Under Federal Law, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is prohibited from ranking, endorsing, or promoting agencies or organizations listed in the Child Care Resources Handbook.
In today's society, more and more families are relying on some type of child care arrangement in order to meet the competing demands of work and family. In 1997, 29.1 million U.S. families had children under the age of 14. In more than half of these families, either both parents worked or the family was headed by a single working parent. Three out of five mothers with children under age six work outside the home.
Whether by choice or by necessity, balancing the competing demands of work and child care is one of the most challenging undertakings that a family can have. The Child Care Resources Handbook is intended to introduce you - employers and employees - to a number of organizations and resources that can help you meet that challenge.
This handbook was developed to provide practical tips on how to find child care and places to call for further information on related topics, such as, obtaining financial assistance.
The Handbook includes questions to ask during the initial telephone screening and a checklist of things to observe when visiting child care centers or homes. It also provides several directories of resources around the country that can help parents learn about child care, including:
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is committed to supporting Federal programs that assist employees who are caring for children, as well as providing work and family personnel flexibilities that help balance these responsibilities.
OPM wishes to acknowledge the contributions of the U.S. General Services Administration in providing input for federally sponsored day care centers.
The Federal Government has focused on providing readily available and useful information about child care. Over fifteen Federal agencies contribute information to Childcare.gov, a one-stop resource for information about child care issues. A companion site, Afterschool.gov, offers a one-stop access to government resources that support after school programs
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Choosing a child care arrangement is a very personal decision for parents. It is one of the most important decisions a parent can make since the care children receive influences their future development.
There are three basic types of child care: child care centers, child care homes, and child care in your own home. This section describes these basic types and also outlines some additional child care programs that may be available in your community: before and after school care; vacation and summer programs; sick child/back-up/emergency care; part-day preschool programs and nursery schools; programs for children with special needs; and the Head Start Program.
A child care center provides care for groups of children by a staff of caregivers. The staff have some type of early childhood education training. Centers are generally licensed by the state. Centers are either privately operated for profit by a chain or individual, or operated by non-profit agencies, such as churches, public schools, government agencies, or non-profit vendors. (See the licensing section, and the directories of State and local agencies that can help you locate child care centers in your area.)
A child care home provides care for a small group of children in the caregiver's home. These homes are registered or licensed in most States. (See the licensing section, and the directories of State and local agencies that can help you locate child care homes in your area.)
This type of care takes place in your own home. The caregiver may be a baby-sitter, a professional "nanny" trained to care for young children, a student "au pair" who lives in your home, or another caregiver who has some experience with young children. Parents need to check references carefully. When using in-home care, you become an employer, which requires special considerations. As an employer, you are responsible for Federal Unemployment Insurance and Social Security taxes. In many States you must provide Workers' Compensation and State Unemployment Insurance.
There are various options for before and after school care. Programs in your community may be operated by child care centers, recreation centers, churches, and youth organizations, such as Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), Boys Clubs of America, Girls Inc., and Camp Fire, Inc. In many communities, schools provide after school care, sometimes called "extended day care" programs.
If your school does not currently provide such a program, your school's principal or Parent Teachers Association (PTA) may be aware of parents' associations that are working in your community to get such programs started or to find other affordable options for school-age care. The resource and referral agencies listed in this publication will assist you in finding before and after school care. In addition, the School-Age Child Care Project of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women and Project Home Safe located in the Federal Organizations section of this publication can provide you with booklets and other information on finding school-age care for your child.
Vacation and summer programs are usually for school-age children, although in some areas they are also available for preschool children. These programs provide a variety of activities such as arts and crafts, swimming, drama, and organized sports. Vacation or summer programs are often operated by the local parks and recreation departments, community organizations, and child care centers.
All children get sick from time to time. Most child care centers have policies about sick children and very few allow children with contagious diseases to attend. Some day care centers set aside space to care for mildly ill children. These centers usually have a nurse on staff or on call. The need for such sick child day care centers has produced many centers opened around the country. To find out if there is a center in your area, contact the National Association of Sick Child Day Care Centers, (205) 324-8447.
Caregivers also can get sick. Child care centers generally make arrangements for substitutes when a caregiver is ill; however, if you choose a child care home, you will need to ask if the caregiver has plans for someone to care for your child when the caregiver is sick. It is a good idea to plan for back-up care. When looking for back-up care, you may want to consider child care centers and homes, neighbors, close friends, or local college students. Discuss your needs for back-up care with potential providers beforehand to be sure they will be available when you need them. It is a good idea to complete the necessary documents and decide on any fees before you need the back-up care.
Part-day preschool programs and nursery schools are group child care programs which operate less than a full day. These programs are located in a variety of settings, including churches, public schools, and child care centers. State licensing regulations may be different for programs operating less than a full-day schedule. This type of care, generally for children two and a half to five years of age, provides an opportunity for interaction with other children of similar ages. These programs usually follow the same academic year and holiday schedules as the public schools.
Finding child care for children with disabilities can be especially challenging for parents. However, information and assistance is available from national and community organizations and parent groups to make the search easier. One of the organizations that can help parents of special needs children find child care is the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY).
NICHCY can send you free of charge two very useful publications, A Parent's Guide: Accessing Programs for Infants, Toddlers, and Pre-schoolers with Disabilities and A Parent's Guide: Accessing Parent Groups. NICHCY can also send you a State Resource Sheet that lists the addresses and phone numbers of the agencies and organizations in your State that can assist parents of children with disabilities, and a National Resource Sheet that lists addresses and phone numbers of the national disabilities organizations and clearinghouses. NICHCY's toll-free phone number is 1-800-695-0285.
It is also important to note that regardless of your child's specific disability; you may always call the local office of any of the national disabilities organizations, such as United Cerebral Palsy Association, National Down Syndrome Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Spina Bifida Association of America, and March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation.
The staff of these and other disability organizations generally know about the services provided in their communities and can usually help parents even if their child has a disability different from the one that is the focus of the organization.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers child care centers and family day care homes. Information about the requirements of the ADA, as well as informal guidance in understanding and complying with the ADA, can be obtained by contacting the U.S. Department of Justice, Public Access Section of the Civil Rights Division, P.O. Box 66738, Washington, DC 20035-6738, (202) 514-0301.
Head Start is a nationwide federally funded early childhood program for low-income preschool children, primarily ages three to five. It is designed to provide comprehensive services in preparation for public school. Services include cognitive and language development, medical, dental, mental health, nutritional, and social services. The program places particular emphasis on parental involvement. For information about specific eligibility requirements, contact your local department of social services.
Matching the needs of your child and your own needs with the childcare available is a time-consuming process. It often takes extra time and effort to find high quality care. This section can help you to find high quality care by explaining the role of licensing.
Licensing indicates that state standards have been met. Most States regulate child care centers by licensing; some States also license child care homes. Licensing includes an on-site visit to assure that basic requirements (for health, safety, and child/staff ratios) have been met and periodic inspections to monitor continued compliance. This may include inspections by the local health department, the fire department, and the licensing agency. Keep in mind, however, that States vary considerably as to the minimum standards allowed. Most of the State licensing offices listed in the section on Local Child Care Referral Agencies can provide you with information about the specific regulations in your State.
Registration is a variation of licensing used by some States for child care homes. Registration relies more heavily on parents as monitors than does the traditional licensing. Inspections are not usually required prior to registration, and States vary considerably in the degree to which registered homes are monitored.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children provides the following guidelines for staff/child ratios at child care centers. To the extent possible, the care you choose should follow these guidelines.
For infants (birth-15 months), a group of six infants should be supervised by one teacher for every three infants (1:3). Eight infants is the maximum number of infants recommended and should be cared for by one caregiver for every four children (1:4). A group of six toddlers (12-28 months) should have one instructor for every three toddlers (1:3); for a group of eight, one instructor for every four children (1:4); for a group of 10, one instructor for every five children (1:4); and for a group of 12, one instructor for every four children (1:4).
A group of eight children (24-36 months) should be supervised by one teacher for every four children (1:4); for a group of 10 children, one teacher for every five children (1:5); and for a group of 12 children, one teacher for every six children (1:6). A group of 14- 2.5 year olds-3 year olds (30-48 months) should have one instructor for every seven children (1:7); for a group of 16, one instructor for every eight children (1:8); for a group of 18, one instructor for every nine children (1:9) and for a group of 20, one instructor for every ten children (1:10).
For four-year- olds, a group of 16 children should be supervised by one instructor for every eight children (1:8); a group of 18 children by one instructor for every nine children (1:9); and a group of 20 children by one instructor for every ten children (1:10).
A group of 16 five-year olds should be supervised by one teacher for every eight children (1:8); a group of 18 children by one teacher for every nine children (1:9); and a group of 20 children by one teacher for every ten children (1:10). For kindergartners, a group of 20 children should be supervised by one teacher for every ten children (1:10); a group of 22 by one teacher for every eleven children (1:11); and a group of 24 children by one instructor for every twelve children (1:12).
* Smaller group sizes and lower staff-child ratios have been found to be strong predictors of compliance with indicators of quality such as positive interactions among staff and children and developmentally appropriate curriculum. Variations in group sizes and ratios are acceptable in cases where the program demonstrates a very high level of compliance with criteria for interactions, curriculum, staff qualifications, health and safety, and physical environment.
This section suggests questions to ask when you phone ahead to child care centers or homes and offers ideas of what to look for when visiting child care centers or homes. It also describes how to monitor the care your child receives while in the center or home you have selected. Especially useful is a checklist that can be copied and brought along on the initial visit to the centers or homes. The checklists can then be used in evaluating your choices after visits to several centers or homes.
The first step in finding child care is to identify several child care providers in your area agencies). Once you have obtained a list of several centers or homes, you may want to phone them, using the suggested "telephone interview questions" to screen out those you are not interested in, and to begin evaluating those you would like to consider further. You will then want to visit several centers and/or homes to collect information before deciding which is the best situation for your child. Consider the topics covered in the interviews when making a decision or following up.
The telephone interview questions provided on the following pages can help you to screen the child care centers/homes. There are separate questions for centers and homes. They can help you determine whether the provider's services meet your needs and your child's needs, and also help you reduce the amount of time spent actually visiting the child care providers. Before beginning your telephone interviews, you may want to make a few copies of these forms and have them available when calling the centers/homes on your list.
The on-site visit will allow you to make your final decision. It is best to visit several different child care sites to give you a basis for comparison. Start with the providers who interested you most after your telephone interviews. Be sure to allow enough time for a thorough visit. You may wish to use the following points, as well as the checklist that follows on pages 14-15, to observe and evaluate the child care centers/homes. You may want to make a few copies of the checklist and take them along when visiting the centers/homes.
Schedule a time to visit when the program is "in session" and the children are awake. Avoid the early afternoon hours when most children are napping.
In two-parent homes, both parents should try to visit.
Avoid asking questions that tell the provider what you want to hear such as "You always hold babies when you feed them, don't you?" Instead, ask open-ended questions such as "How do you feed the babies?"
If you are able to see children arriving for the day or leaving at the end of the day, you can see how other parents and the staff relate to each other. You will also be able to see how other children feel about coming to the center/home and leaving.
Once you select a child care center or home, you will need to monitor the care your child receives. This can be accomplished when you:
Name of center: _______________________________________Phone number: _______________________________________Address: ________________________________________________________________________________________________
Tell the person answering the phone your name and the age of the child needing care. Ask if he or she has time to answer a few questions. If not, ask when it would be a good time to call back.
Add other questions you may have.
If the basic information sounds like it will meet your needs, ask when you can visit. Be sure to make your appointment for a time the children will be present. Are the sounds in the background O.K., i.e., are many children crying in the background?
Name of caregiver: ___________________________________Phone number: _____________________________________Address: ____________________________________________________________________________________________
Tell the caregiver your name and the age of the child needing care. Ask if he or she has time to answer a few questions. If not, ask when it would be a good time to call back.
Center/Home provider: __________________________________Phone number: _______________________________________Address: ________________________________________________________________________________________________
If, after the visit, you are considering sending your child to this center or home, ask for several references, preferably parents of children already participating. You will want to contact these parents and ask them about their experiences with the center/home.
Many communities around the country have free or low cost services which can help you locate child care centers or child care home providers. Child Care Aware is an organization that can provide you with information about child care providers in your area.
The organizations offered by Child Care Aware vary considerably. Some of the organizations provide only a list of licensed child care centers and child care providers who seem most able to meet those needs. (Keep in mind, however, that resource and referral agencies do not recommend child care centers or homes.) Some organizations are equipped to provide information about vacancies and waiting lists. Some provide written materials that can help parents in choosing care for their children.
The information given to you by Child Care Aware is not intended to be a complete listing of all child care referral agencies in each area, and inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Child Care Aware Monday - Friday1-800-424-22468:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.Central Standard Time
Ask for a free brochure and checklist to help you evaluate a child care center or home.
For centers in your state, visit the website at www.childcareaware.org.
Many Federal agencies sponsor on-site child care centers for their employees. Agencies are authorized by 40 U.S.C. 490(b) to provide, free of charge for rent or services, space for child care centers on the conditions that: (1) space is available; (2) child care services will be provided to a group of individuals of whom at least 50 percent of the children enrolled in the center have one parent or legal guardian who is a Federal employee; and (3) priority for available child care services will be given to Federal employees.
The Department of Defense (DoD) Child Care System provides child care in over 800 Child Development Centers. On a daily basis, DoD cares for over 200,000 children in centers, family child care homes, and school-age care programs. For more information, visit DoD's Child Development System.
More than 200 child care centers are sponsored by other Federal Government agencies. These centers are listed below alphabetically by State. Those marked with an asterisk are in Federal buildings that are controlled by the General Services Administration (GSA). See section on Federal Organizations for a description of GSA's role in Federal child care and a listing of GSA Regional Coordinators.
State Child Care Centers
The Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families implemented the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) program (authorized by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, PL 104-193) to assist low-income families, families receiving temporary public assistance, and those transitioning from public assistance in obtaining child care so they can work or further their education.
The Child Care and Development Fund program has changed Federally subsidized child care programs in States allowing them to serve families through a single, integrated child care system. All child care funding is now combined under the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act. Revised final regulations which apply to the combined Child Care and Development Fund program were issued on July 24, 1998.
Subsidized child care services are available to eligible families through certificates or contracts with providers. Parents may select any legally operating child care provider. Child care providers serving children funded by CCDF must meet basic health and safety requirements set by the States and Tribes. Requirements must cover prevention and control of infectious diseases, including immunizations; building and physical premises safety; and minimum health and safety training.
State Child Care and Development Fund Contacts
Federal organizations can provide you with information about child care. This section briefly describes some of these organizations and gives addresses and phone numbers to contact for materials and further information.
The following Federal organizations can provide information to assist you in obtaining quality child care:
Child Care Operations Center of Expertise 1800 F Street NW, Room 4215Washington, DC 20405 (202)501-3464
26 Federal Plaza, Room 2-128New York, NY 10278 (212) 264-8321
The General Services Administration's (GSA) Child Care Operations Center of Expertise is the focal point for the establishment of child care centers in GSA-controlled space. The Office oversees more than 100 child care centers and provides directors, staff, and board members with advice and technical assistance on the successful operation of quality child care programs. The Office enhances Federal agencies' ability to provide ongoing quality child care by collecting and disseminating information through a network of Regional Child Care Coordinators. You may contact the following GSA Regional Child Care Coordinators for further information:
GSA Child Care Coordinator10 Causeway St., 9th Flr.Boston, MA 02222-1077 (617) 565-7312
GSA Child Care Coordinator 26 Federal PlazaNew York, NY 10278 (212)264-0512
GSA Child Care Coordinator 20N. 8th Street, 8th FloorPhiladelphia, PA 19107(215)446-2893
GSA Child Care Coordinator77 Forsyth Street, SWAtlanta, GA 30303(404)331-4729
GSA Child Care Coordinator 230 South DearbornChicago, IL 60604(312)886-0611
GSA Child Care Coordinator Federal Building - 6PMFB1500 East Bannister Road Kansas City, MO 64131-3088 (816) 823-2215
GSA Child Care Coordinator 819 Taylor Street, Room 11A01 Fort Worth, TX 76102 (817) 978-8451
GSA Child Care Coordinator Building 41, DFCDenver, CO 80225-0006(303)236-8000 ext. 2264
GSA Child Care Coordinator 450 Golden Gate Avenue, 4th Floor EastSan Francisco, CA 94102 (415)522-3350
GSA Child Care Coordinator 400 15th Street, SW. Auburn, WA 98001 (253) 931-7700
District of Columbia; Prince George's County, Montgomery County, MD; Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Prince William County, Arlington County, and the cities of Fairfax, Falls Church, and Alexandria, VA
GSA Child Care Coordinator Regional Office Building 7th & D Streets, SW. , Room 7013 Washington, DC 20407 (202) 205-7255
Office of Work/Life Programs Theodore Roosevelt Building 1900 E Street, NW., Room 7315 Washington, DC 20415-0001 (202) 606-1858
The Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) Office of Work/Life Programs provides Government-wide leadership and technical assistance to agencies in the use of comprehensive work/life programs by aggressively supporting the use of flexible work schedules and sites; leave programs (leave sharing, leave banks, leave for medical conditions and family responsibilities); part-time employment/job sharing; telecommuting; Employee Assistance Programs; on-site child development centers; and information and referral services. The Office works with the General Services Administration to provide information about Federal child care center programs and telecommuting, and the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the adoption of children and to assist parents who need help in collecting child support.
The Office of Work/Life Programs receives concerns and suggestions from Federal employees Government-wide regarding agency implementation of work/life programs. The Office provides information to employees regarding the laws and regulations which govern work/life policies as well as avenues of redress available for complaints. In addition, the Office identifies administrative or regulatory obstacles to implementing work/life policies and practices; and proposed regulatory or legislative changes where needed. You may contact Work/Life Programs office staff by phone at (202) 606-1858, by fax at (202) 606-2091, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Administration for Children, Youth, and Families 330 C Street, SW. Washington, DC 20201 (202) 245-0347
The Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children, Youth, and Families administers two programs relating to child care: Head Start and the Child Care and Development Fund. The Head Start is a nationwide early childhood program for low-income preschool children, designed to provide comprehensive services in preparation for public school. Your local department of social services can provide information about eligibility for Head Start. The Child Care and Development Fund program helps low-income families obtain child care services.
1111 Constitution Avenue, NW. Washington, DC 20224
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides free tax information and services to help taxpayers, including a toll free telephone service (toll free telephone numbers are printed in your local telephone directory), tax information publications, tax assistance and educational programs, and audiovisual instructional materials that are available on loan to groups.
Publications of interest to parents include #503: Child and Dependent Care Expenses; and #929: Tax Rules for Children and Dependents. These publications can be ordered by calling toll free 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). You can also order IRS Publication #910: Guide to Free Tax Services, which is a catalog of tax services and free publications.
Women's Bureau Work and Family Clearinghouse 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Room 3317 Washington, DC 20210-0002 (202) 219-4486
The Work and Family Clearinghouse of the U.S. Department of Labor Women's Bureau provides statistical information on the status of women in the workforce. The Clearing-house also conducts seminars and workshops on issues relating to women, including child and dependent care.