How to recognize a good home daycare

According to Statistics Canada’s 2008 figures,
64 percent of Canadian households have
both parents working, and that number is
steadily on the rise. If your family falls into this
category, you will likely be making childcare
arrangements during your baby’s first or
second year.

Many parents turn to in-home childcare for
their daycare needs. Childcare in someone’s
home offers many benefits:

  • fewer children than an institutional daycare
  • more flexible rates and pick-up times
  • warm home environment
  • opportunities for your child to develop
    social skills
  • no worries if your home is a mess (which
    might be a concern with a caregiver in your
    home)
  • usually less expensive than a nanny or
    an institutional daycare.

Home-based care falls into two categories:
regulated and unregulated (also sometimes
referred to as licensed and unlicensed).
Daycares are regulated in each province by
a designated ministry, such as education or
children.

“A regulated home daycare will be attached
to a larger body for greater accountability,” says
Marni Flaherty, Board President of the Home
Child Care Association of Ontario (HCCAO)
and CEO of Today’s Family Early Learning and
Childcare, a non-profi t childcare association that
represents 70 home daycares in the Hamilton
area. Unregulated home daycares must still
comply with rules specifying the number of
children allowed.

Today’s Family helps parents find full-time,
part-time, shift (think overnight), weekend
and emergency care. They also coach parents
on what to look for when selecting a home
daycare for their child.

Regardless of whether you are able to find
a regulated home daycare through an agency,
or you are considering the neighbourhood
favourite who is unregulated, there are several
things to look for and keep in mind.

Marni Flaherty of HCCAO has this advice for parents looking for home daycare:

  • Familiarize yourself with the rules around
    unregulated daycare. In Ontario, for instance,
    unregulated home daycares cannot care for more
    than fi ve unrelated children at a time. In Alberta, it’s
    six children, not including the childminder’s.
  • Ask for and check references. Happy parent
    customers are a good sign.
  • Look for a daycare provider with experience or
    education to do the job. Being a parent is just one
    qualifi cation, but not the only one.
  • Look for programs that take the children out a
    minimum of three to four times per week. The
    local library, drop-in centres, the park, recreation
    centres…the expectation is not to educate the
    children per se, but provide a stimulating screenfree
    environment.
  • Are children involved in preparing snacks and
    meals? This indicates the daycare is providing
    learning experiences in every aspect of care.
  • Ask to see the whole house. The caregiver might
    tell you the children never have access to certain
    parts of the house, such as the basement, but if
    you feel there are things in the basement you fi nd
    unsafe, you might not be comfortable leaving your
    child there.
  • Ask if the educator takes courses to learn best
    practices about child development, nutrition and
    other areas of childcare.
  • Don’t underestimate your gut instinct, it can tell you
    a lot about the daycare that might not be on your
    checklist. Parents can feel a lot of pressure with the
    back-to-work date looming, but the most important
    thing is to feel comfortable that your child will thrive
    in the home you have chosen.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, October 2013.

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