Catlin Gabel: what education can be
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Most of us will be there at some point: we need to find a child care provider we can trust with our children. We might start with asking friends or searching online. But those in the know highly recommended that we start with our local Child Care Resource and Referral agency (CCR&R). By starting with CCR&R, we ensure that the pool of child care providers we’re choosing from are licensed (registered or certified) and located in our local area.
There are a number of indicators and criteria to consider when interviewing providers. Begin by trusting your first impression and answering the following questions: Does the home or center look safe? Do the adults seem to enjoy being with children? Are there plenty of toys? The first two questions are the most important you can ask about a child care provider, and your answer should be that you feel your child will be safe and happy. Visit the location more than once and stay as long as you like before making your final decision. Even after you start using child care, visit often.
Quality child care homes and centers that wish to build strong family partnerships encourage family involvement, which has been shown to be extremely beneficial for early childhood learning and development. A study by Harvard Family Research (“Involvement Makes a Difference: Evidence That Family Involvement Promotes School Success for Every Child of Every Age,” Project No. 1 in a series from Spring 2006) showed that outcomes of family involvement in child care included:
For some of us, it is impossible to visit our children during child care hours; if that is your situation, consider having other family members visit, such as partners and grandparents. Just remember to make the proper arrangements with your provider.
During your visit, take notice of what the child care setting sounds like. Do the voices sound cheerful and patient? Is it too quiet? There may not be enough activity. If the child care setting sounds overly chaotic, it could mean that there is a lack routine — also important in early childhood development. Routines help to make your child feel safe; children feel the most secure when their lives are predictable. When a child care provider creates an environment that feels safe, children learn that they can trust others to take care of them and meet their needs, so they become free to relax and explore their world.
It is also important to count the number of children and staff in the program. A small number of children per adult is especially important when caring for groups of toddlers and babies. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has a guide for teacher/child ratios that aligns with or exceeds the state license capacity requirements.
Ask about the knowledge and experience of the people who will be caring for your child. Do they have specialized experience or education? Are they participating in quality improvement programs, like the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)? Do they have or are they striving for National Accreditation? Quality child care providers are happy to have you ask these questions, and are always learning more about teaching and caring for children. Find out about the efforts in your community to improve quality child care and education. Is your childcare provider involved? How can you help?
Another factor to consider is whether the child care is inclusive, which means that children with and without disabilities, emotional/behavioral disorders, or special health care needs are all together in the child care program. It also means that all children participate in all of the setting’s daily routines and activities.
According to guidelines by the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities (http://oregoninclusivecc.org), the benefits of inclusive care to children and youth (whether or not they experience disabilities or other special needs) include:
When everyone participates, children have opportunities to be creative, resourceful and providers also benefit from inclusion in multiple ways, such as:
And finally, as a parent, regardless of your child’s abilities and needs, you benefit from inclusion. Here’s how:
You can also dial 2-1-1 statewide, or 503-655-8861, for information and referral to find out more about child, youth and family programs and assistance offered in Clackamas County.
Checklist for finding quality care
This checklist was developed in collaboration by: Oregon Commission on Children & Families; Oregon Child Care Division, Employment Department; Adult and Family Services, Department of Human Resources; Oregon Child Care Resource & Referral Network.
To add to this checklist, I would recommend checking for licensing violations, by contacting the Office of Child Care’s central office. You should also verify that all adults living in the home or present during child care hours have completed an Oregon Central Background Registry check and have passed. This is information the provider will have on hand. If the provider cannot supply proof of enrollment in the Central Background Registry, or you have concerns, you should contact the Office of Child Care’s Central Office at 1-800-556-6616.
Susan operates a Certified Family Childcare, currently Oregon Registry Step 9 and participates in QRIS. Providing childcare with preschool curriculum since 2010, she has a degree in psychology and continues studies in early childhood education.