Choosing Occasional Child CareCare About Quality was published by the California Department of Education in 2000.
Everybody needs a break once in a while. No matter how much you love your home and your family, you’ll be a more enthusiastic parent if you give yourself time away to recharge yourself. There will be those unexpected times when you’ll need to attend to emergencies. In those instances, it is better for children to stay home. Where can you find occasional care?
- Sitters: They can be relatives, neighbors, or friends. This care can be at the child’s home or outside the home.
- Exchange care: Families, neighbors, or friends take turns watching each other’s children. If the occasion involves meals and sleepovers, the kids may think the whole time is just for fun.
- Family child care and center care: Programs that offer full-time or part-time care may also be available to provide care on an occasional or drop-in basis. Check with these programs to find out about their space availability. Be aware that this type of short-term care may be expensive. Find out how much the charge is before you drop off your child.
You can find out the quality of the care your child received by the kind of feedback you get from both the caregiver and child. If your son or daughter comes rushing to greet you with “Guess what we did! It was so much fun!” and you see the caregiver beaming, you probably made a good choice.
Whichever care you choose, take these steps:
- Information: Leave a card with numbers to call in an emergency and a medical release form for emergency treatment. Explain what you expect your child to do and how to behave while you’re gone. Are there chores or homework to be done? What is the bedtime or after-school routine? If the caregiver is younger, give clear instructions about having friends over, what food is allowed, use of the phone and computer, and what television programs your child may watch.
- Cost: Determine how much to pay the caregiver or center before you leave. Keep in mind some types of care, such as drop-in care, may be more expensive per hour than other forms of care.