Quality Child Care: What Does It Mean

The National Statement On Quality Child Care outlines the seven most important areas parents should be concerned about:

   1. Caregivers qualifications
   2. Child development
   3. Group size and ratios
   4. Health and nutrition
   5. Safety
   6. Parent,caregiver relations, and
   7. Partnership.

(1) Caregiver Qualifications

Caregivers qualifications play an important role in the quality of care a child receives. Many provincial and state licensing boarders are mandating that all caregivers in center-based care have some formal early childhood education. Directors must be certified.

Parents, when checking out the various centers should always ask about the qualifications of the staff, the center's commitment to continued education through a combination of training courses and seminars and, if not clearly posted, ask to see a director's diploma or education certificate.

While a family daycare provider is not required to posses any formal child care training, they, like other providers should demonstrate a genuine interest in both the children and their family, and show a desire to learn more about their profession through books, videos, and training courses.

Beside the formal training, a provider should be capable of outwardly expressing affection to the children in her care, and should be happy in her work.

(2) Child Development

Child development involves physical, social, intellectual and emotional learning. A quality program offers children a variety of activities and play materials that foster all these skills. It provides ample space for activity play, has an abundance of age appropriate toys and child size equipment, and has a quiet area of individual play.

In a quality program children are given a daily balance between indoor and outdoor play, active and quiet times, group and individual activities, an opportunity to initiate activities, and a daily routine they can become familiar with and anticipate. Parents are encouraged to review the daily and weekly schedules of the centers they are contemplating to see if their child will fit in comfortably with routines and the activities.

A child who is receiving quality care will demonstrate this by the amount of artwork he or she brings home. As well, they will show an enthusiasm for going to the place of care and be happy and playing contentedly when the parent arrives to pick them up. As well cared for a child will thrive within unyielding zest for life.

(3) Group Size and Child/Staff Ratios

Group size and staff / child ratios play a very big role in the provision of quality care, and yet very few parents understand or are even aware of this. While most states and provinces place restrictions on the number of children one provider can care for, for instance there must be two caregivers for a group of six infants, a ratio of 1 caregiver to three infants, (1:3), or one caregiver to a room of 12, two year olds, (1:12), still many give no quotas on the size of a class occupying any one room.

Studies prove that children learn more and socialize better in small group settings where the caregiver can provide them with more personal attention and caring. A room of 12, two year olds do much better in their overall development with only one caregiver, than a room of 24, two year olds and two caregivers. The reason smaller groups offer individualized attention, a closer relationship among peers, and a better co-operation level within the group.

Parents, when interviewing a center or day home for care, should inquire about the ratio levels and should check these levels against those required by the licensing board. A care facility that provides a combination of higher staff/ child ratios and smaller group settings (that also allow for occasional large group activities) are likely to provide a better quality of child care.

(4) Health & Nutrition

Health And Nutrition are the backbone to wellness. Parents would be well advised to pay close attention to the health practices of any center or day home they are considering. Handwashing, separate diaper changing areas, sick room, the overall cleanliness of the staff and the facility are the most important factors in minimizing the risk of infectious diseases spreading among the other children and adults in the facility. And as hard as it is on the parent, isolating a child with a communicable disease such as the measles or chicken-pox (sending the child home until the contamination period is over) helps to reduce the spread of the disease. Parents should inquire about a caregiver's policy about such matters.

A quality child care program will involve community health practitioners such as periodic visits from a public health nurse or dental hygienist. These facilities keep up to date health records and require written permission before any medication is administered. They also pay close attention to the federal food guides and prepare nutritious meals, menus of which are posted weekly for parents to review. Parents may want to visit the home or center at meal time to see if the children are eating nutritiously prepared foods, and that meals are in small group settings where they can be properly supervised.

(5) Safety

The safety of each child should be priority of any child care provider. Caregivers should have written plans for emergencies and these should be clearly posted. The fire equipment should be functioning properly and they should know how to use such things as the fire extinguishers. As well stocked first aid kits should be easily accessible, and important telephone numbers posted by the telephone.

As well, parents should receive written notification of any injuries their child suffers from during any day of care.

(6) Parent / Caregiver Relationship

The parent and caregiver relationship must be one of mutual respect. Partners in the well being of the child they should discuss daily not only how the child is progressing, but how he or she is feeling, eating, and sleeping. Frequent parent, caregiver consultations will help to foster an understanding of each other views on such areas as discipline, religion personal philosophies and cultural background.

Parents must have the right to visit the center or day home at any time. A facility that does not allow parents to participate in their program, or for that matter does not encourage them to do so, is no place for any child. A provider of quality child care will not only allow parents to drop by at an time , but welcome their interest in and suggestions about ways to improve their program.

(7) Partnerships

Caregivers who are committed to providing the best possible child care realize they cannot do so alone and are involved with a number of provincial and or state offices, organizations and training institutions that compliment, through various resources, a caregiver's qualifications and abilities.

Providers of quality care work hand in hand with the licensing board to maintain the minimum standard care. They are members of various child care organizations and exercise their membership. They conduct parent meetings to ensure their program is meeting the needs of the families in their care. They work with various community resources like libraries, schools, aboriginal peoples, and so on to help the children in their care lean more about the world around them and their role in that world.

Above all, quality child care provides a combination of all these things, and does so in an accessible and affordable way, involving children of any race and income level.