Returning to Work – What are your Childcare Options?

The decision to return to work following the birth of your baby represents the second largest outlay to the new family following mortgage or rent and is certainly one of the most difficult for parents. In an ideal world many more parents would prefer to forego the return to work until children are older but our current economic climate and the desire to retain jobs make this scenario unlikely for most working mums. However, there is a range of available services which include Childcare and Early Learning Centres, Child Minders, Nannies and Au Pairs all of which are geared to support the individual needs of the family.

The desire for quality childcare goes without saying, but the reality, is determined by the type of childcare provision that meet the budgetary requirements and the needs of each individual family.

Finding Suitable Childcare

Sourcing the childcare which is best suited to your needs should not be a difficult task but should be given time and effort in order to ensure that your choice is reflective of your baby and parental needs. I recommend that you begin researching your childcare options while you are still pregnant.

Making the right choice:

– Do you require full time or part time care?
– Do you require out of normal hours care?
– Do you require back-up emergency care?
– Do you want your child cared for in your own home?
– Are you happy to travel to your care provider?
– Would you prefer your child to be cared for in someone else’s home?
– Would you prefer your child to attend a cr¨che?
– Will you require after-school care?

Once you have made your choice always ensure that you talk to friends and colleagues, as verbal recommendations are invaluable. Follow your gut feeling and if you feel uneasy about your choice take the time to reconsider your decisionג€¦ remember your child will be in this environment for a few years and you need peace of mind that they are receiving the love, care and nurturing which they deserve.

Visiting the Childcare Providers of Your Choice

Don’t be afraid to ask the following:

– What is the daily routine for the children?
– What is your settling-in policy for the children and how will this acclimatise my child to the setting?
– Do you operate a key worker system?
– Do you cater for special dietary requirements?
– Do you provide nappies and creams or do I provide my own?
– What is your discipline policy?
– What is your sickness policy?
– Can I visit the outdoor play area?
– Do you have qualified First Aiders?
– Are staff qualifications available to view?

Childcare and Early Learning Centres and Cr¨ches provide varying levels of childcare and early year’s education. They offer a full day service for children aged 6 months to 5 years and are normally open from 7.30am to 6.30pm all year round. Many services offer the opportunity to take full day or sessional part time care whilst others offer Breakfast Clubs that incorporate a school drop off and collection service for After-school provision.

These centres are warm stimulating environments that are very child centred in their developmental and educational approaches. They offer continuity of care from a young age to pre-school and beyond. These are staffed by experienced childcare professionals who must have completed a recognised childcare course and who work with the various age groups of their personal preference. This enables children to build up a close relationship with their key carers. Additionally centres are supported by a network of bank staff that are familiar with all the children and are available to replace a keyworker in the event of sickness thus providing continuity of care for the children.

Childcare and Early Learning Centres are the most popular choice for working parents for a variety of reasons:

– All facilities are registered, regulated and inspected annually by HSE
– Buildings are inspected annually by Environmental Health and Fire safety Depts.
– Buildings are designed to meet the individual age and stage developmental needs of the children
– Indoor space determines the overall number of staff and children permitted in the building
– All staff must be Garda Vetted
– Centres have a comprehensive range of policies and procedures which ensure that all regulatory requirements are enforced
– Children’s dietary requirements are met by a qualified in-house chef who provides fresh, healthy meals and snacks making best use of seasonal food.

The normal structure and staff to child ratio which is recommended by HSE is:

Baby Roomג€¦0-12 months 1:3
Wobbler Room..1-2years 1:5
Toddler Roomג€¦2-3 years 1:6
Pre-school Roomג€¦3-5 years 1:8

Choice of childcare provider is a matter of personal preference and only you as parents can determine the best option for your child. When choosing your provider you must be guided by your impressions of the people providing the childcare and the quality of the facilities available. Ask questions to confirm that the provision is right for you and your family and provides your child with a safe, nurturing and loving environment allowing them to develop at their own pace.

! – Dolores O’Donnell, Director of Childcare, Giraffe Childcare and Early Learning Centres

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