Robin's Advice on How to Choose Childcare
Commercial, retail or residentially zoned properties are the three choices on where day care is provided.
In my opinion, our preschool children should be in a residential zone. A place where they can be cared for and see trees vs. concrete, plants that are in the ground vs. in a pot, and have a great yard with toys that are not next to a retail’s stores loading dock and dumpster. Your child’s infant, toddler and preschool years are such a short but important time in their lives. Seeing the seasons come and go in the trees and the grass with birds, frogs, butterflies, worms and rabbits, offer such learning experiences and memories that can’t be duplicated in a classroom.
There are so many good teachers, aides, administrators and volunteers in child care centers, day care homes, preschool’s and schools that your child can be taught and cared for. A residential day care with good preschool activities gives parents the opportunity to hire the actual owner of the business who knows and cares for you and your child. Unlike a preschool, this relationship can be a steady long-term relationship that can start with your child as an infant and continue thru their preschool years. Your child is prepared for kindergarten with the confidence of their social skills, the education of their preschool activities; the memories of their young childhood and the security of the consistency of care.
A private employee turns you into an employer with payroll taxes, how to cover their job when they are sick or late. It takes a lot of time and knowledge to do the interviews, decide and take care of criminal background checks, medical checks. If you are lucky enough to find a wonderful person that is reliable and punctual, they are the first person in their family that is asked to care for Grandma who needs help tomorrow. I started my child care business in 1984 and I have received thousands of calls starting with “My nanny.” They are so nice and sorry that they can’t give you any notice when their family has an emergency which then becomes your emergency.
Sharing a nanny
Costs can be reduced, your child can have a playmate during the day. In addition to the responsibilities of an employer, you are now running a business with the other parents. Who gets to decide that field trips are wonderful or field trips are a risk? Who gets the nanny when one child is sick? The law requires that the home be registered as a family child care business but the regulations might not let you apply. Without the registration from MSDE, (Maryland State Department of Education) your insurance might not cover an accident. Does the home used have a no lead inspection certificate if the home was built before 1979? Like a puzzle that has lots of parts, it only take the loss of one piece and you are back in the market looking for child care without notice.
Look for the trees, the windows; the light. If you have two children, or you are planning on more than one, are they going to be in the same building in closed classrooms where they can’t see each other? Are you going to drive to two different locations? Your baby can be on the top of the wait list if your preschool aged child is in the same location. What is your walking time from the parking lot, to the building, down the hall, down the stairs, to the second classroom and back out to the parking lot? The time you use to commute is less time for work, family and yourself.
Legal or illegal
Senator Barbara Hoffman wanted family child care to be called registered vs. licensed to encourage homes to get registered instead of being illegal. The regulations were 12 pages on pamphlet size pages. There are now multiple sets of MSDE Comar regulations with over 80 full pages. Child care is overregulated and costs have gone up because of regulations. Illegal providers are committing a misdemeanor, parents are contributing to the misdemeanor. While there is no enforcement by MSDE, which parent hired the illegal provider is frequently used in divorce courts. Babysitters can care for your child for up to 20 hours a month, over that, they must be registered.
Registered/Licensed day care, Childcare or Preschools
Are all regulated by MSDE with one set of COMAR regulations or another. A lot of protections are provided for the parents of children. The building is checked and certified to be lead free. It is inspected by the fire marshal, the building code, and MSDE. The providers, teachers, residents and other personnel are regulated to provide proof of criminal background checks, medical checks and training. The fire marshal’s office and MSDE continue to do inspections annually or bi-annually for the life of the business. MSDE checks the building, the equipment, the training, the paperwork for the criminal background check and medical forms for everyone. If the day care participates in the food program, which helps fund the business, they inspect 3 times a year and require additional training meetings.
Child care is expensive but worth it. You might be able to cut your costs by hiring a child care that will accept part-time vs. full-time. If the parents don’t work the same hours, if grandma can do one or two days, if the number of hours can be reduced by one parent dropping off and the other parent picking up, it is possible to get your weekly costs down. With legal child care you will receive the business tax I.D. # of the business or the social security number of the owner. This is a large financial difference on your tax return. Also take a look at pre-paying your day care expenses on December 31st to get your full deduction in that calendar year. This is especially important if you didn’t start day care at the beginning of the year. Parents can save thousands of dollars. The second year of your day care expenses will go over the deductible so if you don’t shift it to the first year you will lose it. Please check with your tax accountant prior to December 31st of your first year of your infant or preschool aged child in child care.
Maryland has done a lot of work to get quality child care in our state. MSDE has created programs to encourage and measure and require standards believing it will improve quality. Excel, accreditation, NAEYC… When leaving one of their meetings, I asked another business owner if she was going to participate in the program. Her response was that the center down the street was welcome to spend the $70,000 she estimated was the cost to do the paperwork. She was going to put her money into the children, the teachers and the building. Parents in her location in Baltimore, where she had been providing care for 20 years already knew her program had quality. Teachers can talk about their programs by saying small muscle skills and large muscle skills, cognitive and non-cognitive…. There is a lot of good ideas in this additional mound of paperwork. But it eliminates the ability to put in the human touch of a teacher who wants to do something different to help a child. If the program says to teach the child penmanship by coloring in the lines, to color the duck yellow – the color of the week it can be quality for a lot of children. However, an artistic child who wants to color outside the lines and use green on everything (including my walls), his enthusiastic creativity will squashed because the teacher is now required to follow the program. It is easy to observe quality in a program. When children come into the day care, do they run over to their teacher, the kids know where the quality is, without the expensive paperwork.