Monday, September 26, 2011

Choosing Home Child Care - Key Considerations

As some of you know, I will be returning to work this November following a year of maternity leave. I haven't nailed down the exact date yet; my EI finishes early in the month, however S's birthday isn't until the 24th as she was close to 2 weeks overdue. I figure I'll strike a balance and go back mid-month.

Thinking about going back is bittersweet. This year has gone SUPER quickly so far, and it's been amazing watching our little one grow and learn. However, I do also love the intellectual challenge and the social element that I get from work. (Oh yeah and there's that other teeny tiny li'l detail. Hmm what was it again? Oh yeah - a paycheque. ;) 

One thing we can now breathe easy on is child care, as we have found a wonderful provider and, in fact, just dropped off signed contracts with her the other day. It was a bit of a journey getting there, however. First of all, there are so many considerations and we wanted to ensure that everything checked out on paper. On top of this, there's that whole intangible vibe thing; we wanted a provider who "felt" right as well!

While I can't help you with the intangibles (other than to ape the traditional wisdom of trusting your gut), I thought I'd share some of our learnings on important considerations.

First of all, here are a few comprehensive checklists we found helpful to start out with.
Home daycare provider interview sheet (from Babycenter)
Licensed Child Care - Visit Checklist  (from the City of Toronto)
Child Care Checklist for Parents (from Iowa State University)

We took the items out of these checklists that we believed were important and added them as columns in a spreadsheet. We then added a row for each provider we contacted.

As we searched, the following additional factors emerged. These weren't on the checklists, but we felt they were just as (if not more) important to us:

  • Does the provider practice cloth diapering & using cloth wipes, or are they willing to learn? As CDing parents, this one was top of mind for us! From our experience, most home child care providers appear to be at least willing to learn, which is wonderful! By contract, it sounds like many (if not most) daycare centers do not permit cloth diapers. This is one of the reasons we knew we'd be looking at home child care from the start.

  • Does the provider strive to reduce (or eliminate) chemicals in the child care environment? This includes offering organic foods, using eco-friendly cleaning methods and products and avoiding pesticides in the outdoor play space.

  • Is the provider adept at multi-tasking / multi-focusing? I'm a narrow & deep thinker/focuser myself, which is one of the reasons I admire childcare providers and mamas with multiple children. I don't think I'd do so well myself with several kids in my care! (We'll see how 2 goes, assuming Chris and I are able to have another child of course. But I digress!) This limitation of my own is probably the reason why I've been careful to observe for this skill in the child care providers we have interviewed, giving preference to those who are fully aware of everything in their environment.

  • Does the provider clearly outline their policies in a contract and collect important information and signatures for each child in their care? We feel that a provider should proactively list their policies with respect to rates, billable time, nutrition, discipline, etc. and also collect information such as emergency contacts, allergies, dietary restrictions/preferences/dislikes and emergency medical treatment signatures. This way, key information is recorded and it also shows us that staying organized is important to the potential provider.

  • Will children be driven to any activities or will they all be local / within walking distance? Our personal preference here is for at least most activities to be local / within driving distance, however we're OK with the occasional special outing. We wouldn't be as comfortable with daily (or very frequent) outings, however.

For those of you who have obtained home child care for your child(ren), which considerations are top of mind for you?


  1. This is a great list, especially number one. Where we live, CDing is very unpopular and we have been completely unable to find any care providers who we liked who were willing to CD AND were affordable. Grrrr . . .

    Best of luck going back! Can't wait to hear about it.

  2. Thanks for the links. My year is quickly coming to an end and it seems more and more likely that I will be returning to work.