Finding the right care for children is one of the most difficult tasks a parent faces today. With the shift towards single parenting and two income households, parents are increasingly being confronted with the need to find a reliable child care provider. Here is a concise overview of this challenging task.
Types of Child Care
There are 5 basic types of childcare offered in New York State:
Group day care facilities: centers that care for 7 or more children in an institutional setting.
Group family day care: care of 6-12 children in the home of an unrelated family.
Family day care: care of 3-6 children in the home of an unrelated family.
School age program: care provided on a regular basis to 7 or more children between the ages of 6 and 13.
In-home care: care that takes place in your own home.
Child Care Service Registration
In New York, all child care services are regulated by two agencies, the New York State Department of Family Assistance, and the New York City Department of Health. In areas surrounding New York City, any location wishing to provide child care to six or more children, who are up to 6 years of age, must obtain a permit from the New York State Department of Family Assistance. In New York City, permits are issued by the New York City Department of Health and must be displayed in an open area where anyone may view them.
The New York City permit and the New York State registration both authorize child care services to provide care in accordance with New York State regulations. Neither the registration nor the permit are transferable if the child care facility moves to a new location or if a new child care facility moves to a new location or if a new child care provider takes charge. In both instances, a new registration or permit must be obtained. The day care provider should provide proof of compliance with regulations upon request. The Better Business Bureau urges parents to make sure that the child care service they choose is authorized by the appropriate agency.
Choosing a Child Care Provider
A day care program should allow children to learn and play in a healthy, secure, and friendly environment. The following tips are recommended when researching a childcare facility:
Relatives, friends, and neighbors may be able to recommend day care centers or tell you which to avoid, based on their own experiences. Your family doctor, pediatrician, parents groups, and local and parent newspapers may be a good place to begin your research.
There are also placement agencies available to help with a search for in-home care.
Paying for Child Care
Call the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) Vacancy Information number in your borough to find out if you are eligible for publicly funded day care services.
There are many government programs available to aid parents seeking care for their children. The Agency for Child Development (ACD) offers publicly subsidized childcare. You must schedule an appointment to determine eligibility. To contact ACD call (718) FOR-KIDS.
Child Care, Inc. is available to help with the application process. Call (212) 929-4999.
Talk to your accountant or contact the IRS at (800) 829-3676 about tax credits and deductions for childcare.
Visit several centers and compare the types and quality of services available. Always go to see a center before registering your child, no matter how highly the center was recommended. Tour the entire facility.
Talk to the director, and visit classes, especially the ones your child will be in. You may want to make a list of questions in advance. The New York City Department of Health, Bureau of Day Care, Careguide.com, and Zero To Three provide a list of possible questions on their web sites (listed on page 6).
Check the Facility
Observe the caregiver(s) with children. Do they react enthusiastically to children’s discoveries and accomplishments? Do they respond quickly when a child is hurt or unhappy?
Take notes during your observations so you can refer back to them later. Look at the center’s physical attributes. Check for cleanliness. Is the center decorated in a manner that is appealing to children? Is it colorful? Is there children’s art displayed? The following guidelines are some examples of what to look for during an inspection of a facility:
Building and Equipment
Safety and Fire Protection
Parents have the right to unlimited access to their children at any time during operational hours, as well as the written records concerning their children except where prohibited by law. Parents also have the right to inspect the childcare facility at any time during operational hours.
A child care center may not refuse to admit a child because the child has been diagnosed as having HIV or AIDS. However, all children must receive a health examination within 90 days prior to admission by a physician, which states that the child may participate in a childcare program.
A child care center may not refuse to admit a disabled child who would otherwise be eligible for admission, if the existing premises or program may accommodate the child. However, a non-public childcare provider is not required to incur additional expenses to modify the premises or program.
Making a Decision
Compare what you saw during your visits. The most important aspect of child care is the staff. Think about your feelings when you visited each center. Do the attitudes of the provider match your own attitudes about childcare? Make sure that you have a full understanding of the caregiver’s disciplinary procedures.
Be sure that the center you choose has a current license and meets your needs for location, hours, and cost.
Ask yourself: Would I feel comfortable leaving my child at the center? Trust your instincts. You are the best judge of what your child needs.
After you have enlisted a childcare service, listen to what your child tells you about the program. Observe your child’s behavior. Keep in contact with other parents to find out how their children are doing and how they feel about the program.
Be sure to ask for feedback from the child care provider about how your child is doing. Pay special attention to how encouraging the child care provider is about talking with you and answering your questions.
Where to File a Complaint
To file a complaint against a child care center located within the five boroughs of New York City, also contact the New York City Department of Health, Bureau of Day Care at (212) 676-2444 or (800) 732-5207.
To file a complaint against a day care service outside New York City, contact:
Office of Children and Family Services, Bureau of Early Childhood Services - Westchester County: (914) 376-8810
Office of Children and Family Services, Bureau of Early Childhood Services - Nassau and Suffolk Counties: (516) 952-4900
To report abuse, call the New York State Child Abuse Hotline: (800) 342-3720
Where to Get Additional Information
The New York City Department of Health, Bureau of Day Care keeps a list of day care centers that have had their permit revoked, rejected, terminated or suspended within New York City. This information can be obtained by contacting:
Secretary to the Department
New York City Department of Health
Bureau of Day Care
125 Worth Street, Room 609-A
New York, NY 10013
The New York City Department of Health and the New York State Department of Family Assistance, Office of Children and family Services will mail upon request, information to help educate parents on how to choose a child care program that is right for their child. This information includes, but is not limited to, the standard regulations applied for admissions; building and equipment; child abuse; discipline; fire protection; health; nutrition; education and recreational programs; safety and sanitation. To request this information contact one of the following offices:
Bronx/Manhattan Day Care Borough Office
2 Lafayette Street/ 22nd Floor
New York, NY 10007
Brooklyn/Staten Island Day Care Borough Office
151 Maujer Street
Brooklyn, NY 11221
Queens Day Care Borough Office
120-34 Queens Blvd
4th Floor/Rooms 409-410
Kew Gardens, NY 11415
Information can also be obtained by accessing the New York City Department of Health at http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/home/home.shtml and the New York State Department of Family Assistance at http://ocfs.ny.gov/main/.
For more information on day care centers outside of the New York City area, contact the New York State Department of Family Assistance, Office of Children and Family Services at:
Yonkers Regional Office
(Serving the counties of Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester)
Long Island Regional Office
For more information on research and referrals:
Child Care Council of Westchester
(914) 761-3456, ext. 102
Child Care Council of Nassau County
(516) 358-9250 ext. 11
Child Care Council of Suffolk County
Child Care, Inc.
275 Seventh Ave.
New York, NY 10001
General Information: (212) 929-7604 x 3010, x 3016
Resource and Referral: (212) 929-4999
Zero To Three
National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families
200 M Street, NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20005
Child Care Aware
1319 F Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20004
National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Childcare
Campus Mail Stop F541
PO Box 6508
Aurora, Co 80045-0508
739 Bryant Street
San Francisco, CA 94107