Cons: Inflexible schedule; less one-on-one attention; children may get sick more often.
Family-based day care is provided in a private home.
What to look for: The same general tips apply as for center-based care. Other points: Since licensing requirements are minimal in many states, carefully check the safety of the home. Make sure you get references and a background check of the provider from your local police department and police agencies of any other states of residency. Also check for licensing: Accreditation by the National Association for Family Child Care means the home meets standards for safety, cleanliness and quality.
Pros: Homey feel; mixed ages of children; flexible hours; less expensive than one-on-one or center-based care.
Cons: Backup needed if provider is sick; need to be aware of what’s going on at the home.
Nannies care for your child either as live-in or live-out help.
How to find a nanny: Agencies supply candidates, run background checks and verify references. You can also conduct a search yourself by advertising in the newspaper or relying on word of mouth.
For families searching for a nanny on their own, Becky Kavanagh, president of the International Nanny Association in Haddonfield, N.J., recommends checking six references (including character references), doing a background and driver-license check (contact the Department of Motor Vehicles for the latter), and asking how long prior assignments lasted (one to two years indicates stability).
However you find her, your nanny should be a U.S. citizen or legal resident with a green card (a registration card that grants a non-resident permission to reside and work in the United States). Also note that you’ll need to deduct Social Security taxes and report her wages to the Internal Revenue Service.
Pros: One-on-one attention; familiar surroundings; flexible hours.
Cons: Expensive; lots of paperwork; lack of socialization with other kids; backup necessary if nanny is sick.
Au pairs come from around the world, are placed by agencies that prescreen applicants and provide up to 45 hours of child care a week while living in your home.
What to look for: Since you’ll only be able to interview candidates on the phone, be honest about your expectations, and ask about theirs. Also ask about their experience with children, as well as their child-care philosophy and any safety training they have had.