There are hundreds of child care options from which you could choose. How do you find the best match for you and your family? It is best to use a simple step-by-step approach:
Ask Yourself What You Need.
Consider some basic questions:
- How much child care do you need? Daily? Whole days? Perhaps just a few hours?
- Where does the child care have to be located? Near your home? Near your work?
- How much can you comfortably afford to pay for child care?
- Does your child have particular cultural or language needs?
Think About What Your Child Might Need.
There is a great deal of variety among child care providers – some are for mixed-age children, some for same-age; some work with small groups of children, others with larger groups. More questions to consider:
- How old is your child? Younger children, like infants, generally need more one-on-one nurturing. Three- or four-year-olds, of course, still need nurturing, but they also need more experiences with their age peers – the opportunity to play and learn with other children helps to prepare them for going to school.
- Is your child more adventurous or more cautious? Can you imagine your child thriving in a large-group setting? Or in a small group? Does your child typically like to have flexible or more structured schedules?
- Is your child especially active? What kinds of activities does your child enjoy? What kinds of resources – supplies, play spaces, equipment – would you like to have available to your child at a program?
- Does your child have any special behavioral or health needs? If so, you will want to ensure that the child care provider can accommodate them.
Find Possible Providers.
You can find regulated care – both licensed child care centers and registered family child care homes – through these easy-to-use resources:
LOCATE can help you find child care as well as Head Start and Early Head Start programs, private nursery school and kindergarten programs, public pre-K programs and even school-age and summer camp programs. There are over 9,000 regulated Maryland providers available through LOCATE.
Maryland EXCELS includes information and program ratings for a growing number of Maryland providers. The EXCELS rating system puts an emphasis on high-quality child care based on nationally recognized quality standards and best practices.
You can learn more about both LOCATE and EXCELS at Finding Child Care and at each of their websites.
YOU ARE THE ONE IN THE DRIVER SEAT
As you go through the steps of finding child care, remember that you are the one who is driving the process. Your questions are the ones that have to be answered and your family’s needs are the ones that must be addressed. Your goal is to find the child care that will give you and your family what you want.
As you search for possible providers, keep in mind the needs that you have already identified – both your needs and your child’s needs. Use these needs as your criteria for finding the providers that are most likely to be the best match. Create a list of the providers who seem like a good fit.
Then move onto the next step in the process - Interviewing Providers.