Day Care Versus Home Care

Day Care Versus Home Care

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Some pros and cons to help you choose what’s best for your child

Finding the right child care is a long and arduous process. The search often begins with asking other mom friends about their situation, but often what’s good for one family can be a bad experience for another. It really comes down to finding a few leads that sound promising, calling, visiting the homes or centers themselves, and sometimes doing a trial period of a couple weeks, depending on the age of your child.

My first daughter had no issues with day care. She loved any and every caregiver she ever had. As she grew older, she’d often run from me when she saw that I was there to pick her up. I needed her to adapt well. She was shuffled from my house to her dad and other caregivers while I worked. I had to find a day-care center that took government grants, and they weren’t always the best places. My job as a parent became one of advocacy in finding her a place where she was safe, appreciated, and well cared for.

My second daughter was very different. She would scream if anyone else tried to hold her. She went through two home-setting day cares before I found a babysitter who she attached herself to. And even then, leaving her is often a fountain of tears and wails, but she’s always happy when I return a few hours later.

In choosing what’s best for your children, age and experience matter.

Home-setting day care has many positive aspects and is, for the most part, excellent for younger children. The care provider is usually the only one there, so it’s easier for children to make the emotional attachment that’s often necessary. A home provider will also have a much smaller number of children to care for, so the attention is more individualized. Ideally, a home-care setting should be the next best thing to having a babysitter come to your house to care for your child.

Home providers, however, are often not set up for older children, and sometimes they just won’t take kids who are older than two or three for this reason. It would be too difficult for one person to care for different age groups, catering to an infant’s needs alongside those of a preschooler.

What’s important with the home settings is to know your provider. Ask for the provider’s license if you don’t know the person personally. A license means the provider’s home has gone through several inspections; the provider has taken educational classes; and the home’s appliances, fire alarms, and water heaters have been thoroughly checked and regulated. Providers are also required to complete CPR and first-aid training, and take 10 to 16 credits per year of child-care training.

Day-care centers are almost always licensed, but it never hurts to check. Ask for references, and actually call them! Ask around and listen to other parents’ experiences. Every child is different, but if parents are describing situations that potentially put a child in danger, that is a warning to heed.

Many day-care centers, especially the most sought-after ones, have long wait lists. Finding the right one for your child is not a last-minute, rash decision, especially if your child is still very young. Since the child-to-caregiver ratio is so low for infants, most day-care centers will accept only children aged two and older. This is also because centers are sometimes best for older kids. They have large yards with playground equipment and are set up more like a preschool.

Visit these day-care centers personally and often. Ask questions about employee turnover. Many child-care workers are not paid a living wage, even though the work is difficult. An employee who sticks around is often one who is being compensated well or really loves the work. Expect to be able to stop by at any time, and try to when it’s possible. Look for kids being engaged and not left to play by themselves or sit in front of a television.

One thing to expect with both environments is exposure to illness. Ask about their policies. A home-care setting might be more lenient on allowing children battling a cold or flu to be present, but the instances of illnesses are usually lower. A day-care center will have just about every ailment imaginable, definitely something working Solo Moms need to consider when a sick child means a missed day of work or even a lost job. Ask about the day care’s cleaning schedule and what the day care does to keep illnesses under control. Ask about how the day care notifies parents of outbreaks such as pinkeye, head lice, and other contagious bugs.

Most of all, be it a home or center setting, look for like-minded people. Find someone who understands your situation because that person will probably be able to understand your child. Ask what the caregiver’s philosophies are in educating children or how discipline is handled. Look for places where you feel welcomed because those are the ones where your child will succeed.

For Solo Moms, this is one of the most important decisions we face. Good luck!

Additional articles and information on this topic can be found in our Child Care resource section.

Stephanie Land, has a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from the University of Montana. She and her two daughters live in Missoula, Montana. Read more of her story at You can follow her on Twitter at @stepville.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.

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