Whether your child is cared for by a baby-sitter in your home, a family day care provider in her home or many people in a childcare center, you should be able to expect certain things. Creating a positive relationship with your childcare provider is vital to finding good care for your child.
Providers should feel comfortable to call you when they can’t handle your child or feel overwhelmed, and they should give you frequent and full updates on your child’s progress and problems. Providers 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 and accomplishments of the day.
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 is 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.
Safety for Your Child
Providers should take all possible precautions to keep children safe. This includes covering electrical outlets, putting away knives and other sharp objects, closing off stairways and using only safe and well-maintained equipment, child safety seats and seatbelts.
Honesty and Confidence
Providers should not make commitments that they cannot or do not intend to keep. They should not cover up problems or accidents that occur. Providers shouldn’t expect parents to help them avoid income taxes by slipping them money on the side. They also should not gossip about your child or your family to friends or co-workers.
Acceptance of Parents’ Wishes
Providers should abide by parents’ wishes on matters such as discipline, TV watching, food and toilet training. However, most states have standards regarding adult smoking and spanking and the provider may not act against these standards. If providers feel that they cannot abide by parents’ wishes, they need to tell parents before agreeing to provide care for the children, and the parents should look for other care.
Advance Notice of Any Changes
Since finding adequate care is often very difficult, providers should tell parents well in advance if they are going to change their hours or prices or 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 an emergency, they should give parents at least two weeks’ notice even if the provider will not be available for just one day.
No Interference in the Child’s Family or Family Problems
Providers should not 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.
No Advice Offered Unless Asked for and No Judging of Parenting Practices
Providers should not criticize or advise parents on child rearing unless the parents ask for their advice. They should not set themselves up as experts on parenting. If parents ask for advice, providers should offer it in a non-critical 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 are legally bound to report their concerns to the local authorities. Providers should also discuss any concerns with the parents.
Assurance that Those in Contact with the Child are Trustworthy and 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 into the home, seeing that all transportation workers are properly trained and that all visitors, including friends or relatives of the provider, are trustworthy and supervised and will not harm the child.
This means that your family day care provider does not 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. Surprises are probably what parents fear the most from their childcare provider.