There’s no question about it. We live in an age where people access information and services via technology. Parents are no different. So I commend early child care programs that utilize technology to reach parents where they are. Most promote their services online and use the web to communicate via social media. Since I value thinking outside the box, an ad I saw recently jumped off the screen at me. A child care center was advertising a deal on preschool though Groupon… this I had to see!
The program that chose this modern method of advertising did many things well:
- Highlighted some of the benefits of quality child care, including activities that enhance early development
- Offered parents options to meet their financial and scheduling needs
- Painted a picture of what a child’s day might look like (activities, meals, etc.)
- Provided an overview of their philosophy and educational programs along with locations
- Included an “Ask a Question” link with the advertisement
The last item listed was the one I felt best about as a parent. Curious to learn what questions parents had, I clicked on the link and found they didn’t ask the same things I would have. I wondered, at first, why hadn’t anyone asked about touring the program before taking advantage of the deal, or inquired about the quality of the care and education their child would receive while there? Is it that they didn’t care, or is it that they didn’t know to ask? Having been there myself, I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.
When I needed child care for the first time, I was in a major state of transition. I was newly single, returning to the workforce after staying home for three years and broke. Though a teacher for a decade, I knew virtually nothing about child care and was terrified. So much so that I switched careers and became a center director. That way I knew for sure what was going on with my children! My foray into the early childhood field was supposed to be temporary, but six years later, my job is to share my experience in order to help other parents move out of that scary unknown child care place into a place of being educated, equipped and empowered.
If only I’d known back then what I know now! In sharing what I now know, I use this CARE acronym to summarize how parents can get started:
Contact 4C. You’ll learn what to look for in a quality setting, what questions to ask and whether you may be eligible for financial assistance. 4C does not make recommendations, but we do offer free referrals. There are three ways we can help you find child care.
Ask questions. What type of care works best for your family’s needs and schedule? Ask about vacancies, ages served, cost, location, hours and days of operation. And don’t forget to ask the six questions for providers:
- What training have caregivers received on how to care for children?
- How will my child learn and grow?
- What shows it’s a healthy and safe place?
- How is family involvement encouraged?
- Is this program quality-rated, accredited or working toward it?
- How well is the program managed?
Research. Visit and interview two or three places. Spend about one hour at each program while children are there. Observe the program in action.
Evaluate. Ask for and check references. Evaluate each program using 4C checklists. Keep in mind what is best for your child and family’s needs!
The child care advertisement that caught my eye is really no different than a friend referring you to a center. In either case, you should educate yourself on what to look for in a quality setting and then equip yourself with the information to make the best decision. Making these choices isn’t always easy, but it’s always important, so a discount or freebie shouldn’t cause you to lower your standards when weighing your options.
If you follow the suggested tips above, you’ll feel empowered to select the best possible care and education for your child, regardless of its cost.
Now that’s a good deal.