Daycare and In-Home Child Care:  How to Choose

Finding the right child care while you are at work is crucial for your child, but also for your own peace of mind. There is no need to be desperate or to just settle.

The first step in finding child care is to decide what you need and want in a caregiver. Take notes. What qualities do you find ideal: Are you comfortable with someone older or younger? What about a professional baby-sitter? Should she have children of her own? What kind of person would fit with your baby? If your baby is quiet, consider someone who will stimulate him and encourage play. If you have an active, restless baby, perhaps your sitter should be more soothing. Consider also what kind of person would complement you and your family’s personalities. These are personal choices, not a matter of right or wrong, good or bad.

There are many ways to arrange baby-sitting or child care.

  • Someone may care for your child in your own home such as a relative, nanny, or babysitter.
  • Someone may care for your child in their home—an in-home daycare.
  • Your child may be cared for in a center designed and staffed especially for the care of children—a daycare center.

Checklist for judging a daycare home or center

  • Does the person caring for the children really care about your child as an individual?
  • Is there at least one person to care for each 4 to 5 children at all times of the day (including the daycare owner’s children)?
  • Does the caregiver treat each child as his or her own, talking to the child while bathing or changing the diaper, holding the child while feeding, “teaching,” and paying attention to each child’s temperament and development?
  • Is the home or center safe, healthful, and clean? Is there room for children’s play and care, fresh air, and is it free of safety and accident hazards?
  • Are your suggestions for the care of your child welcomed and listened to?
  • Do the caregivers and children seem happy, alert, and enjoying themselves?
  • Are you welcome to visit at any time, with or without telling in advance that you are coming?
  • Will they tell you about any accidents your child may have had, or any contagious disease in the group?
  • Will appropriate snacks and meals be given?
  • What happens if your child gets ill or hurt?
  • Is there a telephone which the caregiver can use to reach you or to call for help in an emergency? Is there a first-aid kit?
  • Does the caregiver know CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)?
  • Is the outdoor play area safe? Does it have adequate, safe, sturdy equipment?
  • Are there fire extinguishers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors available?
  • Are there adequate toilet facilities? Are diaper changing and hand washing areas separate from food areas?

Home care

Parents may choose to have their child (or children) cared for in their home by a grandparent, friend, neighbor, or baby-sitter. The quality of this type of care depends on the choice of the caregiver. The optimal choice is someone who shares the same positive and supportive values toward childrearing as the parents, and who is consistent in the care of the child. Some advantages of home care include the close, personal relationship that can be established between caregiver and child, the convenience, the familiarity of the setting, and the mother’s control over what takes place in her absence. It can also be economical if care is provided for more than one child, or includes other services.

Home daycare

A daycare home can range from a licensed, supervised home to an informal agreement between friends at one home. The caregiver may be related or unrelated, trained or untrained. The number of children, fixed by regulation in many states, may extend to 6 in a family day care home. Optimally, this type of care has many advantages including flexible hours, relative economy, and a situation that provides new experiences and people. You may have less to say about how such a person takes care of your child, so you must choose very carefully and visit frequently to be sure that your baby is getting the kind of care you want.

Daycare centers

The daycare center is another alternative for child care. Children at these centers are usually grouped according to age, and the teachers are sometimes younger than those who provide daycare in their homes. Centers have the advantages of being set up as an ongoing business, open to public inspection, and easily monitored by parents. They offer an environment that frequently is rich in materials and equipment, they may have some staff trained in child development, and they usually offer educational opportunities for the children. However, they can have less flexible hours, usually are unable to care for sick children, and may be more expensive than alternative child care. As with homes offering daycare, centers vary greatly in their quality. Parents should evaluate disciplinary techniques, frequency of turnover of caregivers, and educational opportunities at the center.

Parents who are concerned that an infant may be exposed to five or six caregivers a day at a center will want to know if each infant is assigned a primary caregiver, with others secondary. The infant needs a primary caregiver at the center with whom to form a special relationship.

Word of mouth can also provide information about child care quality, but parents need to be advised that selection of the best place for their child should be made only after they have observed a variety of settings and feel comfortable with a particular daycare home or center.


The Department of Pediatrics provides professional services and consultation for patients 18 years of age and younger, including newborns, infants, young children, and adolescents.

To schedule an appointment, please call:
Pediatrics East
1000 Langworthy St. Dubuque
(563) 584-3440
Pediatrics West
1500 Associates Dr., Dubuque
(563) 584-4440

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