More than half of parents struggle with finding child care options that meet their criteria, with nearly 50% uncertain they were able to identify what constitutes a safe and healthy environment, according to findings from a C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll.
“Parents want to feel confident that all child care and preschool options meet certain standards,” Sarah J. Clark, MPH, a research scientist form the Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation at the University of Michigan, said in a press release. “Parents could then choose their preferred child care option without compromising their child’s health and safety.”
To examine health, safety, educational or practical factors associated with parental choice of child care or day care settings, the researchers conducted a poll through the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in which these factors were assessed among parents of children aged between 1 and 5 years. All parents included had at least one child attending day care or preschool.
Of the parents who responded to the survey, 48% of their children currently attend preschool. The remaining children attend a child care center (25%) or in-home child care (27%) for a minimum of 5 hours weekly. Most of these parents (62%) believed that finding appropriate child care based on their needs and wants was difficult, and only 54% expressed certainty that they could point out factors that made a child care center safe and healthy. Most parents agreed that standards within child care centers should be upheld by in-home child care providers (88%).
Clark and colleagues then examined factors that parents deemed most important in choosing a child care or preschool provider. For those in preschool settings, staff background checks (45%), daily active play (40%), locked doors (38%), early childhood training for staff members (30%) and safe outdoor play space (30%) were most important.
For child care centers, parents noted that staff background checks (46%), early childhood training (42%), locked doors (36%), cost (33%) and location and hours (32%) were most important. Those that sought in-home child care had a different range of requirements, including healthy foods served (28%), daily active play (28%), books and educational toys (27%), clean kitchen areas (26%) and staff background checks (24%).
Additionally, parents also provided five deal-breakers regarding child care options. Of the parents who responded, unsafe locations (70%), guns on the premises (56%), adults not employed by the center on the premises (48%), the acceptance of unvaccinated children (41%) and a staff member who smokes (31%) were considered unacceptable.
“Our poll demonstrates the challenge of choosing a preschool or child care setting that meets all of a parent’s criteria,” Clark said in the release. “Safety and health factors are important to parents, but too often, parents are not sure how to determine if a child care option is safe and healthy.”
“Some health-related characteristics are observable while others, such as how often toys are cleaned, are not as obvious,” Clark continued. “The more research parents do ahead of time, the more confident they will feel that their children are in a safe and healthy environment.” – by Katherine Bortz
Disclosures: Infectious Diseases in Children was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures prior to publication.