Different families have different desires and needs for their child care programs. In Indiana, you can find safe, high-quality programs in homes, centers, schools, and faith-based early learning settings. Families may find personal pros and cons for each setting; however, understanding how to identify quality and knowing program safety requirements will help you make the best decision for your family.
In the state of Indiana, high-quality is determined by Indiana’s Quality and Improvement Rating System, Paths to QUALITY. Because this is a voluntary program for child care programs, it is important for families to know how to look for and ask about quality.
To shine a spotlight on quality family home child care programs, we turned to our very own program engagement specialists, Michelle Terry and Lucy Intriago.
What does quality look like in a family home child care?
Quality can take many forms. First, families should know that there are different types of family child care homes. Some caregivers live in the home in which they provide care. Other caregivers will use a home to provide care but do not live in that home. If you are unsure, do not hesitate to ask the caregiver during the tour. No matter the type of home, here are some signs of quality that you should see:
The home is an intentional place of learning.
The materials are age- and developmentally-appropriate. The environment is organized and structured for play. You will see activities set up for the different age-levels present. When asked, the caregiver can provide a curriculum that aligns to the Indiana Early Learning Foundations, and lesson plans that show details of learning.
There is structure in the day.
Young children thrive with routines. While child-centered free play is critical, you and your child should be able to clearly see the daily routine (e.g. breakfast, centers, story time, snack, outside, etc.)
They meet all health and safety requirements.
When touring a program, print and take this child care program health and safety checklist. The answer to all the questions should be yes to meet basic health and safety requirements.
The staff completes professional development.
The staff should have foundational training in health and safety, first aid, CPR, and safe sleep. Also, all licensed programs are required to have staff with a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential within three years of becoming licensed. You can also ask about their experiences and qualifications for working with young children, and how they seek out professional development opportunities.
They use technology appropriately.
A quality program may use technology (e.g. iPad, TV, computer). Ask yourself and the caregiver, “What is the intention of using this device?” Is it used as a tool to enhance learning? Or are they just using it to fill time or replace learning activities?
Diverse families and children are represented.
In a high-quality program, you will see all families and children represented in the home. Think about questions like:
- Are family photographs hung so the children can see them?
- How is the home connected within the community?
- Is my child represented on the bookshelf?
What are the benefits of a family home child care?
Families seek out family home child care programs for different reasons, but here are just a few benefits!
- Family home child care programs are often more affordable.
- Homes tend to be smaller. They have less children in the care and sometimes higher adult-child ratios.
- Homes provide a close-knit community. There are more opportunities to build relationships.
- The caregiver relationship and the physical space of a home can feel like an extension of the family.
- There are diverse learning opportunities in homes that you may pay extra for at a center. For example, a caregiver may speak multiple languages and naturally incorporate that into their program.
- Homes can be more accommodating for families with multiple young children and siblings are not often separated by class and age.
- Learning takes place in a multi-age setting. This means children of all ages learn alongside each other. The older children can be helpers and modeling learning to the younger children.
- A family home child care provides families and their children with consistency. There are less staff transitions throughout the day and over the years.
What does safety look like specifically in a family home child care?
In home environments, it is critical that the spaces where your child is learning, playing, eating, and sleeping are conducive to a child care program and meet state requirements. Think about your own home. Do they have soft corners on tables, safety outlets, gates on stairs, and a fence around the playground? You will also want to consider the cleanliness of the home. It is appropriate to ask during a tour, “How do you manage cleanliness?” They should be able to clearly share a cleaning schedule and routine.
Policies and plans are important to safety. Families should know all visitors that are allowed into the home program. Staff, family members, volunteers, and children will all have the appropriate paperwork completed and on file at the program. Lastly, there should be emergency procedures in place for events such as fire and severe weather.
Still wondering if a family child care home is right for you?
As you are considering the broad spectrum of available child care options for your family, Child Care Answers has a number of ways for you to learn more:
- Explore the rest of our website to understand more about each of the individual types of care.
- Connect with our family specialists for free at bit.ly/ccafamilies to discuss more ideas or to serve as a sounding board for your family’s particular situation.
- If you think that supports beyond child care will assist you in being able to better budget for child care tuition, we can help with that too. Fill out a self-assessment at brighterfuturesin.findhelp.com. Your answers will help inform our work as a navigator to connect you to additional community supports.