What are your options?
Researching caregivers is a daunting task (a Google search for “day care Baltimore” yields nearly 8 million results). Many people are lucky enough to be able to rely on recommendations of co-workers, friends, and neighbors, or put their faith in providers used by members of their religious congregation.
The Maryland Family Network offers a free service called LOCATE: Child Care which offers access to data bases online as well as trained counselors who are available on the telephone to determine a family’s available options, but they only cover state-regulated operations.
Who’s in charge here?
Regulations concerning child care facilities vary from state to state. In Maryland, day care facilities answer to the Department of Education. Under the current government, Maryland has developed the strongest education system in the United States. Licensed Family Child Care Homes in Maryland can legally accommodate one to eight total children (including the provider’s own if they are under 6 years of age), only two of which can be under age 2.
Formal Child Care Centers are permitted a ratio of three infants per caregiver, to a maximum of six infants under 9 months and nine toddlers up age 2. After age 2, the ratio increases to 6:1 for up to 12 toddlers and 10:1 for up to 23- and 4-year-olds per classroom.
As part of their licensing prerequisites, these caregivers must provide curriculum aimed at developing personal, social, physical, and cognitive abilities, prewriting skills, and age-appropriate activities in science, social studies, and art and dramatic play in accordance with the Maryland Model for School Readiness framework, and are inspected (on a scheduled and un-scheduled basis) biannually.
In-home caregivers (defined by the State as “care provided by a person related to the child in either the relative’s home or in the child’s home, and in-home care provided to a child in the child’s own residence by a non-relative”) are not regulated by state licensing or curriculum requirements.
There are many advertisements for nanny or au pair services, found in newspaper classifieds, on Craigslist, and on organizations’ websites, but the process of interviewing candidates to invite into one’s home to care for one’s children can seem impossible for parents, especially when organizations like Cultural Care Au Pair tout “exclusive training schools” which turn out to be four-day orientation programs.
Cost of care
Highlighted in the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” with Will Smith, there are cheap day care options available, but you run the risk of your child sitting in front of the TV all day. With regulation and licensing comes additional cost. Formal centers, possibly justified by their standards of care, curriculum, and reliable schedule, tend to be pricier than home-based centers.
Nanny services can be very expensive, especially for only children, but for families with multiple children or who cooperate in a “nanny share,” the price can be similar to that of formal center care. In Baltimore, parents can expect to pay $250-500 per week per child for infants and toddlers depending on the caregiver. After age 2, the cost will begin to go down marginally in centers, as the caregiver-child ratio increases.