Research shows that children who are enrolled in high quality childcare learn critical skills that will benefit them through adulthood. For example, they learn to share, cooperate, and develop trusting relationships. And even though they are constantly supervised, they begin to learn how to solve problems on their own because they are independent of their parents.
If you’re about to start looking for childcare for your child, or are interested in switching from your current situation, seek out word-of-mouth referrals, check ads in local magazines and newspapers, and visit and evaluate centers that are close to your home or your work. Finding just any childcare center or home-based provider might be easy, but finding just the right place for your child might be more of a challenge.
The NJ Department of Children and Families (DCF) suggests you think about your child’s personality and needs. Does your child need a predictable schedule? Does she like to have an adult close by for naps? Does he have any special needs that may make one type of childcare preferable to another? Once you identify your child’s needs, you’ll be able to start your search in earnest.
New Jersey Options
In New Jersey, childcare centers serving six or more children under the age of 13 must be licensed by the state’s Department of Children and Families. A center becomes licensed after meeting all applicable conditions and requirements governing the center, such as staffing, administration, physical facilities, activities, safety, transportation, and more. To find all the childcare centers currently licensed by the state, click on the link for the list at the website of the New Jersey Department of Human Services/Division of Family Development.
Family childcare homes provide care for five or fewer children below age 13 in the provider’s private home. In New Jersey, family childcare providers may choose to become voluntarily registered through each county’s Child Care Resource and Referral Center (CCR&Rs) under contract with the Department of Human Services. To find out how to contact the Child Care Resource and Referral Center in your county, visit state.nj.us/humanservices/dfd/programs/child/ccrr.
Whether you choose a childcare center, a provider home, or even have someone come into your home to care for your child, you want your child’s experiences every day to be fun and safe. Your child will also benefit from an environment that gives her the chance to grow socially, physically, emotionally, and intellectually.
Finding Quality Childcare
As you research your options for childcare, the NJ Dept. of Human Services suggests you ask these questions to find a nurturing, stimulating, and educational environment:
- Does the provider have references?
- Are the fees within your budget? Are you charged 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?
- 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?
- How many children will be in your child’s group? What is the age range?
- 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?
Farn Dupre is the editor of New Jersey Family.