Monitoring your child's contact with his or her surroundings
How can you be a careful monitor? This next example may help you decide. As you read, think about these questions:
- Is the parent being an active monitor?
- Is she being flexible?
- Does she know who the child is spending time with or what the child is doing when she's not there?
- How might you handle a similar situation with your child?
||Maria and Luis (Age 9 Months)
What's the Story?
Maria is taking her son, Luis, to his first morning of day care. She signed up with the center several months ago, because it had the best location, and visited the center once during the last month. Maria knows that state law requires that day care centers have a three-to-one ratio for children under one year of age—that is, one day care staff person will care for her Luis and only two other children his age. She feels better knowing he will get more personalized care throughout the day. When Maria calls the center during the day to see how Luis is doing, the staff person only replies with, "He's fine." When she picks up Luis after work, the staff person doesn't say very much about his day and seems to shuffle mother and child out the door. Maria notices that Luis is kind of cranky and wonders what his day was really like.
It took me a long time to decide whether or not I was going to put Luis into day care. It's even harder now to know whether I made the right decision. It's frustrating not knowing what is going on in my baby's day. How can I know that he's being cared for when I can't be there?
What's the Point?
The best way to make sure Luis gets the care Maria wants him to have is to know as much about the day care center and the people who work there as possible. Maria is her son's best defense against poor care, but only if she is actively monitoring his surroundings. Some day care centers provide a daily diary of every child's day, when they fed the baby, when they changed the baby, who played with the baby, and what they played with. If Maria had asked more questions about the daily routine of the center when she went for her visit, she could've found out whether the center offered that type of report. If she knew the center did not keep a diary for each child, she could have made other arrangements for Luis at a center that did offer the daily report.
If you decide to place your child into day care, learn as much as you can about the center and its workers before you take your child there. Decide what features you must have in a day care center. You may want your child to get a lot of one-on-one attention; or you may want your child to be around kids the same age so that he or she can build social skills. You may want a report of what happens to your child throughout the day. Remember, though, that more attentive care often costs more than the alternatives.
Once you know what you want, find a place that meets all your needs. Visit the center before signing any papers or giving any money. If you can, make one or two unannounced visits to the center, so that you can see how well it runs on a normal day. Contact your local licensing agency to make sure the center has all of the required licenses and permits; find out if there have been any problems reported for the center or its employees. You can also ask the day care center staff for references, which allows you to check their work histories. The more work you do upfront, the more pleased you will be with the care your child receives.