Importance of Good Family Child Care
An Essay by
Director, The Soho Center
us comes to the child care field with our own personality, background,
and life experience. And each of us has to figure out many
about children, parents, business, and ourselves in order to
provide quality child care.
Here's my story and some of my
in the child care field began over 40 years ago. I
worked briefly in Head
Start, became a family child care provider for toddlers and
and then founded and directed the largest early childhood program in
York City for 17 years (with programs for infants through
I established several child care centers (including for the United
organized after-school enrichment programs, taught parent education
trained teachers, led numerous workshops for family child care
offered providers a range of child care-related services, and developed
child-related media and print materials for providers, parents, and
care organizations nationwide.
As a result,
I look at the child care field from a lot of vantage points.
some of what I see.
"family life" has changed for so many children in unfortunate ways.
and more children are entering full-time child care (and at an earlier
age). And our society seems too often to accept declining
and lowered expectations as the norm. I am saddened (but not
that national research shows that most young children in this country
are getting inadequate care and attention in child care
centers and family
child care homes. So many children are failing to form
and to learn what they need to learn to be ready to start school
are enormous. From personal experience, I know how hard it is
run a quality child care program each and every day for every
I also know it can be done and must be done - for a handful
at a time - by every child care provider who cares. Since the
of children in child care in America are in family child care, each
of these children who get quality care adds up and makes a
why family child care providers like you are so important.
and sincere respect for your complex job of being a provider, I offer
a handful of suggestions for providing quality child care.
Your State Regulations
on the USDA Child Care Food Program
Child care codes reflect basic, minimum standards - mostly to help
ensure children's health and safety (and also so children of different
ages get a reasonable amount of attention and the size of the group is
manageable). If you've met your state regulations (and gotten
registered or licensed), you've taken an important step in the right
Now, hopefully, you'll keep improving different aspects of your program
and do even more than the minimum standards require. If
regulated, call your state's Department of Social Services and they'll
tell you how to get started. Thousands of providers in every state have
successfully gotten regulated. And you can too!
Care of Business
No matter what your family income, the Food Program pays you to
feed kids nutritious meals and snacks. It's part of the
School Lunch Act. If you've met your state's regulations, you're
to be on it. You'll get nutrition education and money each month to
pay for healthy food for the kids in your care. There are
providers (of all income levels) nationwide who have joined the Food
They know how important and helpful it is to get that extra
each month - to feed kids well, to keep their rates affordable, and to
earn enough to stay in business. Kids get better food, and
a check each month.
If you're on the Food Program, stay on it!
Even with various legislative changes, you'll still come out
if you're not on the Food Program, join! Call the USDA's
Child Nutrition Program at 1-703-305-2600 to learn how. It's
Use of Available Resources
You're running a home-based busines, and it's important to learn about
record-keeping and all your allowable tax
By doing things right, you'll be legal with the IRS and keep more
your hard-earned money when tax time comes around. What else
you do? Act like a professional. Get business
your services, and have written parent contracts.
(Check out the Soho Center's DVD, The Business of Family Child
Care for some great tips. For more information, call
the Soho Center at 540-923-5012 or Click Here.)
There are many free and low-cost resources to help you run a quality
child care program. Unfortunately, most providers - even
those who have been in the child care field five years or more - don't
know about these available resources. That's why we've
compiled the National Child Care Resource Directory, now in its 5th
Edition. (You can get a copy for a very modest price from the Soho
Center. For more information, call the Soho Center at
540-923-5012 or Click Here.)
No one knows everything about children and child care.
you're a parent or a grandparent, a new provider or very
there's always more to learn. Whenever you can, attend
training sessions on infant-child CPR, child development,
health and safety, business issues, you-name-it. Read books,
magazine articles, and newsletters about children and child
Meet other providers at training sessions and by joining a child care
(You're in the same profession, face many similar situations, and have
a lot of practical information to share with each other.)
Each day, learn from your experiences.
Think about what works
and what doesn't. Notice what children are doing, saying,
and needing. Whenever possible, ask yourself (and others)
- "What can I do to make my
program even better?"
- "What else can I do for each child?"
- "How can I best communicate with
parents and keep
Each of us has a lot to offer -
if only we would. And each of us has a lot to gain when we
Please remember; what you do is important - so make it the best that
You're not a babysitter. You're one of the most important
people in the world to the children in your care. Nowadays,
young children spend the bulk of their waking hours in child
They depend on providers like you - along with their parents - to keep
them healthy and safe and to help them learn everything they need to
Although it's a big responsibility, it's a wonderful opportunity to
a difference in children's lives. Good child care providers
to be good teachers - helping others learn, want to learn, feel capable
of learning. As a provider, you can be a good teacher for
in your care. You can also be a good teacher for parents and
providers - sharing what you know.