Whether they're in homes or centers, children need warm, caring, responsive, knowledgeable adults to make them feel safe and open to learning. New findings from brain research indicate that brain development in young children is directly stimulated by relationships. Children benefit from the opportunity to know adults of different ages, sexes, and cultures.
In both homes and centers, caregivers trained in child development or early childhood education, as well as basic health and safety skills, generally do a better job. The best training for an early childhood caregiver is coursework, combined with practical, supervised work directly with children. Direct experience with children is important, of course, and the background and personality of the caregiver will affect the quality of your child's care. Caregivers who provide quality child care must understand children's behavior and efforts to communicate, must respond to each child, be kind and patient with them, and have the energy for lots of inventive activities—characteristics that can come from a background as a parent, from training, from practice, or from a combination of the three.
Caregivers should have special training for the age groups they work with—for infants and toddlers, for example, or for school-age children. Ongoing training is also important. Many states now insist that caregivers have some training every year. In other states it's not a requirement and you'll still need to find out for yourself whether a caregiver has had any training.
In centers or programs, the director plays an essential role. In order to offer the best quality care to children, a center needs a caring, experienced, and trained director with knowledge of children and skills in management. In addition to managing the center and setting the tone for how the staff works with children, it is the director's responsibility to answer parents' questions and respond to their comments. A director should be open, friendly, and interested, and should have a strong, positive relationship with the staff.
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