Plan Ahead for Childcare Needs
From the GIC Summer 2005 Newsletter
If you will need childcare services in a few months, it's not too soon to begin your search. Finding quality care is important to both you and your child. You need someone that you trust, which will help you return to work with peace of mind. Your child needs someone who provides a nurturing environment. The following steps can help ensure a successful match for you and your child:
Determine What Environment Meets Your Needs
- Location - what location will be most convenient for you - at or near home or work?
- Hours Available - how early do you need to drop off your child and how late will you be picking your child up? What days of the week do you need care?
- Type of Care - would you prefer your child to be in a center or home environment?
Plan Your Budget
Given your family income, determine how much you can spend on care. Costs for childcare vary greatly. Generally, costs are highest for infant care and for a nanny to come to your house. Costs also vary by community. Financial assistance is available for eligible families based on income. To find out if you qualify, contact the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency in your part of the state.
Research by Phone and Internet
If you are a member of a Commonwealth Indemnity Plan or Navigator by Tufts Health Plan, take advantage of UBH's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) (access code: 10910). They will do some of the leg work for you, contacting providers in your area that meet your needs to see if there is an opening for your child. UBH will also send you a helpful packet of materials to assist with your search, including outlines of various childcare options and worksheets to take on your interviews with potential providers. Online community forums may complement these efforts.
If you will be using a provider outside of your home, whether it be in a childcare center, an after school program, or in a family childcare home, check to see whether the provider is licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (formerly the Office of Child Care Services). Licensed providers must have special training, first aid and CPR certification, and criminal background checks, and the care they provide must be healthy, safe, and offer activities that help your child develop and grow.
Interview Prospective Providers in Person
When visiting childcare centers or homes, keep your eyes open. How clean and neat is it? Are there toys suitable for your child's age group? Is the license posted? Does it look safe (e.g. are electrical outlets covered and will children be protected from stairs and animals)? Evaluate how the provider(s) interacts with children. Are the children's needs met quickly and do the caregivers seem patient?
Bring a list of questions with you to ask the provider. See if the provider's approach complements your own. Find out what the typical activities will be for the day. Ask about payment, illness, vacation, medicine administration, and discipline policies. Always trust your instincts. If it doesn't "feel right," it probably is not a good place for your child.
If you are pleased with a provider, ask the provider for the names and phone numbers of three or four parent references. When contacting the references, ask the parents what they liked most and least about the provider, and whether or not they would recommend the provider to a friend.
Prepare for the Transition
Lorraine Cruz, a Work/Life Supervisor at United Behavioral Health, says that many parents are unprepared for the emotional impact of leaving their child at childcare. Frequently parents have difficulty separating from their child, compounding the difficulty of the separation for both the parent and the child. She suggests that parents inquire about arranging to pay the provider for a brief transitional period. Leaving your child with the provider for a few hours at a time before returning to work on a full-day basis can ease the transition for both you and your child.
Once Your Child is In Care
Stay involved through regular communication with your child's provider. A few extra minutes at drop off and pick up times to hear about your child's day, or to share important information about your child, will help your child's experience be successful. If possible, visit while your child is in care and participate in special activities or events.
United Behavioral Health (access code: 10910) - Employee Assistance Program (EAP) resources for members of the Commonwealth Indemnity Plans and Navigator by Tufts Health Plan 1-888-610-9039
Department of Early Education and Care - find licensed childcare providers and research specific providers: 1-617-988-6600.
Child Care Resource and Referral Network - locate childcare and information about help in paying for childcare: 1-800-345-0131.
Commonwealth Children's Center - childcare for state employees located at One Ashburton Place in Boston: 1-617-727-4802.
New Baby and Returning to Work? Commonwealth Employees Eligible for DCAP
If you are an employee who has a baby and are returning to work, you may be eligible to enroll in the pre-tax Dependent Care Assistance Program (DCAP). This is considered a "qualified event", enabling you to enroll in the program during the year. DCAP helps you pay for childcare expenses on a pre-tax basis, saving money on federal and state taxes. Elect up to $5,000 annually and the election amount is divided equally and deducted from your remaining calendar year paychecks.
This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.