When childcare centers and individual day care providers become available again, there will be a host of new COVID-19-related concerns to add to the list of top tips for choosing childcare.
Individual Caregiver or Childcare Center?
Review the pros and cons of your childcare options, which may include relying on family, hiring an individual caregiver, or entrusting your baby to a day care center.
Pros: Family members are likely already on your “quaranteam,” and you’ll be reasonably certain of how well they practice social distancing and sanitation precautions. A family member may already have a relationship and a bond with your baby, and they’ll understand how strongly your feel about dressing your infant in organic baby layette sets and observing a consistent sleep schedule.
Cons: Differences in child development philosophies can flare among families, from sleep training to appropriate play. Disagreements with family caregivers can cause rifts in family relationships.
Pros: Hiring a devoted, highly qualified nanny to care for your child can provide greater peace of mind and accountability. Infection is the major concern, but interacting with the fewest people possible is the best course.
Cons: You don’t know for sure how an individual caregiver practices social distancing and mask-wearing outside your home. Any communication breakdown can cause problems, and you’ll have to have a backup plan if your nanny gets sick or called to jury duty.
If you’re considering hiring an individual caregiver, find out what credentials and experience they have to provide an enriching, developmentally appropriate, and safe day for your infant. Check if they’re trained in first aid, and obtain references.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published extensive guidelines for childcare centers that have remained open during the pandemic as well as for emergency centers that remain open to serve essential workers and others who can’t work from home. Your state public health agency may also have issued guidelines and regulations for schools and childcare facilities that will be reopening.
Pros: These facilities are usually subject to regulation and inspection by state or local authorities and require background checks on staff. They’re supposed to have plans for COVID-19 to protect children, staff, and families. Ask any center you’re considering to share their plan.
Cons: Possible staffing shortages, sudden closures where surges in COVID-19 infections occur, more people around your infant, and differences in philosophies about child development may all be concerns with childcare centers.
Beyond the primary concern for health and safety, all the pre-pandemic advice about choosing childcare still applies. Top tips for choosing childcare, whether or not health restrictions are in place, include checking on licensure and education of the director and staff, including first aid credentials; security to keep unauthorized people out and children in, including check-in and sign-out procedures; whether the staff-to-child ratio conforms to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation (no more than three children under one year per caregiver); and confirming a developmentally appropriate curriculum of engaging activities.
While site visits may be difficult right now, it’s also important to see how staff interact with children. Do the children look bored or constantly distraught? Are staff engaging and warm, or do they constantly correct or yell at children? Trust your gut about cleanliness and atmosphere when you choose a childcare facility.