Choosing Child Care

More than half of all mothers are working moms, according to the latest US Census data. For many families, that means someone other than a parent needs to care for the children until they're old enough for school. Choosing child care is a big deal, especially with so many child care facilities to choose from. However, there are incredible resources available to you. Even better, the resources are free and easy to use.

Even before your search begins, it's important to understand how child care facilities are rated. North Carolina uses a star system to rate child care facilities, for both centers and home-based care. Every child care that meets minimum state requirements starts with one star, but they can apply for more stars, all the way up to five stars.

"When looking into a five-star facility, you're getting a higher staff education level, child-teacher ratios are smaller," says Devin Stewart, the Regional Evaluator/Professional Development Coordinator for the Regional Child Care Resource and Referral through the ChildLinks office in Greenville. The Martin/Pitt Partnership for Children funds the Regional Child Care Resource and Referral activity.

At the office in Greenville, Stewart and referral counselors take calls and visits from parents searching for child care in Martin and Pitt counties. Using the database of all licensed child care providers in Martin and Pitt counties, they help parents narrow down the choices for quality child care center and family child care home options. Some of the factors to consider include
location, hours, cost, star rating and any other factor important to the parents.

The Regional Child Care Resource and Referral office also helps parents understand what to look for in child care centers and homes, along with what questions to ask.

The Greenville office covers Martin and Pitt counties and serves as the lead Child Care Resource and Referral agency for a seven county area. However, every county in North Carolina is covered by a Child Care Resource and Referral that can provide assistance to parents looking at child care options. Some counties are served through their local Smart Start organization; others are served by a stand alone Child Care Resource and Referral agency. Parents would be welcome to call the Martin/Pitt Partnership for Children to get the contact information for their county.

Stewart recommends once you narrow down your list of facilities that fit your needs, do some detective work on your own

"There are so many quality factors that factor into a child care facility, that really going out there and doing some of the legwork, and going to the centers, viewing what you see, that's the only way a parent can find the quality they need," says Stewart.

Click here for details about how the star rating system works.

Click here to see how a child care facility ranks on the state system.

Want more helpful resources for parents? Check out the Links of Interest provided by the Martin/Pitt Partnership for Children.

This is part one in a series of stories on pregnancy and parenting on Mondays in February. Be sure to check out Heather King's Baby Blog.

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