Childcare Options: Who Will Care for Baby?

In today’s busy world, parents are working harder than ever to meet their obligations. And as working parents, they want to feel confident that their children are receiving the best care possible. Children receive care in a variety of settings including their homes, the homes of neighbours or relatives, and family or group childcare settings.

Each option has advantages and disadvantages. A parent’s choice is dependent upon lifestyle, budget, personal preference and available options in their location. Here is a rundown on the most popular types of childcare and their advantages and disadvantages.

Family Child Care

Family childcare programs are located in the caregiver’s home. The home-like, family-centered atmosphere provides an easy transition for a child departing home for the first time. The smaller group often allows for spontaneous and flexible programming and activities. Young children can form friendships with other children and are cared for by one or two consistent adults. The intimate care provided in this setting makes it possible for the caregiver to assist the child through various transitional development periods like toilet training and learning to drink from a cup.

Family childcare programs that are not licensed through the Provincial Community Care Facility Act and Child Care Licensing Regulation can provide care for up to two children (unrelated to the caregiver). Licensed family childcare programs can provide care for up to five children (plus two of school age) aged from infancy to 12 years.

The cost of this type of care ranges from $500 to $800 per month depending on the age of the child, location of the program, qualifications of the caregiver and whether or not the facility is licensed.

The primary disadvantages of this type of care can be the restricted hours and the preparation, time and energy that are required in transporting the child to and from the caregiver’s home. Some parents also find the caregiver-to-child ratio too high for an infant.

Group Day Care

There are two categories of group day care programs:
a) group day care for children aged under 36 months and
b) group day care for children aged from 30 months to school age.

Different licensing requirements exist for the two categories. Group daycare centre hours are sometimes up to 13 hours a day, offering parents more flexibility for drop-off and pick-up times. Staff are required to have training in Early Childhood Education from an approved institution or college.

These centres often offer an excellent preschool education program thus improving the transition from day care to elementary school. If a centre is located near an elementary school it will often offer drop-off and pick-up service for children needing half-day care while enrolled in kindergarten. Full-time care in this type of facility will cost between $600 to $950 per month.

The disadvantage to this type of care is that some children have a difficult time adapting to the larger environment of a group daycare. Also children with special needs or behavioural problems sometimes need more specialized care. As with family childcare programs, group day care may not be economical when two children from the same family require care.

Nannies

A nanny provides personalized care in a child’s own home. She will involve them in creative play, learning, stimulation and socialization. Nannies will engage in light housework. A nanny/housekeeper, although primarily responsible for child care, will also engage in unrelated household duties. There are many advantages to employing a nanny, including convenience and the upkeep of the family home. Children cared for in their own home are less likely to become sick, due to the reduced risk of communicable disease. The nanny has the freedom to take the children to activities outside the home and is able to provide more individual time to each child.

The disadvantage for many is economic. The cost of a nanny can be beyond the means of working families: between $1300 and $2500 per month. The salary range is dependent upon the job description and the nanny’s experience. Even if parents can afford a live-in overseas nanny, they may not be able to provide the accommodation required, or may not feel comfortable having someone outside their family living in their home.

Nanny Sharing

Here’s one way to reduce the cost. A nanny can work for two families at the same time (nanny sharing) thus lowering the cost to each family. This can be a preferred alternative for parents with an infant, as the child receives more personalized care than in a family or group childcare environment. And the cost, although more than daycare, is significantly less than hiring a nanny for one child.

The main disadvantage to nanny sharing is that it can be tricky for two families to arrange a workable situation. Employers should be sure they agree on a reasonable work schedule, vacation dates and monetary division of statutory holidays.

When searching for appropriate childcare it is important to research all the alternatives. Your final choice will depend upon your lifestyle, budget, preferences and the available options in your neighbourhood. A good place to start looking is the childcare resource and referral programs in the Lower Mainland. They are an excellent resource for both parents and caregivers.