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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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Pam on Feb 8, 2010 at 12:35 PM
    My provider has only had to take a couple of days off during the 3 years I have been with her. She does have a relative who works with her part time and has covered for her during those times. A professional provider will usually ensure that they have coverage for any time needed off. It also helps to have back-up. For me, the trade off to a center is worth it. I would rather have the in-home setting and the rare inconvenience of her being out, to a center.
  • by MOM Location: OF ONE on Feb 8, 2010 at 11:51 AM
    I will have to agree with Questions-My child attended a five star center before starting to school. Someone is always there. I have a very demanding job that requires my attendance for the office to function. I could not perform that if she had been at a home day care. I know a mother right now that uses a great home day care, but that mother has four children and one is always sick or in dance, etc so she has to miss work-sometimes at the last minute to keep her child. That would have lost for me my certifications and license to work. So the commercial daycare setting really worked out for me.
  • by Mom To Questions at 1:45 Location: Martin County on Feb 8, 2010 at 11:21 AM
    I was lucky - my caregiver did not get sick often but when she did I had a backup plan in place that allowed for him to be kept by my mom. I hardly ever had to use it or take off from work myself to keep him at home.
  • by Questions Location: g'ville on Feb 8, 2010 at 10:45 AM
    All of you who prefer in-home daycares, what do you do when the provider gets sick or has a death in the family? I prefer regular daycare because there is always someone there and most of the time at least 2 adults in the room which is a plus for so many reasons.
  • by Mom Location: Martin County on Feb 8, 2010 at 07:33 AM
    I used a church center for a few months then pulled my son out & went to a home daycare, where he was very happy. He stayed there from the time he was about 9 months old until he started school. He loved his caregiver & her whole family. She only kept about 5 kids & her older daughters helped her out some. My son still likes to go by & visit. If I have another child, that is where it will stay because the attention is wonderful & she loved all the children as if they were her own, & still does!!
  • by Pam on Feb 8, 2010 at 05:14 AM
    I too prefer the home daycare setting. My oldest, who is now in Kindergarten went to a home daycare from the time she was 2 1/2 until she started school. My youngest has been in the same home day care my oldest was in, since she was 16 months old. The setting is wonderful. The provider has around 8 kids, has been in the business for almost 30 years, and takes care of the children like they are her own. I would not have my kids any where else. That being said, I do think that even if a parent uses a home setting, the provider does need to be licensed so that they are held to the same regulations as the bigger centers. While I do see why some parents choose centers, I feel fortunate to have found a home setting that I feel totally comfortable with.
  • by K. Smith Location: Greenville on Feb 8, 2010 at 05:06 AM
    I agree with the first poster that family child care is the better choice; however it also depends on the needs of the family, and for one of the reasons the poster listed. Children in family child care are often cared for by the same person, which means one person is wearnag all the hats and most of the time, for the entire day, which could be anywhere from 6am to 6pm. Most parents don't take this into consideration when choosing family child care. There are some children that attend child care from open to close, which can cause stress and burnout for the one person caring for children all day. Parents whose children need child care for the entire day should probably consider a center because there are usually more teachers to share the resonisbilities and there are other staff members to do the numerous tasks one person is responsible for in a family child care home. But as wit anything else you must do your research and choose the setting that best meets your families needs.
  • by Another working mom Location: MHC on Feb 8, 2010 at 04:53 AM
    I also work, but unlike Mom of 6, I have always preferred center or church daycares. I'm sure there are plenty of excellent in-home daycares, but I went to one to interview the owner and she said several times she wished she could have more kids, but she was unable to have more. She said it enough times that I started to feel uncomfortable. Then the kicker was when she asked if my kids could call her "nana". My first thought was, "Why? So when you kidnap them, no one will suspect you if they're already calling you nana?" VERY WEIRD LADY. I know not all home daycares are like that, but this lady was so weird it really skewed my vision of home daycares. We have had exceptionally good experiences at center daycares. The NC DHHS website has a great child care research tool that is a good starting point for any parent who needs to research any daycare.
  • by Mom Location: NC on Feb 8, 2010 at 03:36 AM
    Im a mom of 6. I have used both homecare and commercial childcare and I choose home childcare every single time. Kids are sick less, paid a lot more attention to (more one on one attention) and they have the same person caring for them for long periods of time. A lot of turnover with caregivers. I ended up paying twice as much because of my kids getting sick 3 times more which mean't days off from work, prescriptions and so on. Commercial serves the purpose and is good too but home childcare IN MY opinion is very best. I should know.
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