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Monitoring the Childcare Situation

Whether or not your child seems comfortable with your childcare arrangement, it is necessary to keep tabs on the situation to ensure that it continues to be satisfactory. If your child is old enough to express him- or herself and relate things that have happened during the course of the day, talking to him or her usually is the best way to keep track of his or her progress in day care. However, if your child is too young to speak, or if you are not confident that he or she would be forthcoming about a problem, there are other ways to monitor the quality of the care he or she is receiving.

Visits to the Childcare Facility
A very effective way to oversee how your child is doing in day care is to maintain a presence there by making frequent visits. While scheduled visits are useful, unexpected drop-ins may give you a more realistic view of how your child's day care situation is working on a day-to-day basis. This is true whether you use in-home or outside childcare.

For some, this will not be such an easy proposition, because the day care facility may be located close to home but far from work.

You do not need to make each visit as though you are looking for a potential problem in the day care setting. Come in on a scheduled visit with a craft for your child's class or a book to read. If you are making a surprise visit, use the opportunity to give your child a big hug and let him or her know that you just wanted to see how he or she was doing. If your child is having problems adjusting to a new setting, you may wish to size things up from afar. If possible, observe your child through a classroom door or from down the hall.

A surprise visit to a family day care home may be a bit more difficult. Generally, there will not be any reception area—you will be trying to gain entrance into a private home. Of course, if you are discouraged by the day care provider from visiting at any time, you should consider whether this is the best situation for your child. Even if the caregiver has a reason for limiting visits by parents, such as avoiding disruption to the children's routine, such a policy is questionable.

Networking with Other Families
Particularly if you work far from the childcare, it makes good sense to get to know other families who may be able to take a look at your childcare arrangement while you are not available. If your child has a nanny or au pair, you might enlist the help of neighbors, or perhaps the families of your child's playmates, to occasionally check in at your house to see how things are going. If you are using a family day care or center, getting to know the parents of other children at the facility may be helpful.

To meet other day care families, be on the alert for things you might have in common with another family. If you are dropping off an infant around the same time another parent is leaving a baby of about the same age, try striking up a conversation with the parent about what your children may have in common—age, milestones, and so on.

Nanny Cams
Video surveillance systems have become more popular in the last decade as a means to keep tabs on children in in-home childcare settings. Hidden cameras can now be made that fit into any number of everyday house­hold items.

Although the name suggests otherwise, the nanny cam can be used for more than simply spying on your in-home caregiver. In fact, some day care centers now have their own secure surveillance systems, which can be accessed by parents during the day via the Internet. Using their computers at work, parents can view their child's room, activity rooms, or other areas.

The downside to surveillance in a day care center is the possibility that the video stream may be seen by unauthorized people. It is possible that video may be intercepted by third parties who have specialized electronic equipment for that purpose, or another parent may hand out the security password to a nonapproved person. To try to cut down on this potential problem, day care centers usually change and redistribute the password fairly often. In addition, these systems are typically set up so they do not record the goings-on at the center, but merely transmit for at-the-moment viewing. This way, there is no permanent image of the children.

Surveillance systems are an especially useful tool for parents whose work takes them far from the day care site. They also benefit the childcare provider, because they make the day care facility more attractive to potential clients. Surveillance can assist the parent/childcare provider relationship in general by helping to clear up any misunderstandings over the events of a particular day. For example, a child may be telling his or her parents that other children are bullying him or her at day care, when it is actually the child him- or herself who is the aggressor. Parents who are reluctant to assign any blame to their own children

If you do have in-home childcare, nanny cams can help you track your child's daily routine with the caregiver. A miniature camera by itself can cost less than $100; however, the cost can rise fairly rapidly if you add accessories. If the camera comes hidden in another object, it is more likely to start in the $200 range. The price goes up if you add wireless technology, monitors, recording equipment, and so on. If you wish to have the video transmitted by way of the Internet, you probably will have a nominal monthly charge for the service. Otherwise, you may need to purchase recording equipment so you can tape the activity for later viewing.

One thing you will need to decide is whether you will let your nanny or au pair know that she is being watched. If you choose not to tell her that you have a surveillance system and she finds out on her own, she will probably see the situation as a lack of trust on your part. This may seriously affect her relationship with your family. Of course, if you actually do not trust her, she probably should not be your childcare provider in the first place. Perhaps a reasonable solution might be to tell her that you have a camera in place, but it is for the purpose of staying connected with your child while you are at work.

If you do decide to secretly record, you need to check the laws of your state regarding the extent to which taping is legal. As a general rule, videotaping by hidden camera, without audio, is allowed in all states. Some states prohibit recording of sound. Be sure to seek legal advice in this area before purchasing recording equipment.

More on: Childcare

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Copyright © 2005 by Linda H. Connell. Excerpted from The Childcare Answer Book with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon.com.


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