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When both parents work outside the home, they depend on someone else to care for their child. While some families choose to keep their child at home with a sitter or relative, most will seek help from care providers outside the home. Every parent’s primary concern when seeking care for their child is their safety. Unfortunately, many parents make the slip-up of compromising the quality of care by choosing unlicensed providers who might be less expensive than other options. Data tells us that cases of child abuse or neglect are more likely to occur while under the supervision of an unlicensed provider. The importance of seeking out licensed and professional care for your child is crucial for every parent who wishes to ensure a safe and nurturing environment for their family’s early care and education.
In the state of Georgia, any individual who is caring for three or more unrelated children must obtain a license from the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL). In addition to meeting rigorous health and safety standards, licensed child care providers must perform background checks on all employees and provide ongoing training for teachers in the fields of early education, First Aid and CPR. For the safety and protection of the children, licensed care providers must adhere to multiple rules and regulations. These regulations help ensure that the children enrolled at the center have a vibrant learning environment, well-balanced and nutritional meals, and engaging interactions with positive caregivers.
In contrast, informal childcare providers that are not subject to state licensing requirements, or operate illegally out of homes are not obligated to meet the most basic health and safety standards. Additionally, they are not inspected on a regular basis to ensure proper care for the children. However, licensed childcare centers are subject to unannounced visits and inspections from state licensing experts several times per year. So while unlicensed care may appear more affordable, it often comes with a great risk to the children.
University studies have indicated that states who have the most regulations and restrictions in place for licensed childcare providers also have the most expensive child care options. For example, the state of New York has arduous regulations and as a result, infant care in New York is more than double what a family in Georgia pays for the same services.
While an increase in regulations can also mean an increase in quality care, it also decreases affordability for many families. This has led many parents to seek out cheaper but riskier unlicensed care. Unfortunately, children from low-income families are more likely to leave licensed care programs due to an increase in regulations and fees.
Here are some things to consider when seeking care options for your child
- When it’s time for you and your family to seek care for your child, do your research and visit the licensed providers. Your child’s preschool education is essential for her to be given the opportunity to gain the knowledge she needs before entering elementary school.
- Tour many facilities and ask several questions relating to group size, meals, curriculum, safety and security of the facility, etc.
- Take note how the children and teachers are interacting; ask about professional development training provided for the teachers, child ratios, and staff longevity. A high turnover rate of teachers should serve as a warning.
- Ask questions about accreditation with the state and if the center is nationally recognized by organizations such as NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) and AdvancED (SACS – Southern Association for Colleges and Schools).
- Many centers may have a waitlist, so start your search early and be persistent.
- At the end of the day, go with your instinct and listen to your intuition when it comes to choosing the right care for your child. Chances are, you’ve chosen the right preschool.
Kids ‘R’ Kids believes that happy, loved, connected children are destined for success in every facet of their lives. We understand the importance of involving families with their child’s developmental milestones and accomplishments. We hope you will drop by for a tour at one of our many locations in the Atlanta area. You will find a list of our numerous locations at www.kidsrkidsatlanta.com.
² “Parents and The High Cost of Child Care: 2013 Report” http://usa.childcareaware.org