Those who choose family day care for their children are most likely to cite the homey atmosphere of the family day care setting as their main reason for doing so. With few others being supervised by the childcare provider, children in family day care tend to receive more one-on-one attention.
At the same time, family day care also gives children a chance to socialize, just with a much smaller group of other children than they would be exposed to in a center. The ability to spend time with other kids makes the family day care home a more attractive option to some working parents than having in-home care, such as a nanny. With the in-home caregiver, the child might end up feeling isolated, with fewer opportunities for social interaction. The possibility of the caregiver becoming isolated may be a concern as well.
The biggest problems with family day care arise from the fact that there is usually only one care provider, possibly two. One difficulty occurs if the provider or her own children become ill. In that case, the parents will have to make other arrangements for the care of their children.
Another disadvantage to having only one person as a day care provider is that it may be difficult to monitor how the children are faring in the childcare setting. If the children are older and are sufficiently able to express themselves, then it will be easier to determine if there is a problem situation, such as physical or verbal abuse or neglect. Neglect can particularly be a problem when childcare is given in the provider's own home, because the provider may be tempted to tend to her own business when she should be supervising the children.
An additional complication to consider with the family day care situation is the caregiver's other family members who may be present in the home during the course of a typical day. The caregiver's spouse, and perhaps other adult relatives, may be in the home while your child is attending day care there. If this is the case, you will want make a point of asking the names of all of those people who may be on the premises at the same time as your child. Then, you will want to perform background checks on all of those people, as well as on the provider herself. You will have to obtain written consent from all concerned in order to obtain the checks. (Criminal checks, credit reports, and other background checks are discussed in Hiring an In-Home Childcare Provider.)
Locating Family Day Care
As is the case with day care centers, your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency (CCRR) can be an invaluable source of information in a search for a family day care. (See Day Care Centers and Preschools.) CCRRs are organizations that connect families with suitable childcare, provide day care homes and centers assistance with start-up needs, staff training, and other help that ensures quality care for children. A list of CCRRs and updated information can be found at www.childcareaware.org.
There are a number of other online resources for a family day care search. A few examples are: www.childcare.net; www.daycare.com; and, www.metrodaycare.com. These organizations probably do not screen the facilities listed in their database. If you are considering any family childcare provider, do a thorough background check.
As with day care centers, referrals from people you trust can be your best tool in a search for family day care. Start with family and friends, but do not limit yourself to these people. Anyone you know with ties to your community may be able to set you in the right direction.
Costs of Family Day Care
The cost of family day care tends to be less than that of a day care center. However, as with day care centers, the monthly rate will differ according to the location of the program and the number of staff per child. In a random sample of facilities nationwide, the rates were in the range of $400–$560 per month for infants and around $80–$120 less per month for preschoolers. The highest rate for infants in the sample was $800 per month in the eastern United States; the lowest was $240 per month in the South. Hopefully, this gives you some idea of what family day care may cost.
While you want to find the best childcare value for your money, you want to make sure that the rate a provider charges is not so low that the care is compromised. In other words, if you are considering a family day care home that costs a great deal less than all of the other homes you have checked out, you should probably ask yourself what the reason is for the low cost. Chances are the provider is cutting corners somewhere, which may not be such a good thing for the children in her care. She should be able to afford high-quality, nutritious food, as well as art supplies and other activities for the children. If she does not charge enough for these items, you may want to look elsewhere for your child's care.
Unlicensed Family Day Care Homes
You will no doubt find in your search for quality family day care that a great many of these establishments are not licensed. Unlike large day care centers, which would have a difficult time escaping the notice of state childcare facility inspectors, family day care homes are tougher to regulate. Many care providers simply take in children without bothering to go to the trouble of getting a license. State enforcement of licensing laws is hard because these day care operations are so small.
For some familiesespecially those with lower incomesunlicensed care is all they can afford. In some cases, unlicensed day care homes cost less because the provider has not spent the money necessary to comply with state regulations. The point is, as with the issue of low rates, the lack of a license might indicate that the potential family caregiver is not up to minimum standards set for this kind of day care arrangement. That can prove to be a downside for parents seeking good, quality family childcare. (Licensing of family day care homes is discussed in Evaluating Out-of-Home Childcare.)