Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
Whether it is a financial necessity or personal choice, many parents decide to go back to work after having a baby, or when school starts up again in the fall. One of the most important things you need to do is evaluate the many care options before going back to the grind.
Looking at all the different choices can take some time. Making a list of the benefits and costs of child care will be a good way to start, then you will be ready to hit the road and appraise the possibilities in person — there is no better way to see which environment best suits your family.
Of the choices available to parents today are the following:
There are many factors to consider before deciding on any of these, including cost, flexibility, safety, social interaction and personalized attention.
Child care centers
Benefits of child care centers include social interaction with other children and a structured, consistent environment geared toward encouraging independence and early learning. Licensed centers must also undergo rigorous health and safety inspections, as well as minimum adult/child ratio rules.
According to the NH Department of Health and Human Services, there are approximately 1,200 licensed child-care centers across the state.
The cost of a child attending a child care center can be overwhelming for some families (see chart). But, if parents’ combined income can cover these costs, a child care center may be worth the money.
The most expensive option for child care -- in-home care -- can cost several hundred dollars per week, depending on the hours a nanny works, her experience, the number of children in the family and location, as the cost of living varies from town to town.
Hiring a nanny also requires families to pay a nanny tax, because technically parents become employers.
Nannies provide some benefits that child care centers do not, however. Flexibility is one, especially if parents have unpredictable work schedules. Also, children will be able to stay in the comfort of their own homes, perhaps continue to have play dates with friends in the neighborhood and receive individualized attention from an adult.
Some of the disadvantages (aside from cost) include the need to seek alternate care if the nanny is ill or cannot get there due to other unforeseen circumstances.
Similar to a child-care center, home child care is set up for a group of children, and each family has to drop off and pick up their own.
There are some differences in a child care that is run out of someone’s house, versus care in a center. First, cost of home care is usually cheaper. Parents may be able to find a home child-care situation that costs about half of what they would pay at a child-care facility.
Also, children are cared for in a home environment, which may seem more comfortable and nurturing for them. It is also possible to negotiate flexible care hours.
If a family decides on a home care option for their child, they should pay close attention to the health and safety of the location.
Parents who are lucky enough to have close friends or relatives available nearby may consider neighbor/relative child care.
Children immediately feel more comfortable with a grandparent or neighbor they already know. Friends and relatives will also love and care for children they know with vested interest. This option can be cheap and offer the most flexibility of any other child-care option.
That being said, problems can arise by “employing” a friend or relative to care for your child. For one, compensation can be a very sticky issue. Relatives may downright refuse any kind of payment, but because they are being inconvenienced to an extent, some form of payment should be offered even if it is in the form of gift certificates or other thoughtful presents.
Once your child hits school age, it is a matter of finding a child-care situation before school starts (if necessary), and after school ends until parents can get home from work.
Many elementary schools offer before- and after-care programs. These are very convenient for working parents because children can stay in their school environment without having to travel elsewhere.
A word of warning: These child-care options often fill up quickly. The important thing for parents is to know if before- and after-care is necessary before the child starts school, and get on the waiting list as soon as possible.
Arrange for a neighbor or relative to care for your child as a back-up plan, or until a space becomes available.
Last updated by Morgen Thiboult Mar 31, 2011.