A Guide To Child Care Options In North Carolina
Did you know that in North Carolina, there are 5,956 licensed childcare facilities providing care to more than 247,000 children, 77% of which are birth to five years old?
In short, when parents in North Carolina need child care options, there’s no shortage of options to choose from. The key is finding the right fit for you and your child.
Here’s a guide to the child care options available in North Carolina, how they’re regulated, and how to choose the right option for your family.
Child Care Options
In North Carolina, most families rely on three options for childcare: childcare centers, family childcare homes, or nannies.
A childcare center is the most common option for families. They’re also the largest of the three options. Typically housed in commercial buildings, childcare centers are run by a director and multiple staff members, grouping children by age. They may be privately owned and operated or operated by nonprofit groups like charities, churches, or even government agencies.
Family childcare homes are a meeting point between nannies and childcare centers. Like childcare centers, they provide socialization with other children, but they’re run out of someone’s personal residence by a provider. This is typically one provider or sometimes one provider with assistants. Because of this, groups in family childcare homes are much smaller.
A nanny either lives in your home or comes to your home during the day to provide individual childcare to your children. You hire them directly, and your child gets to spend their time in the comfort of their own environment. This is different than a babysitter, who works on a short-term arrangement. This is the most expensive option of the three.
Who’s In Charge of North Carolina Childcare Providers
All North Carolina childcare providers fall under the authority of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE). There are some exceptions, but these are primarily short-term, temporary caregivers, like recreational programs offered for less than four months or drop-in care provided by spas, churches, or resort hotels.
As a rule, if you care for two or more children who are not related to you for more than four hours a day, you need to be licensed. DCDEE is the agency that issues licenses for North Carolina childcare workers.
As part of this oversight authority, DCDEE also assists with monitoring and technical assistance to childcare programs, including background checks on childcare providers, determining an educator’s qualifications for an early childhood education position. It also administers the state Subsidized Child Care Assistance program, among other educational opportunities for families in need.
That’s important for parents because it gives you a chance to do a baseline check on any provider’s qualifications and performance. Any licensed childcare provider receives their licensing through DCDEE.
How to Choose the Right Childcare Facility Near Me
Licensing clears the minimum bar. But after that, if you type in a search for a licensed childcare center in Brunswick county, NC, you’ll get a lot of results—and not all of them are created equal. Even a good childcare facility that a friend highly recommended may not be the right choice for your child, depending on what you’re looking for.
For everything that comes after, you need to know what to look for in a childcare center or other childcare provider. Here are three things that every parent should look for when looking for a great childcare provider.
Look at How They Interact With Kids
It’s easy to stay focused on everything eye-level when you visit a childcare facility, but don’t forget to look down. In fact, in an ideal situation, you should have to look down, because the caregivers are on the floor playing with kids or holding them in their lap.
The single most important indicator of a childcare facility is how they interact with children. Babies need that kind of close interaction with a caregiver to feel comforted, and toddlers should feel comfortable enough with their caregivers to happily play with them and sit with them on the floor.
While you’re at it, take a look at the staff-to-children ratio. Ideally, there should be enough staff in the facility for children to receive at least some one-on-one attention.
Communication is Key
Of course, how the staff interacts with adults is also crucial, especially if your child is too little to talk or can’t form complete sentences. When your child can’t relay information about their day on their own, all of that information has to come from the caregiving staff.
For example, when you drop them off in the morning, you should feel comfortable talking with the staff about how your child slept the night before, what they ate for breakfast, if they’re teething (for babies), and the like. Similarly, the staff should be equally communicative about such information during pickup, like how many diapers your child went through, what they ate, and any issues they had during the day.
Also, keep in mind that everyone’s communication style is different. What works for your friend may not work for you, so if you’re not comfortable with how a facility communicates, keep looking.
Trust Your Instincts
Last but not least, always trust your instincts as a parent.
Every parent knows when something doesn’t feel right, or even when it’s not the right fit. Even if everyone in town raves about a childcare facility, if you and your child don’t click with it, it’s not the right choice. Keep looking until you find one that feels like it’s the right match.
Childcare Center Trusted by Families Like You
Looking for childcare centers in Brunswick, New Hanover, or and Pender county?
At Carefinderz, we make it easy to find childcare providers trusted by families just like you. We also make it easy to compare options so that you can make informed decisions. So if you need childcare resources to give your child the best experience, your search is over. Just search by service or county, or view a list of all of our childcare resources to get started.