Best Child Caregivers Provide Supportive Environment

Article excerpt

The reality for most families is that the parents won't be the only caretaker of their child. Of working mothers with children under a year old, 57 percent use child care outside the home.

There are a number of steps parents can take to assure their child receives quality care, whether that care is provided in their home, in a family child care home or in a child care center.

More than half of child care centers and family child care homes provide mediocre care, and only a small percentage provide quality care, according to a 1995 report on child care in the United States.

A good caregiver provides a warm and supportive environment that a developing child needs. With that type of care, children are more likely to enter school ready to learn and to relate to others.

There is a proven link between a high quality learning environment and success in school. In a recently released study of early childhood education in North Carolina, children who had been in high quality programs had significantly higher achievement in reading as well as in mathematics.

While the benefits are clear, getting the best care for children is not always easy.

Parents should attempt to work with their child care provider to provide the best environment for their child to learn.

An educated caregiver approaches child care from the same perspective that a parent should, with an understanding of child development and temperament.

Parents, in evaluating a child care provider, should consider the following:

- Is the caregiver involved with the child and sensitive to the child's needs and feelings?

- Does the caregiver provide opportunities for the child to learn through play or other activities?

- Is the environment safe and healthy for your child?

- Does the child care home or child care center have appropriate furnishings, equipment and learning materials?

Parents need to be involved in their child's care, dropping in occasionally and observing the interactions between staff and children.

Watch for changes in a child's behavior. Any regression might signal a problem.

The turnover rate for caregivers in child care centers is 36 percent per year, mainly as a consequence of low pay rates and a lack of benefits. Staff members are mainly young people who have little training in child care.

Yet, providing trained and decently paid caregivers results in better conditions for children. States that have stronger licensing requirements have a greater percentage of high quality centers. …