The skinny from the perspective of a child care professional and Licensing Officer for childcare regulations
THE FIRST 100 DAYS OF LIFE:
EARLY CHILDHOOD AND THE IMPORTANCE OF PROPER CARE
Every parent looks at their new baby with hopes, dreams and ambitions for success stories. Even as a new mother holds her newborn for the first time, she looks in his or her eyes and starts to plan their future. Perhaps she envisions her child as a hockey player, or scientist, or piano player. Perhaps she sees what her child will be like in school. She knows the values and lessons that she will teach her child as a parent, and before the child leaves the hospital, there are already expectations and benchmarks that she has set up for the infant, and how they will grow up in the family that has been blessed with such a precious gift.
Then, life begins. The first year, if you are lucky, you have the gift of raising the baby with good nutrition, watching the milestones of the first year; the first smile, the first tooth, the first time the baby rolls over on his tummy. Each moment captured in photos, that are shared with family and friends, and each moment is a proud one.
After the year is finished and mommy goes back to work, is when the important decisions and the search for child care begins. Where to take your precious one for 8 hours per day, is in the forefront of your mind. Who can you trust to ensure that your child is safe, loved and in a healthy environment? Do you choose a daycare facility? Or a dayhome at residence of someone you don’t know? This decision is much more crucial to the child’s future than any parent understands, until they all experience this stage of life together.
As an early childhood educator, and as a licensing officer that inspects, approves and licenses child care programs, I cannot stress enough how important the early years of your baby’s life in child care are! I spend my days driving around to daycare centres, conducting routine unannounced inspections and I have seen some things. I have seen many amazing things and I have seen some unimaginably horrible things.
Parents need to be educated on the world of child care, what to look for in the building, how to interview the staff who would care for your baby, and how they communicate with you about your child’s day and how they handle situations that you would not feel comfortable with. Your baby suddenly goes from being at home with mommy to beginning a life of social networking with other children, new faces, new smells, new sights and a new beginning. Who are your child’s next relationships after a year with you? What type of human being are you leaving him with and what will they teach your child in the years of crucial brain development?
Some parents take the dayhome approach. Dayhomes are houses that people typically have their own children in, who choose to work at home looking after other children. Parents need to be informed of the circumstances with these homes:
1) If your child cannot speak, they cannot tell you what has happened to them all day
2) There are no witnesses of anything that transpires during the day
3) Some day homes are “approved” which means that they are hired by an agency that has been Licensed and is required to follow Government driven regulations.
4)Most day homes are illegal, in the eyes of the Government, not regulated and not always reported as a business
5) Even though there is a maximum on how many children can be in care, many day home operators will take on as many as 25 children.Dayhomes in Alberta are only allowed 6 children plus the provider’s own, unless the provider signs on with an agency. Under an agency they are only allowed 6 children, including their own.
6) Statistically there are more complaints and reports on dayhomes than there are on daycares regarding the safety of children.
7) It is extremely hard to track dayhomes as they are not on the “radar” unless a complaint is made
8) You need to inspect, interview and make sure you are ALWAYS allowed to enter the house, no matter when, to see how your child is doing. Some dayhome operators will only allow parents as far as the porch, or the bottom of the stairs to drop off children. This is a red flag!
Daycares, in my professional opinion are always the best option, provided you have met with the staff, have checked out the facility and are extremely comfortable with how they treat other children in your presence. Make sure to spend time in the program, watching what the children do, how they play, if there are any major conflicts that the staff don’t step in to help resolve. Check the menu of food that they offer (if they offer food), inspect the diapering areas, and ask about policies. Never feel like you are imposing as a perspective parent. Only YOU know what is right for your baby and what makes you feel uneasy.
1) Always have more than one adult-Always witnesses
2). If your child cannot speak, you can ask the program staff what the child has been up to, and know that the staff keep each other accountable, as they spend the day together with your child. Communicate with your child’s workers and ensure you can speak freely about your child. You shouldn’t have to “dig” for information.
3) The program is required by law to follow Government Regulations, so if you observe something that is questionable, they are held responsible and bound by the Regulations
4) Child care program are required to follow their Approved plan. The Program Plan (in Alberta) is basically a handbook that is created by the program following a government template. This Program Plan communicates how they program runs, what the policies of staff and families are, and how they will meet the criteria of Regulations.
5) Daycare can access subsidy (in some areas) in order to assist parents in paying fees
6) Daycare staff are required to have education benchmarks! There is always a requirement for staff to be certified at varying levels of early childhood education. It’s peace of mind to parents to know that childcare staff at least, has to have educational background of how to interact with children, how to program a schedule for them and what is required of them when molding our baby’s minds. The first 100 days of a child’s life is so significant. If you leave your child in the care of someone who is unable to stimulate their precious powerhouse brains, you are ripping your child off for life. It has been proven time and time again, that if a child, in their first 100 days does not obtain the stimulation, growth, touches and attention that they require, they are less likely to function at their maximum ability when they are in school. Brain function and development at this stage of life sets up the way your child thinks, acts, feels and handles conflict. It also projects how creative, social, and active your child is in grade 1 through the rest of his life.
7) Childcare staff are required to have Criminal Record/Background checks and First Aid certification.
No pressure to all of you new parents out there, but please, make the right decision for your precious bundle of joy. Educate yourself on quality child care and the various services that are available. Even though day homes may charge a lower monthly fee, think about the implications and possibilities that could occur when there are no witnesses to what happens while you are at work. I know that it is not always the fault of a parent when a child goes into a low level child care situation. It may be due to location, fees, services the program offers, or maybe its someone you know, that you are leaving your child with. It comes down to convenience at times, rather than what is best for the child. My advice is research what will work for you. Make sure it is what is right for the child. And when in doubt, research some more! Spend time in the establishment with your child. Watch how the adult interacts with your child and others. Ask questions, probe, inspect, and if your gut doesn’t’ feel right, don’t leave your child there.
Remember, you spent 9 months carrying your precious new life. This life is an extension of you. This new life is our future. Our future depends on how the children today are cared for, especially within the first 100 days of life.
- Disclaimer-The information in this article is based on Alberta Child Care environments, however,other provinces in Canada and States in the US have the same standards and practices.