Whether you have a young child or one that’s a little older, chances are you will need to find child care at some point. It could be because of work or full-time school, or maybe because it can help your child to grow and learn, but finding the right child care can be a challenge.
There are many considerations ranging from location and availability, to fees and funding. But choosing the right arrangement for your child is important; it takes time, planning and patience to find the right care provider. Fortunately, there is ample help to guide you through the maze.
One place to start is with the BC government childcare website with its links to multiple resources and information on support funding for families including a handy tool called “Parents’ Guide to Selecting and Monitoring Child Care in BC”. Another excellent source about services in your community is The Child Care Resource and Referral Program of British Columbia. These on-line resources can provide information and applications for government subsidies for child care. Your local Public Health office can provide a list of licensed daycares and facilities.
In BC, there are two categories of child care. Licensed child care must comply with licensing regulations that include health and safety requirements, staff training, staff-to-child ratio, space and equipment and more. In BC, providing care to three or more children who are not related to the provider and are not a sibling group requires a Community Care Facilities Licence.
Alternately, the child care provider may be classified as unlicensed or ‘License Not Required’ (LNR). These may care for no more than two children or one sibling group (brothers and sisters) of any age that are not related to the care provider. The service may be registered, or unregistered. As there are no requirements from licensing, parents are solely responsible for choosing and evaluating such services.
What type of care do you need? Daycare is generally for infant to kindergarten age. Preschools are for ages three to five, pre-kindergarten and are often half-day.
Choosing the right service probably starts with a phone call to find out the basics like availability, ages, location, what is provided, staff qualifications and fees. The next step should be a visit to the location to see the facility and get a better feel for what it will be like for your child. Bring a list of questions and take notes so you can compare services later.
- What training do care givers have?
- How do they handle behavioural issues?
- How will you pay: weekly, monthly, quarterly?
- Is there an open-door policy where parents can drop in unannounced? This is especially important to ask of unlicensed services. If they say no, this should raise a red flag.
- How long have they been providing care?
- What does a typical day look like?
Don’t wait until you need it before doing the research as there may be long waitlists to get into your preferred facility. It may entail lots of legwork, but in the end that pays off with a child care service that benefits both you and your child.
Written by Dr. Paul Martiquet, Medical Health Officer for Rural Vancouver Coastal Health including Powell River, the Sunshine Coast, Sea-to-Sky, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.