Hey there and welcome to this episode of Parenting in the First Three Years. I’m so glad that you’ve joined me. My name is Ann McKittrick and I’m going to talk to you today about childcare. You know, at the time of this recording, we have just finished a very important national conversation around the childcare cliff. And it all had to do with the funding, the budget funding and cuts and all of those kinds of things.
And their threat was that 70,000 schools were gonna close, that millions of children and families would be left without childcare suddenly. And it just brought up this really important conversation about childcare, the need for quality childcare for parents of young children. And so I just thought it would be good for us to talk about this today, to talk about what is childcare, why does it matter, why does it need to be addressed in such a strong way what you can do as a parent to provide the very or to find the very best centers and programs for your child and then just some questions to ask as you are looking for this care. And so I come to you with a pretty broad range of experience in this field.
My mother went to work when I was seven years old as the first director of the Child Care Center at our church. And so I went to school with her all the time. I grew up going as work, you know, being there as a child, then as a teenager working at the center. And then I went and got a degree in child development. And then I just have always worked in child care in university and college settings in the childcare centers on campus and teaching students. And so currently I’m a trainer, I’m a national, I’m a state master level trainer and I also have another business called Texas Child Care Training where I train thousands of teachers online through my online courses each year and then I do a whole lot of speaking.
In fact, just the other day I teachers at an employee center. And so my finger is there on the pulse. I know what’s going on in these schools and I wanna share that with you and share with you what your options are when it comes to childcare. So first let’s talk about what your options are. There’s lots of different types of childcare. The one that is most common, especially with parents of young babies is a sitter that comes into your home. And very often this might be a family member or somebody that’s like a close friend who agrees to come and watch the baby for a little while until they get a little bit older to put them into a different type of program. So in-home care by just a personal friend or family member is one of the very first ways that most children get cared for.
Another option is a nanny that comes into your home. And this is a person that is part of a larger system. They have a governing agency that places them, or maybe they are individually certified as a nanny and in business for themselves. But there’s just a little bit higher level of professionalism with a nanny, and it’s a really great option for you if you can have a nanny come to your home and take care of your children in your own home. I know that feels very safe and comfortable for families to be able to have a nanny come into the home but it’s probably the most expensive childcare that there is and not everybody has that option and that ability to do that.
And so another option is a family day home. And where I live, we have licensed and registered family day homes. A registered one is one that is registered. They’re not governed quite as carefully as a licensed Family Day home. And so if you have the option, I want to encourage you to go for the licensed Family Day home because that means that somebody’s making sure that they are doing things well, and that they are providing the very best care for your child. At the very least, they are following the state minimum standards for group care in your state. And so that is a really good thing to back up to is to know that that person is following those state regulations.
So in-home care is really wonderful care and I love it because it’s very home-like, it’s very family-like. Usually, a Family Day home provider has a wide range of ages in the group. It’s a smaller group typically. I mean some people actually open up their homes and get it licensed for a larger group and they might have staff that come in and that’s like a center inside the home. But then a family day home is just one person maybe with an assistant with usually a group of eight children or less. And you might have anywhere from a six-week-old baby to an eight-year-old child. And so it does feel a lot like a sibling group when you have kids like that and you’re in the comfort of somebody’s home. And so often times those are in your neighborhood as well. I even spoke with somebody once who told me that she moved to the house that was for sale next door to her childcare provider because they wanted to live nearby and they loved her so much and that was just how they were able to do it. So that’s a really neat thing when you find somebody taking care of kids in their home that you can be that close to and they can really become part of your family.
So that’s family day homes. And then another option is parent co-ops. And so this is, you know, these can be very informal, informal or formal co-ops. And this might even be something that you organize for yourself. Let’s say you have five or six families between you. You’ve got a bunch of kids who need care and you together hire somebody and find space and, you know, create a way to do that. And of course, they’re are a lot of licensing regulations around this and you would need to look into that for where you live. But that’s a really nice option. And usually with parent co-ops, each parent has a requirement of time that they spend with, you know, with the group of children. You kind of trade-off time and in that way, you know all the kids, you know what’s going on. You get to see your child in that setting. It’s a really cool way to do childcare if you have that option.
So parent co-ops, look for those in your town or city if that sounds interesting to you. And then the last form of childcare is a childcare center, which is where the majority of families have their children in childcare. And so childcare centers, they range, gosh, from really, really big where they have hundreds and hundreds of children to really, really small privately owned schools where there might even just be 20 children.
I’ve worked in schools where there were just 20 kids. I think we had 18. And that was a really fun place to work because we knew everybody, all the kids knew each other, and all the staff knew all the parents. It was very personal. And so whatever you have available to you in your community is what you’re gonna use. And so those are the different types of care. And as I was describing those, I’m guessing that maybe one or two jumped out at you as that felt good to me. That’s what I would like to have if I could have anything I wanted. And so if that’s the case, I would just encourage you to do your due diligence and find that type of care wherever it is that you live and see if you can’t make that happen. So those are the types of care.
The next thing I really would like for you to know about is any time a school or a program or a family day home organizes and decides that they want to care for children and they want to have a high-quality program, there are many levels of accreditation and certifications that they can get. And so I think it’s good for you to know that there are national certifications or accreditations for several different types of child care. And I’m just going to describe these to you real quickly.
There’s the National Association for Family Child Care. There’s the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation. There’s the National Association for Christian Schools. There’s a National Association for Afterschool. There’s the National Association for the Education of Young Children. This is the one that I am a part of. I’m a NACI Accreditation Consultant. I work with five different schools that are in the process of becoming accredited right now. It is a very stringent, time-consuming process that involves the staff, it involves the parents, it involves the managers and the owners of the program, and they look at every little bitty thing. And so if you can find a program that is accredited, this lets you know that they are committed to doing things well, that they want to provide the very best for young children and their families. And so that would be kind of a gold standard to look for in an accredited or certified center. If it’s one that I did not list just then, just research it, make sure it’s one that is on the up and up and that is really a serious accreditation, one that is developmentally appropriate, that provides quality care for early childhood and doing a good job. So there are accreditations to look for.
And then that would be the top bar, kind of like the most expensive restaurant you can go to. And then there’s the very bottom and that would be the minimum standards. And every state in the United States, and I would expect that every, you know, most places in the world have levels of standards that have to be met anytime you put children, anytime you are caring for young children.
And so the minimum standard for our state is a book that is about an inch and a half thick. They are full of standards and they tell you every little thing, every it’s just full of regulations. And these regulations are there to make sure that children are safe and that staff are doing the right things and that no question is left unanswered. But they are minimum standards. And so if a school says, yeah, we meet the state regulations. You say, great, what else do you do? How do you go above the minimum? What are you doing to let me know that you know more than just the very minimum or the base care that you can get? So those are accreditations and licenses and stuff.
Another thing that you need to know about is the price. Childcare is very expensive. In fact, as a national average, the typical family spends about 10% of their income on childcare. That is a huge percentage of your money that goes towards childcare. And that, you know, in our family, me being an early childhood educator, one thing that you need to know is we, educators, especially early childhood, we don’t make very much money. And so for me, it just didn’t even make sense for me to go to work full-time and put our three children who were very close in age in childcare because I wouldn’t have even made enough money to warrant the expense of the childcare. And so it is very expensive. And the question that you might be wondering is why? Why is it so expensive? It feels like you’re paying so much money, hundreds of dollars a week maybe for this childcare.
Why is it so expensive? And so I’m just gonna break down where that money goes and then you can just be a little bit more informed and you know it’ll allow you to ask the right questions when you are looking for schools. But the first thing is rent. You know the building itself not only does it require a certain amount of square foot square feet per child inside the building but there also has to be a certain amount of square feet per child outside in the playground.
And so that kind of square footage, if you just do the math, it’s expensive. There’s also a lot of, it’s a very high-risk business. The insurance rates and utilities for childcare are high. And so the average is about 16% of the cost goes for the rent or the lease and the utilities for the building. The classroom supplies take about 10% of the budget.
You know, there’s just all those things that are needed every day, diapers and, you know, all of the things that we have to have, crayons and paint and cleaning stuff. And the toys that you have to have in a childcare center are extremely expensive because they have to be the highest quality. Just take a look through some catalogs at the price of a bookshelf, the one bookshelf in a childcare room.
It’s just very, very expensive. It’s much more expensive than what you might have in your home. And so the cost of materials and equipment and supplies, that is very high, 10% of the budget. The office and administrative costs, they’re very high. That’s about 5% of the budget. And so, you know, there’s a lot of paperwork that has to be done. You know, that big thick book of regulations that has to be followed. Most of those regulations require some sort of file. And so there’s gotta be somebody who not only is making sure that all of these regulations are being followed and documented but also they need to be just very, very organized because those drop-in visits can come at any given time.
And then the biggest expense in childcare is labor. The average is 60 to 75% of the budget goes towards salary, benefits, taxes, training and all of the cost of hiring a teacher. When I was a director of a childcare center and this was at a university, and so our building and utilities, we didn’t even have to pay for those. And that was supplied by the university, but 85% of the dollars that we brought in went towards our labor cost because we had degree teachers and we also provided benefits, which is what everybody who works needs to have. We all need to have benefits, and childcare workers traditionally are not offered benefits unless they happen to work for a company that is able to do that. But for the small child, it’s good for you to know as parents that the people who are caring for your children may not have even the benefits that you have from your job. And so this is a push right now in the state legislatures and this kind of thing.
I know in Texas, we’ve got a grant right now that is providing some insurance benefits for those childcare providers or those professionals who are not working in a district or a program that provides the benefits. So that is a really important thing because we all need to be taken care of, especially those who care for your children. They’re exposed to many, many germs and so there is a lot of illness that goes through them, even as the staff. So that is just a little bit of an explanation of that price. And then the next thing I wanted to mention is just like, so you kind of have some basics about childcare, what’s available and what are some things, accreditation and licensing regulations to look for. But when you actually are going to tour the centers, what do you need to look for? What do you want to ask them? And so I’ve just got five questions that you can ask when you go for a school and there’s many, many more things. This is just five starting questions. But first of all, I just wanna encourage you to find a school that welcomes a visit, welcomes a tour and has an open door policy. And so as you go in, there’s many things to look for and listen for and smell.
I just think that it’s really important to just use all your senses as you are touring a center and especially your ears. Listen for what you hear children’s doing and saying and what you hear teachers doing and saying. There should be, it should not be a quiet place. Children are loud as they play, they are loud. There’s going to be some crying, but we also need to be hearing teachers comforting those crying children.
Anyways, the noise is going to be there, but just listen to what that noise is. So here are five questions that you can ask a childcare provider whether this is a sitter who’s coming to your home, a nanny or a family day home provider, or maybe even these other families that you start this co-op with or a childcare center. Ask what’s your experience working with children?
You want somebody who’s got some years under their belt that knows what to expect from children. You really would love to have somebody who’s got a degree in early childhood education or child development or human development and somebody who has taken the time to learn all that they can about children and what makes them tick. So what’s your experience?
I do want to say though, sometimes, you know, a person doesn’t have a lot of experience and they’re very, very good. And so don’t automatically, you know, just assume that just because a person is brand new that they’re not going to be the best person for your child. You might have found a jewel. And so, so, but just knowing what the experience is and asking about it, you know, I think that’s really good. Another one is what’s your philosophy on managing behavior in the first three years?
In the first three years of life, there’s a lot that happens. Your child is going to go through a lot of developmental stages where they are growing and learning and doing a lot of different things. And so the behaviors that come up in these early childhood programs are the topic of big conversation because there’s a lot of stuff that happens like aggressive behavior biting, pushing, all of those kinds of things that very young children do. And so what you would really like to hear this, this child care provider say is that they use very positive guidance. They are very intuitive, intuitive in their words, you know, they tell children what they can do instead of what they can’t do. They use a soft voice. They, you know, they provide options for children. They are right there with the children.
Um, you know, when I was doing my training the other day, we were talking about how when you are out on the playground with a bunch of three year olds, you have to be right there where they are playing. It’s a real big difference between going out on the playground with a bunch of seven year olds, where you can let them go across to the other side of the playground and be playing and watching them. But with three year olds, you need to be right there with them. You need to be right there in the sandbox with them right there by the, you know, by the play structures where you are there to intervene as quickly as you need to. But anyways, positive guidance. The other one is the environment itself. The environment should be the behavior manager. The environment should be one that is child-centered, child-friendly. It’s, you know, there’s nothing that a child can get into. The environment itself should kind of tell the child where to go.
Toys right out there at their level. There should be some baskets where the toys go to clean up. The environment in itself should tell children how to be and kind of control their behavior in this way. There’s also redirection. Infants and toddlers especially can just be redirected very easily and distracted away from something.
you know, like a conflict with another child or a scuffle over a toy, all of those kinds of things. Usually it just takes, hey, look at this over here. And you can kind of diffuse it without having to get into this big conflict resolution thing. And then I think it’s really important that just basic child development, developmental milestones be top of mind in managing behavior so that
the caregivers, the educators have very realistic expectations of what should be happening in that classroom with that age children. So find out what that philosophy is, ask them some good questions and make sure that it feels good to you in your gut because you have your own ideas about how you want your child to be spoken to, how you want these things to be dealt with. And so just make sure that it’s a good match for you and for your family.
Another question is, what’s the daily routine? It should be very much the same each day. Children need routine, they need a good schedule, they need to know what’s going to happen next. They need to know that you’re going to come pick them up after afternoon snack or whenever it is throughout the day. And that way they themselves can learn to kind of regulate themselves and their thinking around just the routine. We all know what happens when we take our kids off routine and we know how good it is when they are on a good routine of sleeping and eating at the same time each day and going outside at the same time each day and just doing these same activities that are very predictable. Not so predictable, they’re boring, but predictable because young children need this kind of stability. They need that. It helps them feel safe and secure.
The next question you might ask is, are you accredited? And are you headed towards accreditation if they’re not accredited? Do you know about accreditation? And so just asking that question will give you an idea of where that person’s head is as far as quality care goes and just give you an indicator. Doesn’t mean that everybody has to be accredited. I mean, there’s the percentage of schools that are accredited is small. Most schools are not but it’s a great question to ask and it might be a good goal for you, for your selection. And then the last thing is just knowing about their policies. What’s the sick policy? What’s the biting policy? What’s your staff turnover? What is your hiring policies? All of those kinds of things. Just ask all those good questions to find out, like what’s gonna happen if your child has a runny nose and it just won’t go away. If it’s, you know, children have 12 colds a year on average. And so are they gonna ask you to keep your kid home every time they have a runny nose? If that’s the case, then you just need to know that in advance and see if you can work that with your life or not. So anyways, just knowing what their policies are and getting all of the information that you can ask them, what have I forgotten to ask you? Ask them to tell you the things that you haven’t known to ask and to give you as much information as possible. So those are the things that you would ask as you are interviewing and looking for your childcare.
And I just wanna, you know, kind of wrap it up by saying that these first six years, these years of early childhood, are extremely important in your child’s growth and development. And just by age six, you know, by the time your child goes to first grade, their brain is already 95% of its adult size. All this brain growth and development happens while your child is in these early years. And so it’s really, really important that they are in an environment that is supporting this good, positive growth and development.
And another thing that I think just needs to be thrown out there and put into the mix is that the attachment and the trust that happens in the first couple of years of life, this is the foundation for your child’s emotional and social development. It’s the foundation for how they are going to manage themselves with other people, how they’re going to manage their emotions later on in life.
And so it really is important that who’s with your child each day promotes this attachment and is trustworthy and gives them a safe and secure place all day. And you, with your home environment, are closely related and integrated with the school. The homeschool connection is extremely important. It’s just as important, you know, just how we, as grownups, think about work all the time. Well, all those hours you spend at work, that’s the number of hours your child spends in childcare. And they probably, and their little brains in some way or another, are spending the same amount of time thinking about it.
I hope that this is helpful. If you have any questions about childcare, you can email me at ann at nurturednoggins.com. I would be more than happy to continue this conversation with you individually. You can always go to nauic.org. They have a lot of really great information for parents. There are other great websites that can direct you. I’m gonna put a list of several different links to places where you can go so that you can learn about childcare how to find good childcare and just, you know, to inform yourself so that you can make the very best decision for your child. But I do wanna say this, daycare or childcare is very, very helpful for your child. And finding the right fit for you all is really, you know, the most important thing but I have just seen children flourish and grow and be so happy in childcare. And so I just encourage you to find the very best thing for your child. So I hope that helps. And if you have any questions at all, you can just give me a holler. I’d be more than happy to talk with you. That’s it for now. Thank you. Bye-bye.