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Child Care for Your Child with Special Needs

Care About Quality was published by the California Department of Education in 2000.
It is the right of every child to have high-quality, safe, and nurturing child care. It is your responsibility to choose the best care for your child and help providers know that they CAN meet the special needs of your child—and that you'll help them do it.

All children have special needs. However, some children, because of physical, emotional, or learning needs, may require extra support in the child care setting. It is very important to choose child care that meets your basic requirements first—then address your child’s unique needs with the provider.

Things to consider

There are other resources that can help you. Family resource centers provide parent-to-parent support and training. Regional centers link families of children ages birth to three years who have or are at risk of developmental disabilities to early intervention programs in each county. You can call 1-800-515-BABY to get the number of your local family resource center or regional center. 

Children ages birth to three who qualify for early intervention services receive an individualized family service plan (IFSP). The IFSP identifies the special services and who will provide them.  Once your child turns three, if he is eligible for special services, such as speech therapy, they are provided by the school district through an individualized education program (IEP). These plans describe the goals for your child and the services to help meet them.

Finding child care

Some child care resource and referral agencies match families with caregivers who specialize in working with children with special needs. Call the child care provider and ask about policies, fees, schedules, and activities to determine if this setting is a good fit for your child before discussing the disability. AFTER you feel comfortable with a provider, let her know about your child’s special needs in a way that is nonthreatening and supportive. This lets the child care provider know that you are concerned with her skill and ability to help your child and you will provide her with the necessary resources, training, and support to care to care for your child’s special needs. 

If you feel that a child care program is discriminating against your child because of her disability, you can get legal advice from the Child Care Law Center at 415-394-7144.

Choosing special needs care

When choosing child care for a child with special needs:

  1. Interview caregivers as you would for any child.
  2. Ask for references and check them out.
  3. Visit without your child first. Make sure you are comfortable with the type of care provided.
  4. Then bring your child to the child care setting and observe how she reacts or adjusts to the staff, the materials, and the other children.
  5. When you are ready, start your child’s care for an hour or so, gradually increasing the time until he gets used to the provider and the provider is secure in meeting his needs.

Children with special needs require different levels of support and care. The willingness and openness of the provider to work with specialists in coordination and partnership with the family is crucial in providing high-quality child care for your child.

In your search for quality child care, the following checklists may be helpful:

Caregiver considerations
Environmental considerations
Parent responsibilities

Choosing Occasional Child Care

Care About Quality Table of Contents

Questions:   Early Education and Support Division | 916-322-6233
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