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How to provide child care while a parent is at work is one of the most important decisions faced by anyone rearing a child with Cerebral Palsy. Finding a provider with the correct qualifications, however, is a challenge.
Choosing the right child care option
It’s a common enough story: Two parents are working, which means they must rely on child care services to make certain their sons and daughters are safe while they’re making a living.
When a family includes a child with disabilities, it’s a common assumption that one parent will give up their job to take care of that child. That’s not always the case – even when a child has a disability like Cerebral Palsy, a parent is often not in a position to give up his or her job. This is especially true if a parent is single and is the sole source of income for a family.
Finding safe and appropriate child care services can be a challenge, but there are some strong indicators parents can look for that will help make the decision easier. It’s in every child’s best interest that if enrolled in a child care program, it be of high quality. There are several safeguards in place that can turn that expectation into a reality.
What is child care?
When people think of child care, they typically envision a center-based establishment or a situation where someone comes into a home to care for a child during a parent’s absence. These are both perfectly viable options for child care, but there are several forms of child care.
The most obvious choice, and one that many families take advantage of, is having a concerned and caring family member care for a child while a parent is at work. This is a wonderful solution for a parent because it promotes family togetherness and bonding, and parents are more likely to trust a family member than they are a stranger. However, it’s not an option for all families.
Some parents may decide to have person come into their home such as a nanny or a babysitter. Often parents will work with a service to locate someone capable of meeting their child’s needs in their own home. The drawback to both of these approaches – unless a service is used to find a caregiver – is that health and safety standards imposed on professional child care settings are not applicable.
When wading through child care options, parents typically consider:
- The abilities and training of a caregiver
- The personality of a caregiver
- The cost of care
- Whether care is provided in the home or off-site
Off-site care includes programs that care for children and infants at a facility. The facility may be a commercial building, or it may be in an operator’s home. In both cases and in several states, these facilities and operators are required to have the proper credentials and licensure. Sometimes, day care centers – often those that are located in a home – have not pursued licensure, and that should be a red flag.
Off-site care services are often called:
- Pre-kindergartens or kindergartens
- Day care centers
- Adult day care (for older individuals)
Child care services are often broken down by age. Here are the most common age groupings:
- Toddlers to 4 years old
- School-aged children up to 13 years old
A number of activities and amenities are provided in care settings, including:
- Emotional support
- Meals and snacks
- Recreational activities
- Socialization with peers
Why is child care necessary, and what are its benefits?
Today, with more than 50 percent of families headed by a single parent and a significant portion of families with both parents working, it’s never been more important for families to have access to affordable, high-quality child care.
According to the US Census Bureau’s “Who’s Minding the Kids?” report, 12.7 million children under the age of 5 years old were cared for in a child care setting. That number represents 63 percent of all children within that age range. Of those children, 41 percent were cared by residents. Another 35 percent were cared for by non-relatives, and 37 percent had no formal child care arrangement, according to the 2010 report.
Of all of children that attend child care outside of the home, 33.7 percent attended center-based programs, and 8.8 percent attended child care in a home.
Although it’s impossible to know how many children attend center-based child care programs that are not properly licensed, it is known that children that spend time in high-quality child care settings realize significant developmental and academic benefits during the all-important early childhood years.
Several long-term studies indicate that children in these programs:
- Score high on math and reading tests
- Are less likely to have behavioral or self-esteem issues
- Are more likely to attend college, earn higher wages
- Have increased language and vocabulary skills
- Have increased problem-solving skills
- Have improved ability to pay attention, absorb information
Children that attend low-quality programs are more likely to have:
- Delayed language skills
- Challenges at school
- Behavioral issues
- Low self-esteem
Studies also indicate that high-quality programs positively impact children from low-income families. Conversely, sub-par child care programs negatively affected low-income children more than it did those from average-income families.
Do child care centers accept children with disabilities into their programs?
In short, yes, center-based child care programs are required to accept children with disabilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act explicitly states that child care centers may not discriminate against children with disabilities; therefore, they are held to the same standards as other public and privately entities in this regard. This means child care centers must make reasonable accommodations for children with special needs. And, operators may not charge parents additional fees to provide services to a child unless they are providing services beyond the scope of the ADA. One exception is a child care center wholly-owned and operated by a religious organization.
There are only two instances in which a child may not be accepted into a child care program. They are:
- When a child represents a danger to other children, according to a professional assessment
- A child has a communicable or contagious condition aside from his or her disability
- Reasonable efforts made by a center have not yielded desired results
The following reasons are not sufficient to deny a child a place in a program:
- Inability to make physical accommodations
- Increased insurance rates
- The presence of a service animal
- Additional attention requirements, unless it causes an undue burden on staff
- The need to administer medication
- A child’s developmental delays
- A child’s physical condition
- The need for toileting
Under the ADA, child care centers must make reasonable modifications to policies to accommodate children with disabilities, unless it would cause a fundamental alteration of a program. They must also ensure that they are offering auxiliary aids and assistive equipment to make sure a child can communicate and participate in all activities.
Physical accessibility both inside and outside of a building is also required of centers covered by the ADA. In all cases, child care operators must make decisions based on the needs of an individual child, and cannot make blanket policies that exclude children with special needs.
Some of the physical modifications centers must make include:
- Eliminating lips and trip hazards inside and outside
- Widening doors
- Installing grab bars in bathrooms
- Providing adequate seating
Although accessibility and accommodation are important aspects of a child care setting, an equally important question is whether a center or program is prepared to offer an environment that nurtures a child. Some questions a parent might ask an operator before making a decision are:
- What efforts will be made to include a child in all activities?
- How will a child’s condition affect a program?
- Will other children be encouraged to engage a child?
- How much of a program is learning, versus recreation?
- Are staff properly trained to assist a child with special needs?
What are the standards child care centers must adhere to regarding children with disabilities?
Beyond what is required by the ADA, there are few requirements that child care centers must meet as it relates to children with special needs. However, licensed centers are held to certain statewide standards. These provisions include:
- Maintaining a safe building
- Hiring qualified staff members
- Limits on the number of children on premises
- Health and safety training for employees
Licensing for private center-based programs and state-funded kindergartens may differ, however. State-funded prekindergarten programs are more likely to be in conventional classrooms – that means a different set of parameters may be applicable.
What education and credentials are required of child care workers?
The Child Care Education Institute offers credentialing of child care workers. Under the Institution’s Child Development Associate guidelines, workers are required to train for 120 hours. To date, about 300,000 child care workers have completed this credential.
Workers are required to complete training in the following areas:
- Educational planning
- Child development
- Social development
- Abuse awareness
- Managing programs
- Understanding learning
Applicant must have 480 verifiable work hours to be credentialed, in addition to training.
Workers must meet requirements for recertification every three years. The requirements include:
- Documented proof of Red Cross First Aid and CPR training
- Three continued education courses
- Proof of 80 hours of recent employment
- Letter of recommendation from early childhood educator
Finding a child care program or facility that meets the needs of a child with Cerebral Palsy is an expensive undertaking. Luckily, families that meet a certain set of criteria can take advantage of government funding and supports.
Government-Assisted Child Care
Child Tax Credits
Ask your tax consultant if you are eligible for:
Ask your employer if they offer pre-tax accounts for child and dependent care.
Child and Adult Care Information
Child Care Resources
Do you have doubts that someone else can care for your child?
Government assistance – also known as public assistance – is aid, service or supports that are provided to an individual by a government agency based on established criteria – income, disability, dependency or need, for example. Government resources come in the form of cash, food, services, shelter, technology, supports, and more.
- Cash Assistance: SSI, SSDI and TANF
- Child Care Assistance
- Education Assistance
- Employment Assistance
- Energy Assistance: LIHEAP, WAP and Others
- Health Care: Medicare
- Health Insurance: CHIP, Medicaid, and more
- Housing and Rental Assistance
- Nutrition Assistance: SNAP, WIC and more
- Safety and Protection