Child care

Child care

Child care (or "childcare" or "babycare" or "daycare") means caring for and supervising child/children usually from 0–13 years of age. In the United States child care is increasingly referred to as early childhood education due to the understanding of the impact of early experiences of the developing child. Child care is a broad topic covering a wide spectrum of contexts, activities, social and cultural conventions, and institutions. The majority of child care institutions that are available require that child care providers have extensive training in first aid and are CPR certified. In addition, background checks, drug testing, and reference verification are normally a requirement.


Common types

It is traditional in Western society for children to be taken care of by parents or legal guardians. In families where children live with one or both of their parents, the childcare role may also be taken on by the extended family. In the absence of one or both parents and the extended family willing to care for the children, orphanages are a way of providing for children's care, housing, and schooling.

The two main types of child care options for employed parents needing childcare are centre-based care (including creches, daycare, and preschools) and home-based care (also known as nanny or family daycare). As well as these licensed options parents may also choose to find their own caregiver or arrange childcare exchanges/swaps with another family.[1]

In-home care typically is provided by nannies, au-pairs, or friends and family. The child is watched inside their or the child carer's home, reducing exposure to outside children and illnesses. Depending on the number of children in the home, the children utilizing in-home care enjoy the greatest amount of interaction with their caregiver, forming a close bond. There are no required licensing or background checks for in-home care, making parental vigilance essential in choosing an appropriate caregiver. Nanny and au-pair services provide certified caregivers and the cost of in-home care is the highest of childcare options per child, though a household with many children may find this the most convenient and affordable option.

At the same time, a nanny or au-pairs are not always the best methods of childcare. It confines the child into a world of their own. It keeps them from interacting with other children a lot of the time. As mentioned the caregivers do not need licenses or background checks so there is no way of telling if a person is really qualified or has a criminal background (unless you live in a country where there is an option of obtaining home-based care through a government licensed and funded agency). These things should be taken in consideration when making a choice.

Family child care is provided from a care giver's personal home, making the atmosphere most similar to a child's home.[2] State licensing requirements vary, so the parent should conduct careful interviews and home inspections, as well as complete a background check on the caregiver's license. Any complaints against the caregiver will be documented and available for public record. Family care (depending upon the relative levels of state subsidy for centre-based care) is generally the most affordable childcare option, and offers often greater flexibility in hours available for care. In addition, family care generally has a small ratio of children in care, allowing for more interaction between child and provider than would be had at a commercial care center.

Commercial care centers are open for set hours, and provide a standardized and regulated system of care for children. Parents may choose from a commercial care center close to their work, and some companies offer care at their facilities. Active children may thrive in the educational activities provided by a quality commercial care center, but according to the National Center for Early Development and Learning, children from low quality centers may be significantly less advanced in terms of vocabulary and reading skills.[1] Classes are usually largest in this type of care, ratios of children to adult caregivers will vary according to state licensing requirements.

Pre-school is often the term used to refer to child care centers that care primarily for 3 and 4 year old children. Preschool can be based in a center, family child care home or a public school. Head Start is a federally funded program for low income children ages 3 and 4 and their families. Similarly Early Head Start serves low income children birth to 3 years of age.[3]

Regardless of type of care chosen, a quality care provider should provide children with (a) light, bright and clean areas to play as well as separate sleeping and eating areas and (b) be the kind of person you can have confidence in leaving your child with.[4] Most western countries also have compulsory education during which the great majority of children are at school starting from five or six years of age. The school will act in loco parentis meaning "in lieu of parent supervision".

In many locales, government is responsible for monitoring the quality of care. For instance, in Scotland Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education is responsible for improving care and education for children from birth to eighteen. This is implemented by inspections carried out by HMIE itself or by other members of inspection and review teams. Inspection reports include feedback from staff and parents as well as the inspectors, aiming to provide parents and carers information to help them decide whether a particular child care setting is providing good quality child care and meeting government standards.[5]

In England Childcare is inspected and regulated by OFSTED (previously this was administered by Local Authority Social Services). Care for children under five is split into Childcare on Domestic Premises which is Childminding and Daycare. In the UK being a ‘Childminder’ is a protected title and can only be used by registered professionals. Registered Childminders are trained, insured and qualified in Paediatric First Aid. They comply/administer/work with The Early Years Foundation Stage EYFS and have the same responsibilities for education as nurseries and reception classes. They generally work from their own homes and are always self-employed setting their own terms and conditions. The basic numbers of children that childminders can care for is 6 children under 8 years of age; of these children, 3 maybe under 5 and of these 1 maybe under 1. These numbers include the childminders own children (although the childminder’s children will not be included be included n the childminding ‘Certificate’). Some childminders work with either childminding assistants or with co-childminders, which often increases the number of children that can be cared for and individual childminders can request a ‘variation’ which may increase the children that they care for particularly for ‘continuity of care’ or for twins. There is a professional body – The National Childminding Association NCMA which “Promotes and supports quality child-minding expertise” and provides information for Childminders and parents.

Effects on child development

For many, the use of paid childcare is a matter of choice with arguments on both sides about whether this is beneficial or harmful[6] to children.

The first few years of a child's life are important to form a basis for good education, morality, self-discipline and social integration. Consistency of approach, skills and qualifications of careers have been shown in many studies to improve the chances of a child reaching his or her full potential. ChildForum provides the following practical advice for parents when making their childcare programme decision: (1) Do not make a final decision too quickly. You may get a misleading impression if you base your decision on what the advertisement or the brochures say, or what you are told on the phone. (2) Have a trial period. If you are considering enrolling at a centre or home-based service have some short visits with your child before officially starting and stay with your child to observe. Also have some spontaneous/unscheduled visits, “We were just passing and thought we would pop in to say hi”. (3) If you are employing a nanny or caregiver in your own home ask the person to come for an hour or two over three to five days or to do some childcare so you can get a feel for if this person is a good fit for your child and for you. (4) If the childcare arrangement does not live up to your expectations or if you find it does not work out as well you had expected do not feel embarrassed or shy about withdrawing your child or asking for a change. If you think your child may be experiencing harm or is at risk discontinue using the childcare immediately. Put your child first and before any personal obligations to the teachers, nanny, or service.[7]

The choice of childcare can be extremely difficult, even traumatic for parents. Social scientists have recently started drawing on popular folktales such as urban legends in order to uncover some of the complex socio-psychological elements in the decision, which is often more protracted and involved for middle-class parents.[8] Here it is also possible to see the influence of older story-telling elements such as Grimm's Fairy Tales where children learn about the dangers of allowing strangers into the home.

For example, a recent study in Australia[9] concluded that centers run by corporate chains provided the lowest quality care when compared to community-based providers and independent private centers.

The value of unpaid child care

Parents and mothers especially spend a significant amount of time raising their children. These mothers nurture and develop their children into being functional members of society- hard work that is not motivated by monetary gain. For centuries it has been assumed that women will stay home and take care of the children while their husbands go out and work. In most cases, the husbands get all the credit for providing for the family. However, their homemaker wives deserve just as much credit for their care work. Caregivers do not receive monetary compensation and they must pay a ‘care-penalty[10].’

A care-penalty is the price one pays for doing care work for a family member. Care giving demands a lot out of an individual, and as a result there is a high opportunity cost. The opportunity cost can relate to both time and money. Instead of taking care of a family member, a caregiver could spend time working or performing more leisure activities. Care penalties are not strictly related to childcare- they can also refer to taking care of a sick family member, babysitting a younger sibling, or taking an elderly family member to his/her doctor’s appointments.

Studies have been done to get an annual salary estimate for a female caregiver. One reputable survey suggested that the value of a female caregiver’s work would be $117,867 per year[11]. The reason for the high salary is because mothers typically perform about 10 different job functions throughout the week. These job functions can include: cooking, cleaning, driving, and laundry among other duties. A nanny wouldn’t make nearly as much money, but they would be putting in fewer hours and performing fewer duties.

It is important to assess the value of caregivers because they are what truly make society function[12], and often times their work is under-appreciated . They prepare the next generation for school, work, and decision-making. A child’s entire future largely depends on how he/she was nurtured. Not only does the child depend on this care, but the schools and employers also depend on the childcare. The government also benefits because these children will eventually become taxpayers, congressmen, and voters. Eventually, they will be the ones running the country. The value of unpaid childcare is also an important figure in various legal entities. Expert witnesses (most often economists) are occasionally brought into court cases to give estimates on the value of unpaid labor. By giving estimation, the plaintiff or defendant can be fairly compensated for their labor.

Learning stories

Learning Stories are documents that are used by Carers and educators in childcare settings. They use a story- telling format instead of a traditional ‘observation’ report to document the different ways that young children learn, and capture the moment in greater detail and provide parents with a greater insight into the events that occur in their child’s time in childcare.

What they include

  • Story of the child’s progress
  • Pictures of the experiences (Optional)
  • The child’s strengths, interests and needs
  • Space for parent feedback



Plato, according to Elaine Hoffman Baruch, around 394 B.C., argued that a system of child care would free women to participate in society.[14]

See also


  1. ^ ChildForum Childcare Information
  2. ^ National Association of Family Child Care
  3. ^ Office of Head Start
  4. ^ ChildForum list of childcare caregiver qualities and characteristics
  5. ^ "Childproof Your Home!". Published by Published April 03, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-20. 
  6. ^ Daycare - Daycares Don't Care, How Can a Daycare Love?
  7. ^
  8. ^ Robin Croft (2006), Folklore, families and fear: understanding consumption decisions through the oral tradition, Journal of Marketing Management, 22:9/10, pp1053-1076, ISSN 0267-257X
  9. ^ 2006, Rush, The Australia Institute
  10. ^ Folbre, Nancy. The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values. New York: New, 2001
  11. ^ "Mom Salary Wizard?2010. Mother's Day Paycheck for Mom's Job." Web. <>
  12. ^ Folbre, Nancy. "Valuing Unpaid Work Matters, Especially for the Poor -" The Economy and the Economics of Everyday Life - Economix Blog - Web. <>.
  13. ^ Kearns, K, 2010. Birth to Big School. 2nd ed. Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Australia." Kate Ryan. 2006. Family Daycare Australia. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 20 May 11].
  14. ^ Schönpflug, Karin, Feminism, Economics and Utopia: Time Travelling Through Paradigms (Oxon/London: Routledge, 2008 (ISBN13 978-0-415-41784-6)), pp. 159–160 (author economist, Austrian Ministry of Finance, & lecturer, Univ. of Vienna), citing Rohrlich, R. & Elaine Hoffman Baruch, Women in Search of Utopia: Mavericks and Mythmakers (N.Y.: Schocken Books, 1984), and Plato, The Republic (ca. 394 B.C.).

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • child-care — [chīldker΄] adj. having to do with the care of children, specif., of preschool children whose parents are employed [a child care center] * * * child care or child·care (chīldʹkâr ) adj. Of, relating to, or providing care for children, especially… …   Universalium

  • child care — The supervision and nurturing of a child, including casual and informal services provided by a parent and more formal services provided by an organized child care center. Dictionary from West s Encyclopedia of American Law. 2005. child care …   Law dictionary

  • child care — ˈchild care , childcare noun [uncountable] the activity of looking after children while their parents are working: • The lack of affordable child care remains a significant barrier to employment for many women. • Companies should provide more… …   Financial and business terms

  • child-care — «CHYLD KAIR», adjective. U.S. of or for the care of preschool children, especially of working mothers; day care: »child care centers …   Useful english dictionary

  • child-care — [chīldker΄] adj. having to do with the care of children, specif., of preschool children whose parents are employed [a child care center] …   English World dictionary

  • Child care in the United Kingdom — is supported by a combination of rights at work, public sector provision and private companies. Child care is usually undertaken by the parents, and more often the mother who takes leave from employment. Early childhood education in a creche or… …   Wikipedia

  • Child care management software — also referred to as child care administrative software or daycare accounting software [1] is a term used to describe a unique category of business software designed specifically for use by child care centers, preschools and similar child oriented …   Wikipedia

  • Child Care & Early Education Research Connections — (Research Connections) is a joint project of the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) at Columbia University, the Child Care Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Inter university Consortium for Political… …   Wikipedia

  • Child Care Index — a list, maintained by the Department of Health, of people thought to be unsuitable to work with children that has been held to be legal and reasonable. The list is not published and contains material other than criminal convictions, such as… …   Law dictionary

  • Child care and development block grant — The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), also called the Child Care and Development Fund, is the primary source of United States federal funding for child care subsidies for low income working families and funds to improve child care… …   Wikipedia

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