Quality Child Care: Is My Child in Good Hands?
Daycare. Child care. Babysitting. No matter what you call it, North Carolina has specific laws related to caring for children. Child care regulations exist to help protect the health and well-being of our youngest and most vulnerable children. Unfortunately, these laws can seem confusing, and many people don’t know precisely how they work. Thankfully, the Martin-Pitt Partnership for Children is here to help!
According to North Carolina General Statue 110-86(2), “caring for three or more children less than 13 years old, who do not reside where the care is provided, receive care on a regular basis of at least once per week for more than four hours but less than 24 hours per day from persons other than their guardians or full-time custodians, or persons not related to them by birth, marriage, or adoption, are subject to child care licensing rules.”
Let’s break that down a little bit. Say you’re a parent who needs a daycare program or babysitter. If your neighbor watches your child three days per week, as long as they are only caring for your child, they are not subject to child care licensing rules. However, if your neighbor is also caring for two other children on the same schedule, they are subject to the licensing regulations. The details of how this law is applied deals with the number of children under age 13, the number of days per week and hours per day the child is in this person’s care, whether or not the person is a relative to you and your child.
Why Licensed Care?
Knowing about the person who is responsible for caring for your child is essential. Licensed daycare providers are required to receive training, undergo criminal background checks, receive visits by licensed child care consultants, and more. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, “programs must maintain a compliance history of 75% for the past 18 months or the length of time the facility has operated.” Here are some of the requirements that consultants check when a daycare program undergoes monitoring:
- Supervision of children
- Condition of indoor and outdoor equipment, furniture, and materials
- Discipline practices
- Child/staff ratios and group sizes
- Sanitation practices
- Health and safety practices
- Staff education, professional development, and ongoing training
Child care facilities are also required to meet sanitation, building, and fire codes that are enforced by other state agencies. Facilities that are not licensed, or child care providers who are not early childhood education professionals, may not meet these standards. It’s essential to know the quality and safety of the care your child is receiving to ensure that they are in the safest and healthiest environment possible.
High-Quality, Affordable Daycare
If you’re a parent or guardian, you know that finding high-quality daycare that is also within your price range can be almost impossible. Finding a program that is within your budget that also keeps your child safe and well-educated can be a balancing act.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), daycare is “affordable” if it costs no more than 10% of a family’s annual income. According to data from 2018 (the most recent numbers available), the average annual cost of infant child care in North Carolina is 40.7%, or $2,677 more, than the average cost of tuition for a public, four-year college. This cost puts North Carolina as one of 33 states where infant care is more expensive than college.
As of 2018 in Pitt County, infant care for one child takes 23.5% of a typical family’s annual income ($39,343). In Martin County, that number is 26.1%, and the average annual family income is $35,428. By the DHHS standard, only 26.7% of North Carolina families can afford infant care.
Finding the Right Program for You
If you’re looking for the best program for your child, our agency can help! The Martin-Pitt Partnership for Children employs a Regional Consumer Educator who can provide free and confidential information about child care about any licensed in our region (Martin, Pitt, Lenoir, Greene, Carteret, and Jones Counties). Although our staff does our best to help ensure that the information we provide is as accurate and up to date as possible, we rely on the facilities to let us know when they make any changes to their hours, location, contact information, etc. To assist families in finding the best care, we can provide the following details about licensed daycare facilities:
- Star ratings
- Hours of operation
- Available shifts
- Transportation availability
- Faith-based facilities
- Part or full-time care
- After-school care
- Summer programs
Finding the best care for your child is about meeting their specific needs. Although your friends, family members, and coworkers can give suggestions, their needs may be different than yours. We recommend:
- Beginning your search for childcare early in your pregnancy
- Identifying the type of environment you want for your child
- Visiting and observing facilities, asking questions and listening carefully to answers
- Increasing the chances of enrolling your child in a quality facility by adding your name to several waiting lists as soon as possible
In addition to the help that our Regional Consumer Educator can provide, our website also has an excellent quality child care checklist to help families find answers to the critical questions they will have about their child’s care.
Becoming an Advocate
As a parent, you are not only your child’s first teacher; you’re also their biggest advocate. Every day, the Partnership works to advocate for the availability of high-quality, affordable daycare programs for every child in our community. The best way you can help is to lend your voice to the cause. We encourage everyone to speak with their local elected officials, coworkers, employers, and local business owners about the impact that high-quality, affordable child care has had on you and your child. Explain your struggles, the obstacles you’ve faced, and why our community needs to invest in every child.
Need help putting your thoughts together or finding the right statistics to help support your argument? Send us an email or call our office at 252-758-8885 to speak with our Community Outreach Director today!