachers and parents to discuss a child's development, as well as make the connection between home and school. When thinking about getting the most out of these conferences, here are some points to consider:

  • Be prepared. Have a list of questions or concerns that you may have about your child and their development.
  • Talk to your child before the conference about what they like to do at school, who their friends are, etc.
  • Find out what you can be doing at home to enhance your child's learning and development.
  • Arrive at the conference on time. Usually there is a very limited time for these meetings, and you'll want to make the most of it!
  • Most teachers will have examples of your child's work on hand to look through. If not, or if there's something you want to see, ask about it.
  • Talk about any action you both may want to take regarding to your child's progress and future growth.
  • Stay in touch!

10 Things You Should Expect From Your Child Care Provider

Whether your child is cared for in your home, by a family child care provider or in a child care center, you should be able to expect certain things.

  1. Open communication. Providers should give you frequent and full updates on your child's progress and problems. They should welcome your questions and ask you questions about how they can help your child. If they let you know what is happening with your child during the day, you can develop ways to deal with problems, and to build on activities accomplishments of the day.
  2. Open access to their home or center. Parents must be welcome to drop in any time, even without calling. Providers also should allow parents to make a reasonable number of phone calls to check on their children's well-being, in case of illness or if there's a special problem such as separation anxiety. You and the provider should work out the best times for such phone calls and determine how many calls are reasonable.
  3. Safety for your child. Providers should take all possible precautions to keep children safe. This includes plugging light sockets, putting away knives and other sharp objects, closing off stairways, using only safe and well-maintained equipment, among other basic safety measures. It also includes always using child-safety seats and seat belts when transporting children in cars.
  4. Honesty and confidence. Providers shouldn't make commitments that they can't or don't intend to keep. They shouldn't cover up problems or accidents that occur. They shouldn't expect parents to help them avoid income taxes by slipping them money on the side. They also shouldn't gossip about your child or your family to friends or coworkers.
  5. Acceptance of parents' wishes. Providers should abide by parents' wishes on matters such as discipline, TV watching, food, adult smoking and toilet training. If parents do not want their children spanked, providers should not spank them. If parents don't want anyone smoking around their child, the provider needs to see that no one smokes in the house when the child is present. If providers feel that they can't abide by parents' wishes, they need to tell parents before agreeing to care for the children and parents should look for other care.
  6. Advance notice of any changes. Since it is often very difficult to find adequate care, providers should tell parents well in advance if they are going to change their hours, prices, if they are going to stop or limit the time of caring for a child. Parents need at least a month or, better yet, six weeks' notice if a provider is no longer going to care for a child. Except in the case of an emergency, parents should be given at least two weeks' notice even if the provider won't be available for just one day.
  7. No interference in the child's family or family problems. Providers shouldn't talk to children about their families' problems, lifestyle or values. Likewise, the provider should be careful not to take sides in any family disputes such as custody battles. Providers should not try to impose their religious or other beliefs on the children they care for. This includes not taking children to religious services unless asked to by the parents.
  8. No advice offered unless asked for and no judging of parenting practices. Providers shouldn't criticize or advise parents on child rearing unless their advice is asked for by the parents. They shouldn't set themselves up as experts on parenting. If parents ask for advice, providers should offer it in a noncritical way. Of course, if providers see something that is seriously wrong with how parents are raising their children, such as if they fear child abuse or see a child apparently suffering from malnutrition, they should discuss the problem with the parents and, if appropriate, contact legal authorities.
  9. Assurance that everyone in contact with the child is trustworthy, properly trained and supervised. Providers must be responsible for everyone who enters, visits and works at their home or center. This includes screening custodial help, not admitting strangers to the home, seeing that all transportation workers are properly trained and that all visitors, including friends or relatives of the provider, are trustworthy, supervised and will not harm the child.
  10. No surprises. This means that your family day-care provider won't suddenly tell you that since she has taken a part-time job, her teenage daughter will watch your child three afternoons a week or that your child's favorite teacher at the center just disappears without warning or comment.

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10 Things Your Provider Should Expect From You

  1. Open communication. Explain your wishes and expectations clearly. Provide updates on problems and progress that your child is making. Give the provider information about your child's routine, activities and preferences. Good communication helps parents and providers work together in the best interest of the children. You should fully understand the expectations of the provider and to what you as a parent are agreeing. A written agreement between the provider and parents is usually helpful for both parties.
  2. Honesty and trust. This includes being honest about how you believe the arrangement is working. Although you need to be vigilant in order to safeguard your child, you should still trust your child care provider to do the best for your child. Show your trust by asking questions rather than jumping to conclusions when problems develop.
  3. Provide advance notice of and agreement to any changes. Providers have to earn a living, too, so they deserve advance notice if you are going to stop using their services or change their hours. Treat your provider the way you wish to be treated. If you expect a month notice in case the provider can no longer care for your child, you owe the provider similar notice.
  4. Pick up on time and follow through on all agreements. Providers have personal lives, too, and they should be able to expect that you will pick up your child at the agreed upon time. If it takes you 15 minutes a night longer to get home than you expected, you need to work out a new agreement with the provider or find a way to abide by the original one. If you agreed to provide diapers, formula and other supplies, you should bring them before they are needed.
  5. Keep your children at home when they are sick. Never bring a child whom you know is not feeling well enough to be away from home and family.
  6. Payment on time and no "rubber" checks. Child care providers have to pay the rent and buy food too, so make arrangements to see that they get their pay on time.
  7. Respect. Realize that taking care of children is not an easy job. Often the child care provider is a working parent, just like you. A child care provider is not "just a babysitter." They are one of the most important people in your child's life and yours too.
  8. No jealousy. Try not to be jealous of your child's attachment to child care providers. Children who spend hours every day with a day care provider come to love that person. That love, though, doesn't diminish the love the child feels for you. You are not in competition with your child care provider for your child's affection.
  9. No surprises. Your child care provider shouldn't learn on Friday that you have decided to take next week off from work. Your provider shouldn't learn that you now expect them to pick up your kindergartner after school because the car pool you have been using has dissolved. Child care providers don't like surprises any better than parents do.

Questions and Concerns

Discussing Difficult Issues

There are bound to be certain topics or situations that are difficult to talk about with your child's provider or teachers. If you have developed an honest, open way of communicating with one another, discussing these issues as they arise won't be so hard. Things to consider when discussing difficult issues:

  • Raise issues when they first develop. If you put off a discussion, it may be harder to bring it up again later, or you may never bring it up at all and end up harboring resentment.
  • Avoid confronting your provider in front of other parents or children. Set up a time to speak privately, in person or over the phone.
  • Think about what you want to discuss ahead of time, and even practice how you want to say it.
  • Be specific about your concerns: Give examples of things that have happened or observations you've made.
  • Never discuss a problem when you are feeling angry or not in control of your emotions.
  • Remember that conflicts are normal and part of most relationships; they can usually be resolved when both parties can see each other's views and are willing to compromise.

Warning Signs of Poor Care

If you have a problem or concern with your child care, make time to speak with the director or provider as soon as possible. If you have serious concerns about your child's health or well-being in the program, take immediate steps to protect your child. Most programs will have an open-door policy, where parents can visit the program at any time. As a parent, you should have access to your child at any time of the day.

Any patterns of disturbing events or reports from your child should never be ignored. If you still have concerns after speaking with your provider, you may choose to remove your child from your child care arrangement, and look for another program or provider.

If you suspect any type of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, remove your child from care until the situation is investigated or resolved to your complete satisfaction. Remember to trust your instincts, and ask a lot of questions if you have strong concerns.

Here are some of the warning signs of poor care:

  • Children left unattended
  • Staff or providers are angry, rough, or moody with children or parents
  • Too many children crowded into a small space
  • Too few staff for the number for children present
  • Infants restricted to cribs, playpens, walkers, or high chairs
  • Noticeably dirty environment or children
  • Poor sanitation practices, especially related to diapering and feeding
  • Medications, poisons, or cleaning supplies stored improperly
  • Broken toys or unsafe equipment
  • High staff turnover
  • Your child cries repeatedly and resists staying at child care after adjustment period is over
  • Your child shows signs of emotional or physical stress
  • Your child talks about anger, violence, fears, or secrets that are not age-appropriate
  • Your child appears to be unusually afraid of one teacher or provider
  • Your child shows a sudden intense preoccupation with sexual matters, and may act out with dolls or other children
  • Your child appears to be very hungry or thirsty without cause

How to Register Complaints

Find out about the program's procedures for handling parent complaints. There should be a clear set of guidelines that explain complaint procedures and advise parents that unresolved complaints be sent to the appropriate child care licensing agency. If you have concerns about abuse or neglect, or your child care program's state licensing compliance, contact your state's licensing office and/or Department of Social Services. They will listen to your concerns and investigate the situation. Contact us for help with this.

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