Cons: Children tend to have more illnesses at an early age because of a higher exposure to germs brought into the day- care center by other children. The center’s schedule may not be very flexible, and the environment may be overstimulating for some babies.
Family Day Care
How it works: Care is provided by a nonrelative in a private residence other than the child’s home.
Cost range: The average annual cost for a 1-year-old in Conway/Springdale, Ark., is $4,680; in Boston, it’s $7,726.
What to look for: According to Zero to Three guidelines, family day-care homes with mixed ages should not have more than two children younger than 2 years in a single group. The same standards as center-based care apply here, but fewer may be instituted. The National Association for Family Child Care gives accreditation to providers who have met or exceeded local and national requirements (see “Find Out More” below).
Pros: Children enjoy a homey environment; there are mixed ages and usually a smaller number of children than in center-based care.
Cons: There is little or no daily oversight of the caregiver(s). Parents need to have a backup plan in place if there is only one caregiver and he or she falls ill.
How it works: An individual other than a parent or relative cares for your child in your home.
Cost range: The cost varies, depending on the experience and education of the nanny. The national average ranges from $300 to $1,000 a week, according to Pat Cascio, president of the International Nanny Association.
What to look for: Whether you use an agency or do the search yourself, screening of each candidate should include a lengthy interview, professional and personal reference checks, checks on prior employment, background checks (including a check with the police and the Department of Motor Vehicles) and verification of the legal right to work. When you meet each candidate, ask about her job expectations and approach to child development and discipline. Also consider if your personalities are compatible.
Pros: Your baby has individual attention in a familiar, quiet environment; less exposure to other kids’ germs may mean your child gets sick less often.
Cons: The nanny spends the day alone and is largely unsupervised by you or your spouse; if she gets sick, you will need to have a backup plan in place; paperwork must be filled out for tax and Social Security payments; the overall expense can be very high.