....is to make sure that their children are always safe and well-cared-for. I have been in the position of looking for childcare and I know how difficult it can be to even think about trusting your precious little one, especially your first child, to a stranger. I believe that it is totally healthy and normal for parents to feel this way -- I would be worried about a parent who came to my home and really didn't seem to care about leaving their child for the first time! I want to use this page to address some of the questions that concerned parents have asked about my dayhome in interviews. If any parents out there have any questions they'd like me to address, please use the contact page to email me, and I'll add them on!
1) How do I know my child will be safe and well-cared for in a dayhome? You are alone with my child all day. How do I know that you won't neglect or harm my baby when no one is looking?
This has to be the number-one concern of parents I've met who were looking for childcare. I can totally respect and relate to this concern-- I chose to put my own daughter in a day care when she was a toddler because I'd heard a bad story about a dayhome and I worried that she was too young to talk and tell me if something was wrong. Now, having been a dayhome provider, I know the kind of care I provide and I've known many, many quality dayhome providers. I'd have no trouble recommending to my sister or best friend to put her child in a dayhome. In fact, I have come to truly believe the research that says that small group care in a quality family child care setting is the best child care option for most young children, especially for the very youngest.
I want to share some wonderful resources for parents concerned about protecting their children from abuse. First of all, the Little Warriors program is amazing (www..littlewarriors.ca). My agency has brought in trainers from this group to talk to providers about recognizing warning signs and preventing abuse. They have sessions for parents as well that are absolutely worth the time and money.
The fact that I have an agency monitoring my home should give parents using my home confidence in the care I provide. I can give new dayhome parents excellent references from parents who have used my home in the past or are using it now. The fact that I have years of experience and relevant education and have been in this business in this town since 2002 should also ease parents' minds somewhat. I am not just opening a dayhome to avoid paying for childcare for my own children - providing excellent care for children and families has become a career path and life mission for me.
I have an open door policy -- parents are welcome in my home at any time, and I ensure that parents are very well informed about what our routines are and what their children are doing during the day. I am the primary caregiver for children in my home and will never leave your children with another adult or provider without your consent. I give very specific advance written notice of playgrounds we regularly visit and field trips we go on, and I have a cell phone that I carry at all times when I am out of the house with the children, so you should be able to drop in on me even when I am out of the home!
Finally, I can tell you that your child will be safe and recieve quality care when s/he is with me because I am never alone with anyone in my dayhome -- there is always a child watching me, usually several, including my own children. I take a great deal of pride in what I do, and like any parent, I want my children to be proud of me as well, proud of the dayhome and the care I provide.
2) How many children do you care for?
This is really two questions. How many children do you care for in total? Answer right now: six, including my own two children who are at school most of the day and two full-time and four part-time dayhome children.
What parents REALLY want to know when they ask this question, is "How many children do you have in your home at any one time?' Answer: I NEVER have more than the legal limit of six children under age 13 in my home at any one time, and have no interest in doing so. And if you took a snapshot of my home at any given moment, the average is more like four or five children at one time. I always stay within the agency ratios of no more than three children under the age of three and no more than two children under the age of two at any one time.
3) Do you keep guns or alcohol in your house?
Answer: There are no guns in my home. I keep sharp kitchen knives and my sewing supplies well out of reach of children. Power tools are locked up in the shed, and medicines and poisonous cleaners are locked up in a closet with a key lock.
My husband does not drink and I have only a very rare glass of wine with dinner when we are visiting family or friends. We don't keep alcohol in the house, beyond cooking wine and a couple of bottles of liqueur, which are kept under lock and key along with our medicines.
Monthly safety checks of my home by my agency ensure that I don't get lax with these kinds of safety measures!
4) How do you discipline the children you care for?
The child guidance policy in my agency handbook is worded as follows:
Any kind of physical or emotional punishment is not acceptable.
Acceptable methods of child guidance include logical and natural consequences, distraction, and the proper use of time-out. Providers must treat children with fairness and consistency. Emphasis should always be on encouraging positive behavior and building self-esteem in each child. Difficulties regarding discipline should be discussed with the child's parents and the agency.
If there is a constant behavior problem, I often find that changing routines, and especially making sure that the child(ren) involved are getting enough food, rest, and exercise, can usually solve the problem right there. Constant supervision is essential, because the best way to stop the most common behavior problems, hitting and biting, is to intervene to stop them before they happen and to teach the children involved a better way to manage their frustrations.
I encourage the children to use words with each other and to develop strategies for sharing toys, getting along with others, and dealing with feelings of anger and frustration in ways that don't hurt others.
5) Will other adults besides yourself ever be in your home or alone with my children?
Yes, other adults will be in my home from time to time during the dayhome day, such as the agency home visitor, friends who run dayhomes and have brought their dayhome children over for playdates, and once in a while a friend who has a baby and is on maternity leave comes over for a playdate. It is good for all the children to meet new people and learn about getting along with other children, and good for me too, to occasionally have contact during the day with other adults. My teenaged daughter has a variable school schedule and my husband works early shifts, so both are often in the home during the day, able to help me out if I need it.
No other adult will ever be left alone with your child without your prior consent, however, and I would only ask for this rarely. My husband usually does backup care for me when I have doctor's appointments and the like. Per new Alberta Government dayhome regulations, we are in the process of having him approved by my agency as a backup provider. In the event that I have a doctor appointment and plan to leave my husband in charge, I would notify parents in advance. Anyone who preferred another backup care provider for that day would be free to seek one.
Some parents have a great concern about who their children may be with during the day and that is understandable. Something to consider is that day cares and preschools will not usually even inform parents of new staff members, students, volunteers or visitors who might come in, although most would certainly do adequate checks on new staff.
6) Are you reliable?
I try to be! I am very conscious of the responsibility I have to show up for work every day, as it were. If I call in sick or 'take a mental health day', three or four sets of parents also have to find backup care or miss a day of work! This disruption is not good for anyone, not the dayhome children, nor my own. I have worked through migraines, bereavement (though I took an afternoon off for a funeral), and more than one really bad cold. My husband and I planned his parental leaves carefully so he could help out with dayhome when my babies were born -- I took off less than a week with each one, and he covered all of my doctor appointments. I have closed when I have had a bad stomach flu, as Capital Health recommends, and when my own children were throwing up in the night.
Looking back, I have probably averaged 2-3 sick days a year over the past five years (not counting that week off for childbirth.) Not bad for someone with small children!
Backup care has been available through my agency in some cases, subject to availability and notice. It is very important for parents using any childcare to have a backup plan and to take responsibility for developing relationships with backup caregivers.
7) Do you have a plan for emergencies?
I always carry a cell phone which has all the relevant emergency and parental numbers on it. I have first-aid training and CPR for children, and I have a well stocked first aid kit. If something happened involving fire trucks or ambulances, which has never happened, the children and I have evacuation points (a neighbor who is a Block Parent, and the agency office if our street were evacuated) that parents know about. Parents would be contacted immediately, by me or by my neighbor or agency if I were incapacitated. We have monthly fire drills in the dayhome, and I am required to file with the agency and post in my home an up-to-date fire evacuation plan. I check all smoke detectors when I run a fire drill and review safety procedures with the children.