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How to Weigh Your Childcare Options


Evaluating your childcare options? It’s not easy. In fact, choosing appropriate childcare is one of the most stressful decisions parents face. Below, you’ll find key factors to consider, a list of your options and some insightful tips to help you through the selection process.

Three Key Factors in Selecting Childcare

Parents have many concerns when picking the right childcare option.

  • Safety is a priority. News stories of children being abused or neglected by childcare providers can frighten any parent. Parents may also worry about exposure to infectious diseases and other dangers.
  • Cost is another top concern. According to a survey conducted by Care.com, 33 percent of families spend 20 percent or more of their annual household income on childcare. Care is especially expensive in certain states, including Hawaii. According to Child Care Aware, the average annual cost of care for an infant in a child care center is $22,416 in Hawaii.
  • Convenience is another factor. Some daycare centers have strict hours and extra costs for late pick-ups. An inconvenient location can also be a problem.

The Many Childcare Options

Even though parents have many childcare options, finding one that fulfills every need can be a daunting task.

  • Private nannies can be very convenient, and they provide your child with personalized attention, but they come with a high price tag. According to Care.com, the average cost of a nanny runs between $27,019 and $32,677 a year.
  • Au pairs provide a less expensive alternative for families looking for full-time, live-in childcare. Au pairs stay with a host family for a limited period of time, often a year, and they must speak English and go through a screening process.
  • Daycare centers can vary greatly in terms of both cost and quality. Before selecting a daycare, make sure you understand the policies, and that you’re comfortable with the staff.
  • Family child care homes are operated out a person’s home. They can be less expensive than daycare centers, and some parents like the home-based environment, but state regulations vary, and parents need to make sure the home is safe. In Hawaii, family child care homes need to go through a registration process.
  • Friends and family sometimes provide care for free. Parents may also work out a system in which they swap child care duties. This can work out, but it’s important to make sure that children will be cared for by an attentive adult in a safe environment. For this to work long term, it’s also important to make sure that no party feels taken advantage of.

15 Questions to Answer BEFORE You Decide

Choosing the best childcare option is a big decision. Ask these 15 questions first:

  1. Is this option in my budget? Figure out how much you can afford to spend on childcare each month. This may limit the options available.
  2. Does the caregiver have the required licensing and/or credentials?
  3. Is this option safe? If you are considering a daycare facility, find out how caregivers are screened and if background checks are conducted. Also, ask if there is a second caregiver or a video camera in the room at all times.
  4. What is the provider-to-child ratio? How many kids does each adult supervise?
  5. Are children separated by age?
  6. What is this provider’s track record? Check reviews and complaints to see if other parents have had serious issues.
  7. Can I trust this person? Get to know the people who will be taking care of your child.
  8. Is the neighborhood safe?
  9. What security is in place? Ask if the exterior doors are locked and how they control public access to the facility.
  10. How are disciplinary issue handled?
  11. What are the food policies? Do you bring your own meals, or do they provide food for the children?
  12. What if you are late or your child gets sick? Ask about policies regarding late pick-ups, illnesses, and other issues that are likely to arise.
  13. What’s your backup plan? See if a friend or relative is available for emergencies, or if you could work from home when needed.
  14. Is sharing an option? If you go with a nanny, and especially if you only have one child, considering sharing your nanny. According to Care.com, this could save you an average of around $9,635 per year.
  15. Is this tax-deductible? Look into tax breaks. You may qualify for a tax credit based on your childcare expenses.