Whether white, blue or whatever-coloured collar job a mum has, it gets to that time when the working mum has to leave her precious little one in the care of another. This "another" could be a relation, a nanny or a caregiver at a daycare centre. Handing over our little ones to someone else should never be shabbily done. It should take a lot of research and other considerations. Even relations should be chosen with care especially with increasing reports of paedophilia.
Several factors should be considered when settling for a daycare centre to assist you in childcare.
Is the centre registered and government approved? These days of child-kidnapping, you certainly don't want to risk keeping your child with people who cannot be traced. The local authority should also be aware there is a daycare centre there and also know who the caregivers are. We certainly do not want stories that touch. Child-stealing cases seem to be on the increase, so also is paedophilia.
How do other parents using the centre feel? Are they confident or helpless? Make sure you get to interview not just one or two users of the centre. Do they feel confident that their kids are well taken care of? Or is it an I-don't-have-a-better-option feeling/attitude? Would the parents be happy to recommend another parent to the centre? Would they readily leave the centre if another seemingly better one springs up in the neighbourhood? You really need to know.
How do the kids themselves feel? This has to do with the kids old enough to show readable emotions. If you are nice to a kid, he/she naturally gets to love you in return and would be very willing to be left with you. It may take a little while, but it certainly will happen. Watch the countenance of kids being dropped off. Are they happy and willing to part with their parents? Granted some kids could be clingy, but if it seems to be the norm with almost all the kids at the centre then that's a red alert, something is certainly not right. Those kids are certainly not handled well. Stranger anxiety doesn't apply in this case. A caregiver overtime ceases to be a stranger to a kid.
What are their health policies? I would always root for caregivers who run comprehensive medical tests on prospective employees. I would also root for those who have a strong health policy. Sick children should be kept at home till they recover, especially those with communicable diseases. Caregivers with communicable diseases should NEVER be allowed near the kids.
What other policies do they have? Only parents or people confirmed to be assigned by them should be allowed to visit or pick up kids left in their care. How do they handle emergencies? How prepared are they for emergencies. Can parents show up at random to visit or pick-up their kids? If the answer is 'no' then something is amiss. Make sure you read all the terms and conditions before handing over your kids to them.
How much? This shouldn't be the most important but it does matter. It should be an affordable place for you the parent. Contrary to what many people believe, cost doesn't always equal quality. Some low-priced caregivers give quality care while some expensive ones treat kids shabbily.
Convenience. How convenient is it for you the parent to drop off and pick-up your child on your way to and from work? It has to be somewhere close to your home or your workplace so that you either drop them just on your way to work and pick them when almost home, or you drop them when almost at the office. In the latter's case, you get to always enjoy the ride to and from work with your kids, thereby spending more quality time.
What do your instincts say? Always trust your instincts when it comes to your child. if your instincts say 'no', then no it is. It's better you are paranoid and your child is safe and happy.
What is the child/caregiver ratio? How many children is one caregiver responsible for? 3:1 should be the worst obtainable especially if the kids in question are babies. 5:1 can go for toddlers. Sadly, that is hardly the case in our part of the globe as one may even find as much as 10:1. Personalised child care should be strongly advocated.
After you have done your checks and balances, you can then settle for a particular daycare centre. Daycare homes (where the child is taken care of at the childgiver's home) seem better as one can also negotiate for weekends and beyond-office hours.
May we never fall prey to wolves in caregivers garbs.