In Chesterfield Township, New Baltimore and countless other communities across the state, many households require two incomes.
And, while parents take care of the finances, they must also figure out who will take care of their children during the day.
The National Organization for Women cites more than 55 percent of mothers return to the work force after the birth of their children. In many cases, relatives aren't available to care for the children during the day.
Day care centers and in-home day care
Families must make a choice based on the childcare options available to them, including in-home day care or day care centers. While the decision might be tough, both offer a variety of services that can make parents breathe a little easier when leaving their child in someone else's care.
One option for local residents is the day care center Childtime, 31480 23 Mile in Chesterfield Township. According to district manager Danielle Gargano, the center-based child care offers a structured, school-like program with age-appropriate curriculum designed by an education team.
“We are very focused on preparing the child for school in an age-appropriate setting,” Gargano said.
With a classrooms resembling schools, day care centers often contrast in-home day care.
New Baltimore resident Rebecca Konarz runs Sunny Smiles Day Care in her home. Konarz can care for four to six non-related children and has an assistant available on days when she has a full roster.
“I am able to make families feel safe and build a rapport with them,” Konarz said.
Educational backgrounds range
While Konarz has a bachelor’s degree in early childhood development and a master’s in social work, not all licensed daycare providers—whether in-home or day care centers—have that educational background.
In day care centers, there are often requirements for certain personnel to have early childhood training.
“The lead teachers in each room have at least a two-year degree,” Gargano said. She said all of the assistants in the rooms are trained and qualified for the age groups they handle. In addition, there are training opportunities for the teachers and assistants in early childhood topics throughout the year.
Differences and similarities
The centers comprise rooms with different age groups with a specific caregiver-to-child ratio based on age. At Konarz’s in-home center, while she has fewer children, the age ranges vary. Some come after kindergarten and some are still infants just learning to sit on their own. She said having the range means she has to come up with activities that will stimulate all of the children.
Both the in-home and the center offer meals, playtime, naps and other activities throughout the day. At the center and at Konarz's in-home daycare, parents are given reports about what the children did each day and any other important information.
“I can be more flexible with the schedule of the child and I can meet the parents where the children are at in their lives,” Konarz said. For example, she said some children prefer breakfast at different times and some don’t nap as long as others. Konarz said she can adapt to the needs because she isn’t on a rigid schedule.
Pros and cons
Right now, as Konarz builds her clientele, she is able to offer drop-in and part-time services, but one challenge in-home providers face is limited space. Having part-time clients or drop-ins makes it difficult to schedule full-time children.
Also, while rare, illness, vacations or other personal activities can hamper the in-home business. Without the availability of assistants, the day care can close on certain days, leaving parents with few options. It is also less common for in-home centers to offer parent social events, like Childtime offers to its clientele.
“There are more opportunities for socialization in centers, not only for the students but also for the parents,” said Gargano, adding Childtime offers community networking such as quarterly family events.
Families choose what's best for them
Both options strive to offer safe, nurturing environments for children while their parents are away, but each has its own pros and cons. Parents need to make a decision for their child based on their schedule and what is best for their family as a whole.
While searching for child care, parents should ask questions to day care providers about schedules, rules, rates and overall care. They should visit the day care, observe and ask about administrator and staff credentials.
They should also ask to see certification and licenses, as well as check with the Michigan Department of Human Services for background information on the business. The state department's website allows visitors to scroll through day care options, check for violations such as suspensions and closures and more.
Whether it's in-home day care or a center, parents should follow the advice they frequently give their children: Do your homework.