Child care involves supervising a child or children, usually from infancy to age thirteen, and typically refers to work done by somebody outside the child's immediate family. Child care is a broad topic covering a wide spectrum of contexts, activities, social and cultural conventions, and institutions. The majority of child care institutions that are available require that child care providers have extensive training in first aid and are CPR certified. In addition, background checks, drug testing, and reference verification are normally required.
It is traditional in Western society for children to be cared for by their parents or their legal guardians. In families where children live with one or both of their parents, the child care role may also be taken on by the child's extended family. If a parent or extended family is unable to care for the children, orphanages and foster homes are a way of providing for children's care, housing, and schooling.
Types of Child Care
The two main types of child care options are center-based care and home-based care. In addition to these licensed options, parents may also choose to find their own caregiver or arrange child care exchanges/swaps with another family. In-home care typically is provided by nannies, au-pairs, or friends and family. The child is watched inside their own home or the caregiver's home, reducing exposure to outside children and illnesses. Depending on the number of children in the home, the children utilizing in-home care enjoy the greatest amount of interaction with their caregiver, forming a close bond. There are no required licensing or background checks for in-home care, making parental vigilance essential in choosing an appropriate caregiver. Nanny and au-pair services provide certified caregivers and the cost of in-home care is the highest of child care options per child, though a household with many children may find this the most convenient and affordable option.
Child Care in the United States
State legislation may regulate the number and ages of children allowed before the home is considered an official daycare program and subject to more stringent safety regulations. Often the nationally recognized Child Development Associate credential is the minimum standard for the individual leading this home care program. Each state has different regulations for teacher requirements. In some states, teaching in a day care center requires an Associates Degree in child development. States with quality standards built into their licensing programs may have higher requirements for support staff, such as teacher assistants. And for Head Start Teachers, by 2012 all lead teachers must have a bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education. States vary in other standards set for daycare providers, such as teacher to child ratios.
According to the 1995 U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), over thirty-six percent of families of preschoolers with working mothers primarily relied on child care in the home of a relative, family day care provider, or other non relative. Almost twenty-six percent of families used organized child care facilities as their primary arrangement Figure 2.