Does it matter that hot dogs make an appearance on the weekly menu? How many kids is she looking after? Are there toys for each age group? If you’ve decided on a home-based daycare, these are just some of the things you might want to consider when choosing your child’s potential care provider. Here’s what else you need to know.
1. LICENSING “You can rest assured that if there’s a visibly displayed license, at least the minimum standards are being met,” says Don Giesbrecht, president of the Ottawa-based Canadian Child Care Federation. While there are many good unlicensed programs, in an unlicensed venue your child is not protected by the regulations or standards set out by your province (e.g. playground equipment safety). Licensed home daycares are also required to post their regularly renewed license in a visible spot, so make sure it’s up-to-date. (It should be a caregiving license you’re looking at—not, say, a business operation license.) If you’re going through an umbrella home-daycare company, you should know that the agency—not your caregiver—holds the license, and is therefore responsible for checking on your caregiver. The license also indicates how many children are allowed in the home for care—it differs by province, ranging from as few as three children per caregiver (under the age of 18 months) to as many as eight (up to five years of age).
2. FLEXIBILITY Because of the intimate environment, home daycares can have a more go-with-the-flow attitude, with caregivers more likely to accommodate specific requests, from food preferences to nap-time schedules, so don’t be afraid to ask.
3. BACK-UP CARE Many parents are surprised to learn that when their caregiver is sick or on vacation they may have to pay for the days the caregiver is off, as well as find their own alternate care. (Some agencies do provide back-up care, and it’s up to you whether you want to transition your child to a new caregiver.) As for time off, some providers do what Cindy Chouinard, an Ottawa homecare provider, does—she sits down every year with the families involved in her care, and they mutually agree on a three-week stretch of vacation time that works for everyone.
4. CHEMISTRY During your initial visit, does the caregiver ask to hold your child? Try to play with him? Does she speak to him in a friendly and natural tone? If not, it’s a red flag and foreshadows the care your child will likely get there.
the perfect placement
When it came to finding a home daycare for her two-year-old son, Aiden, Jody Yzerman-Scheerer wanted the whole package—a place that was clean, served healthy food, a caregiver who’d connect with her son, plus activities. “To me, this needed to be an educational placement as well,” says the Guelph, Ont.-based mom. After compiling a list of questions, interviewing nine caregivers and checking references, she found a caregiver that both she and Aiden are very happy with.
Toronto writer Astrid Van Den Broek is glad to have a home daycare refresher, since she’ll soon be scouting them out for baby number two.
what to ask?
Here are 10 parent-tested questions you should ask a potential caregiver:
To learn how to make the transition to daycare easier, check out Hard Goodbyes