According to the Childrenâ€™s Defense Fund, 19 million
children in kindergarten through eighth grade are regularly in nonparental care
before and after school. One of the many benefits of sending your child to a
licensed child care center is the socialization aspect with other children.
This can be so important, as American Academy of Pediatrics studies have proven
that a childâ€™s brain structure and development is influenced significantly by
the environment and experiences of the first few years of a childâ€™s life. The
question on most parentsâ€™ minds then is not whether to choose after school care
for their child but how to select the right child care facility, particularly
when considering a childâ€™s special needs. Here are some helpful things to keep in mind when researching day care
Know your rights.
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA) states that child care providers cannot exclude persons on the basis
of a disability and must make reasonable changes to policies, practices, and
physical accessibility to integrate those with special needs into the child
care facility. However, child care centers that are run by religious entities
such as churches, mosques, or synagogues are not covered by Title III.
Know the cost.
Cost of care can be a major consideration when choosing
where to place your child, but it helps to be aware of what factors into the
price. Price can vary depending on where you live. Child care centers in big
cities tend to be more expensive than in small towns. Some costs associated
with a childâ€™s special needs may be reimbursed by the state, but coverage and
reimbursement varies widely from state to state, particularly when it comes to
Infant care is more demanding and therefore comes at a
higher price, but the good news is that the expense usually decreases as the
child gets older.
Full-time care versus part-time care and the number of
children you have in the centerâ€™s program will also be a factor in determining the
cost. Additional fees may also be included if your child requires extra therapy
or tutoring in addition to day care.
Know which questions
Most facilities, large or small, should provide parents with
an information packet when they visit for the first time. Ask to meet with the
director or person who manages prospective students and direct your questions
to them. The following is a list of questions to pose during the interview:
- Are you licensed?
- How long have you been in business?
- Are you equipped to accommodate my childâ€™s special needs?
- What previous experience do you have in caring for a child
with special needs?
- How many children attend the center?
- Are children supervised at all times?
- What foods do you serve for lunch/snacks? Can you
accommodate my childâ€™s allergies (if any)?
- Are diaper changing stations disinfected after each use? Do
you help with toilet training?
- What techniques are used to discipline children at your
- Do you feel passionate about discovering and nurturing my
childâ€™s unique abilities?
- Would you be willing integrate external services such as a
speech pathologist or physical therapist if these services are not already in
- What is your policy on administering medication during the
day? Do you require a doctorâ€™s note?
- Have you run background checks on all of the caregivers?
Have they been fingerprinted?
- Do the children play outside? What type of equipment do you
have? Is it accessible to my child?
- What is your protocol for dealing with an emergency special
- Are there spots open at your center? Is there a waiting
- Can I come by any time to check on my child?
- What are your rates?
More information available here.
Know how your child
Above all it is important to gauge your childâ€™s response to
the child care providers and environment. If your child is nonverbal or too
young to speak, observe their reactions while they are at the center, and monitor
them over time for any negative behavioral changes.
The following are useful resources to use in a search for child care:
Association for Family Child Care
5202 Pinemont Drive Salt Lake
City, UT 84123
230 West Monroe Street, Suite
1800 Chicago, IL 60606
1-800-221-6827 (Call weekdays 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Central Time. There is
voice mail to leave a message.)
Child Care Aware
1-800-424-2246 (Call weekdays
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Central Time.)