In child centers, several adults care for one or more groups of children. Centers vary widely in their hours, their fees, and the ages of children they accept. They also differ in the activities, equipment, and play areas provided, and in the training and experience of the staff.
Some child care centers are business run for profit, while others, called non-profit organizations, charge fees that just cover expenses. Still others are funded by the city, state, or federal government. Finally some centers are run by businesses that offer child care as a benefit to their employees or customerrs.
Each state has an agency that licenses child care centers, A center must meet minimum health and safety requirements in order to be licensed. The license state also limits the number of children a center may accept, depending on space, facilities, and number of people on the staff.
Professionals in the child care field have created a system to recognize centers that meet high standards. Child care centers can chose to join the Nation Association for the Education of Young Children. Members apply to the association for accreditation. This involves a review of the facility's staff, programs, and environment to see if they meer the association's strict criteria
Parents can choose from several center based child care options:
Child care centers - Child care centers primarily serve children whose parents work outside the home. The typical center offers children variety of activities. Some centers emphasize learning activities, while others allow more time for informal play. Usually there is a daily routine with time set aside for meals, naps, and indoor and outdoor play.Child care centers may offer half day or full day programs. Most child care centers are designed for children two years old and older, although some provide care for infants and young toddlers.
Parent cooperatives - In a parent cooperative, or co-op, child care is provided by the parents of the children in the co-op. The parents take turns staffing the co-op, which is usually in a facility other than a home. A preschool teacher or another qualified child care provider may organize the program and guide the parents.A co-op program cost considerably less than a child care center. It may not be an option, however, for families in which both parents work full time.
Preschools - Preschools provide educational programs for children ages three to five. They typically offer activities that help children develop in all areas. The staff usually includes one or more teachers and a number of assistant teachers. Preschools usually offer half day sessions from tow to five days a week. Some centers offer both child care for younger children and preschool programs for three to five year olds. A growing trend is for children to attend a pre-kindergarten program the year before kindergarten.
Specialized Preschools - Some preschools provide specialized programs that differ from the traditional approach. Some may use special learning materials, and children are encouraged to learn by exploring and experimenting and are given the freedom to move from one activity to another as they wish.. Some use high scope, this program encourages children to l earn through active experiences with people, material, and events, rather than through direct teaching.
Head Start centers - The head start program is funded by the federal government. It provides locally run child care facilities designed to help lower income and disadvantaged children from birth to five years old become ready for school. Most head start centers have half day sessions. It also provides children with meals, health care, and social services. Parents are expected to be actively involved in the Head Start Program.
Home based care - Many young children receive home based care from a caregiver who comes to their home. Family child care is similar, but takes place in the caregivers home. Parents may choose home based care because they feel a home setting may be easier for their children to adjust to. Home based care may also be convenient for parents, it may be closer to home, and the hours may be more flexible .Some like this arrangement because the child care provider is a relative, friend, or neighbor. Someone they know and trust. Home based care usually involves a smaller group of children than center based care. For this reason, many parents prefer home based care for infants or other children who need a lot of individual attention.
There are three main types of home based care:
Care in the child's own home - Many parents have their child cared for by someone who comes to their home. In home is convenient, but it can be costly. Also, the child may not have a chance to play with other children. Some families hire a nanny, a person trained to provide child care. The nanny may live with the family or come to the home daily. Although this arrangement is fairly expensive, a nanny can offer reliable and stable care at almost any time of day.
Family Child Care - Another option for parents is family child care. In this situation, a child care provider cares for a small group of children in his or her own home. The group often includes the provider's own children. Family child care offers children the comfort of a hoem setting with opportunities for social interaction. Also, because the group size is small, the child care provider can give the children individual attention. Family child care usually costs less than in home care.
Play groups - Some parents and children take part in a play group. In this arrangement , parents take turns caring for oen another's children in their own homes. A play group is similar to family child care, but it involves a number of different homes and different caregivers. Most play groups involve no fees because the work is shared. This type of care is best suited for parent who don't work full time but want their children to have the opportunity to socialize with other children.
Some states require child care providers to have a license which means they are registered with the state and meet the health and safety standards, even if it's from home.