This is my own opinion and interpretation of what I consider Quality Child Care. This is based on State laws that require a License. If the state does not require a license, the definitions are still the same, only disregard the Licensing qualification. HIGH QUALITY DAY CARE: licensed, meets all state requirements, Plus standards above State requirements. Maintains a clean record with Licensing. No multiple citations or serious violations. Is CPR & Safety Trained. Provider is well trained, experienced in Child Care, and Early Childhood education. Usually has been in Child Care for 5 years or longer, in most cases 10 years or longer. Has continued her education with workshops, courses in Child Care, and ECE. Provides a warm, safe, secure, clean environment. Has a Home Preschool program in place to teach the children and keep them busy with constructive learning? Is on Food Program, or provides meals that would meet state food program regulations. Has plenty of toys and equipment for indoors and outdoor use. All in good condition. Provides learning toys, and books. Teaches and respects Multicultural differences. Some providers are well trained and provide care for special needs children or has experience with special needs children. Will accept Children from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds, including families on child care vouchers or subsidy child care payment programs. Has a well written policy and contract for parents? Provider has valuable communication skills with parents. Is devoted to children and the Child Care industry. Is not providing child care for the mere reason for staying home, but has chosen this as a valid career. Goes beyond and above to provide an excellent service for parents and children. Provider invest a lot of time and expenses back into the business to maintain programs, equipment, and other essentials to maintain quality. Has a low turnaround in clients and is able to keep families for longer period of time in their Day Care. Fees are at market rate for area. Has been Accredited, or near completion of accreditation. As a bonus has CDA or finishing CDA. (optional) These providers love their career, and business and maintain it as such. It is a career.
QUALITY DAY CARE: Licensed, and meets all state requirements. Has most of the above possibly with less experience or more experience but does not seek out accreditation, or CDA. Has some ECE education. Still provides a warm and safe environment and service. Maintains a Clean record with Licensing, with no serious violations or citations. Will respect and teach multicultural and ethnic backgrounds. Will accept State payment vouchers or subsidy programs for low income families. May have some or no experience with special needs children or willing to take special needs children into their program. (optional) Has a program in place, and food program or adequate to food program guidelines. For the most part has a low turnover in clients, and usually fees are at market rate for area. Provider will invest time and money back into the business to maintain it's quality. Has chosen day care as a career. Not as a means to stay home. Still continues to improve her business to provide quality care. These providers, love their career and business and maintain it as such.
GENERAL DAY CARE: Is licensed, meets all State regulations. Possible clean record with Licensing, or possible citations and violations may have occurred. No program in place. TV and Free Play. May or not be on a food program or does not provide meals. Children may or not be watching TV. Some cases TV is used to much. Limited motivation on part of Provider. Most likely doing day care for the reason to stay home and have an income. Sometimes these day cares have a higher turn around in clients. Fees are usually has high or higher than Day Cares who have more to offer. Most times (not always) does not invest much money back into day care except what is absolutely necessary. Does not consider this a long standing career, possibly will do Day Care only while her own young children are at home. These providers often, not always do not enjoy their this career, and have made or will make plans to move on as soon as their own children are in school. These providers suffer from higher stress levels.
CUSTODIAL DAY CARE: Usually an unlicensed person, or family member, neighbor or close friend. Provides limited Stimulation for children. (see note below, this does not pertain to all custodial care givers) Parents chose this type of day care because they themselves are usually in low income bracket. Child care is low fees or no fees. Meals are most likely provided by parent, if at all, or if provided by caregiver, are substandard. Children May not be in a very nurturing or learning environment. Hopefully they are safe. This type of care can also be a Licensed provider. These types of Licensed providers have no ambition concerning their day care or the children. They do what ever it takes to make the day as easy as possible. Usually a lot of TV watching or confinement to one room. Often no outdoor play. Parents who use this type of care often find them selves changing providers often because the caregiver will often move on into another line of work or get tired of providing child care. Or these providers will find themselves taking in more irresponsible parents who do not stay long or leave owing money and etc.
Note: Some custodial care is friends and relatives. And the child might get excellent care while with this person. These are the exceptions. So please do not take offense. The above explanation is based on a great deal of substandard custodial care providers.
BABY-SITTERS: This is a term that is used for teenagers or friends that provide occasional child care so the parents can go out for the evening or day. These caregivers do not do child care regularly.
Child Care Professional
As a child Care professional, you should maintain a level of respect to your position. Although some don't think it is important it is my opinion that Child Care professionals should be addressed as such. Child Care providers, or Child Care professional. We are not baby-sitters. It is also important to respect our own position and regard ourselves as the professionals that we are. Child Care is a difficult job. The hours are long, the pay is low. Yet we provide a valuable service that has become essential to the American way of life. If we allow people or parents to treat is with less respect than we deserve then we will never stand high in our field. It is also our duty as Child Care Providers to provide the best service possible. There is no reason why every Day Care in this nation cannot be quality child care. That does not mean that every Providers needs to get a CDA or be Accredidated. Those are personal choices, but being quality is our duty and responsibility. It is our responsibility to help mentor and teach providers who are substandard to bring their day cares up to quality. As providers we are teachers, moms, advisors, mentors, and a highly intrusted caretaker to a child. That trust is beyond monetary value. These children are our resources for the future. And we are their first teachers.
If we cannot be quality child care, or continue to improve ourselves and our day cares, then we should consider other options. If we cannot enjoy this job, and love doing this job then we should consider other options. This does not mean that we are not entitled to being stressed, tired, or sometimes discouraged. That just comes with the territory. But we get past that, and we work it out. We continue because we want to. This job is either a job you want to do or it isn't. If you are doing it just because it's a convenience for the moment, and you hate it, then do yourself a big favor and the children a big favor and find something that you would enjoy. There is no shame in that. Not everyone is meant to be a Child Care provider, no more than everyone is meant to be a doctor, stock broker, or truck driver.
As this industry grows, changes are made to accommodate the industry. Competition is getting harder as well. We are losing valuable providers and Child Care Center teachers because they can't make a decent living doing this job. A job that they want to do and love. It is unfortunate. Up to one-third leave their jobs each year. Most often to earn a better living elsewhere. It use to be that we had just openings for more providers and center providers, and those openings were being filled. Now we have a depletion. Which means, there are not enough people to fill those spots. Because they know there cannot make a decent wage. This is even more reason to maintain quality care, so parents will come to you, be willing to pay fair and decent fees, and you be able to maintain your business. Your quality day care is needed. So keep it that way. We need to invest into our businesses. I am not talking about money investment, but personal investments. Making the choice to be a child care that is going to be in the community for many years to come.
STAGE 1 - "JUST A MOM AT HOME" Many providers begin taking care of other people's children as an extension of their own parenting role. They usually do not think of this activity as a job, let alone a profession, nor do they feel that they need any kind of training. They are isolated from others in their line of work and seldom realize that family child care is so widespread. Typically they say, "I know how to take care of kids. I don't need any training."
STAGE 2 - "THE NEW PROVIDER" Sooner or later, informal care givers find out about licensing and record keeping requirements. Their first contact with the profession might be through an early childhood conference, a provider neighbor or their local resource and referral agency. Many more respond to such personal, "word-of-mouth" contact than some more impersonal approach such as a newspaper article or brochure. As they enter this professional world, they may feel less confident than they did earlier, occasionally feeling inadequate. Yet this is progress, because they are ready to learn more about caring for children. At this level, providers might typically say: "There's a lot to learn (a complex knowledge base) for this work."
STAGE 3 - "THE INTENTIONAL PROVIDER" When providers reach this stage of their work, they begin to identify themselves as child care professionals and small business owners. They start to take responsibility for their own professional development - becoming regulated, reporting their income to the IRS, taking training, joining a provider association or their affiliate of the Association for the Education of Young Children, and/or reading about child development and early childhood education. They typically say, "This is a real career choice, and I am learning how to do it so well."
STAGE 4 - LEADER/MENTOR" When they begin to feel competent in their work, providers often feel ready to take on leadership roles in their field. They may help new providers get started, offer workshops at conferences, join advocacy efforts, or take a job as a trainer, Food Program monitor, or resource and referral agency staff member. Typically they say, "I want to work to improve my profession and to help bring others along."