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The state considers any facility that cares for six or more children under the age of 13 a child care center. Often the children are grouped in programs according to their age. Some centers will mix age groups together to simulate a family setting.

Family Child Care

New Jersey regulations limit home-based child care to no more than five day care children and a maximum of three children who live in the home. The maximum number of children a provider can care for in a family child care home is eight.

In-Home Care

In this type of care, a person comes to your home to care for your child. This provider might offer other services such as light housekeeping, starting or making dinner or driving you child to lessons or play dates. Although you may use an agency to find such a provider, they are neither regulated nor licensed by the state. The questions and tips in this booklet can help you choose a quality provider in this situation.

When visiting a site or interviewing a provider, here are the three key areas to assess and some questions to consider:

1. Provider

This person (or group of people) provides your child with care and guidance and works with you and your family to make sure your child grows and learns in the best possible way.

  • Does the provider have references?
  • Are the child care fees within your budget?
  • Does the provider charge on days when your child isn't there?
  • Is there a written agreement or contract?
  • Is there a policy for medical situations and emergencies?
  • Will your child travel away from the center or provider's home without your consent?
  • Are parents welcome to visit at any time?
  • Is there regular communication between parents and providers?
  • What discipline methods are used?
  • Are the attitudes toward child rearing similar to yours?
  • Are the providers warm and caring?
  • What are the provisions for mildly ill children?

2. Setting

  • Is the facility safe? Clean? Reasonably orderly? Free of health hazards?
  • Is there adequate space/equipment for children to rest, eat and play?
  • Are first aid supplies close at hand?
  • What are the check-in/check-out procedures?
  • Is the outdoor play area/equipment clean and in good repair?

3. Program

The activities should be geared to your child's age while providing stimulation. Age-appropriate activities will help your child develop educationally, physically, socially and emotionally.

  • How many children will be in your child's group?
  • What is the age range of the group?
  • Is there a daily schedule?
  • Is television used? Why? How much?
  • Are there activities that encourage children to learn new things?
  • Are good health habits and personal cleanliness encouraged?
  • Are positive social skills encouraged and modeled?

Also, Think About Your Child's Personality and Needs

  • Does your child need a predictable schedule?
  • Does your child like to have an adult close by for naps?
  • Is consideration given for individual needs of children?
  • Does your child have any special needs that may make one type of child care preferable to another?

Here are a few things to consider to make your child care experience just a little easier:

> Don't Panic If Your Child Cries When You Leave

It's hard for a young child to understand "I'll be back later." This comes as the child develops and learns that at the end of the day, you do come back. It may also be hard for an older child, but your child usually just needs some extra reassurance that you will return. Remember, it's usually much harder on you than on your child. However, if your child is crying after a considerable amount of time, you should look further into the reaction.

> Communicate

Take time to discuss your child's day with the provider. You'll feel more connected to how your child is developing. Remember to talk to your child about the day too. He or she needs to know that you are interested.

> Child Care Can Benefit Your Child

Research shows that in high quality child care, children learn to share and cooperate; develop trusting relationships; and how to solve problems. These are critical skills that will benefit your child through adulthood.

For more information on child care in your area, call 1-800-332-9227 or contact the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency (formerly Unified Child Care Agency) for your county.

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