Regardless of the kind of child care you might be looking for, most searches follow four basic steps.
Step 1: Decide what's important to you
• Think about the type of schedule you would like for your child. Will you need full or part weeks, full or part days? What is the earliest you may need to drop off and the latest you may need to pick up?
• Decide what you can afford for child care per week or per month. Talk with friends who use child care about how much they pay. You may also be eligible for programs such as a Dependent Care Assistance Plan (DCAP), the child care tax credit, sliding scale fees, discounts, or subsidies, which can help make child care more affordable.
• Decide where you would like to look for care—near home, near work, or somewhere between the two.
Step 2: Gather your resources
• Tell everyone you know that you are looking for child care. Ask them to tell you about their experiences and give you references to programs or providers they have used recently.
• Contact the program that supplied this booklet when you're ready to start your search. A consultant can give you information about child care options in your area, a checklist of questions to ask, and practical advice about how to choose the care that's right for you. If you've decided you're looking for someone to care for your child in your home, your consultant can also guide you through the additional steps you'll need to take.
Step 3: Visit programs and providers
• Call each program or provider referred to you, and interview the director or provider. It's generally a good idea to ask one or two important questions—such as what a typical day is like or how long the provider has been caring for children—before you decide to visit.
• Ask for any literature or materials they may have available. Read the brochures, contract, and handbooks from each program.
• Schedule visits to the programs and people that sound most interesting. Ask lots of questions! Allow yourself enough time to sit in the room and watch how the children and the provider act together.
• When you've narrowed your search down to one, two, or three choices, ask the program director or provider for references from other parents who are using or have recently used their services. Check at least three references.
• Visit your final choice again at a different time of the day.
Step 4: Finalize your plans
• Register and sign the contract.
• If your company offers a DCAP spending account, and if you haven't already done so, this is a good time to contact your human resources department and ask about procedures and timing for enrollment.
Remember, you can contact the program that supplied this booklet to get referrals to child care providers or to talk about helping your child adjust to a new care situation.
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