Learning From Kindergarten to College
Preschool For All, a joint project of the Collaborative for Children and the Center for Houston’s Future (CHF), the strategic planning affiliate of the Greater Houston Partnership, has involved more than 100 community members from the early childhood, public education, business, government and philanthropic communities to expand access to quality preschool programs to all 3- and 4-year-old children in the greater Houston area.

Early Connections (www.earlyconnectionserie.org), a project of the Collaborative for Children, provides free information and helpful tips and resources about early childhood development and learning for parents, teachers, child-care providers and others who are interested in helping children develop to their fullest.

There are numerous private daycare facilities in the Houston region.

Nannies: According to the International Nanny Association (INA) (www.nanny.org), you can look for a nanny in many places, including help-wanted ads in newspapers and magazines, bulletin boards and referrals from friends. These approaches can be time-consuming and also can result in negative experiences. INA suggests that you contact nanny-training programs about the availability of their graduates or that you take advantage of the services offered by nanny-placement agencies.

A placement agency is a service company that matches the skills and qualifications of nannies with the needs of families looking for in-home child care. The agency charges a fee to locate and screen nannies for you to consider hiring for your family. A reputable agency carefully will consider your needs and preferences when helping you find a suitable candidate. Placement fees range from $800 to $5,000 and should include a provision to replace the nanny or refund a portion of the fee if the placement does not work out within a certain period of time.

As part of its screening process, the agency should verify the nanny candidate’s personal and employment references and previous child-care experience. Many agencies also take nanny fingerprints, check for a criminal records, check driving records and require a blood test, TB test and/or request a doctor’s statement that the candidate is in good health and free of contagious diseases. Some agencies also require psychological testing or evaluation. In the United States., the agency should verify that the candidate is an American citizen or is eligible to work legally in the country.

Just as the agency will want to ensure that nannies referred to you are suitable candidates, for the nanny’s protection, the agency also may ask you for references. Most agencies will assist you in preparing a job description that summarizes your family’s job duties, comprehensive package and other important considerations.

Many placement-agency owners are members of INA, and the association suggests that you select an INA member if you decide to use a placement agency’s services to help you locate a nanny.

Considering that selecting a child-care provider is one of the most important decisions you can make, it’s important to ask the right questions of a provider. One Houston resource that can help you locate and evaluate child care is the Collaborative for Children (www.collabforchildren.org). The collaborative offers more information about the school-selection process and other tips.

— Health and Safety
  • Check child-care-licensing compliance history on the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website, www.txchildcaresearch.org.
  • Observe cleanliness of the center and diaper-changing and hand-washing procedures.
  • Ask about the security of medicines and chemicals in the facility.
  • Ask if the caregivers are certified in CPR and First Aid.
  • Ask about the meal and nap-time routines.
  • Ask about transportation procedures if children are taken on field trips.
  • Ask about discipline procedures when children act out or break classroom rules and how positive behavior is encouraged.
  • Observe indoor and outdoor play areas and safety precautions used by staff.

— Activities
  • Ask about planned activities and observe equipment, toys and materials.
  • Ask if the children are read to daily and look for the quality and quantity of books in each room.
  • Ask about the amount of time spent each day on the playground. (30–45 minutes morning and afternoon is recommended.)
  • Ask about the use of technology (TV, DVD, computers) in the facility, recognizing that limited use is recommended for young children.

— Quality Factors
  • Remember that consistent, positive relationships with caring adults will allow your child to grow, develop and learn.
  • Observe whether the caregivers are warm, caring and enjoy their work.
  • Ask if the program is accredited or certified by a recognized respectable agency, such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYE) (www.naeyc.org), with higher requirements than minimum child-care licensing standards.
  • Ask about the experience, education and regular training of the caregivers.
  • Ask about the number of children assigned to each caregiver and the number of children in each room to understand the opportunities for individual attention.

— Parent Involvement
  • Ask if parents are welcome to visit and how they are encouraged to participate.
  • Ask how and how often caregivers will communicate with you about your child’s progress.

In the last six years, the state of Texas has spent more than $7 billion on education reform as well as to improve learning in core subject areas like mathematics, reading and science; and it has proposed targeted incentives tied to achievement in the classroom.

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