According to the Children’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 child’s brain structure and development is influenced significantly by the environment and experiences of the first few years of a child’s life. The question on most parents’ 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 child’s special needs. Here are some helpful things to keep in mind when researching day care providers:
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 child’s special needs may be reimbursed by the state, but coverage and reimbursement varies widely from state to state, particularly when it comes to Medicaid.
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 center’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 to ask.
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 child’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 child’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 center?
- Do you feel passionate about discovering and nurturing my child’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 place?
- What is your policy on administering medication during the day? Do you require a doctor’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 needs situation?
- Are there spots open at your center? Is there a waiting list?
- Can I come by any time to check on my child?
- What are your rates?
More information available here.
Know how your child feels.
Above all it is important to gauge your child’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:
National Association for Family Child Care
5202 Pinemont Drive Salt Lake City, UT 84123
E-mail: [email protected]
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.)
E-mail: [email protected]
Child Care Aware
1-800-424-2246 (Call weekdays 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Central Time.)