Summertime Child Care

Guest blog by Judy L. Francis, Communications and Marketing Associate, Child Care Aware® of America.

Summer is a beautiful season to spend extra quality time with the family, whether you’re planting flowers in the garden, going for a swim at your local pool, or flying across the country together to your favorite vacation spot.  But keeping children productive throughout summer vacation can seem like a difficult task. Research tells us that children who don’t engage in educational activities during summer vacation experience something called summer learning loss. According to the National Summer Learning Association, learning loss during the summer months can set children back nearly two months on their grade-level mathematical computation skills and low-income children can lose more than two months in reading achievement.

Children’s health can also suffer during the summer holiday. Unhealthy eating habits and inactivity can put children at a risk of weight gain and obesity. Unfortunately for most parents, the office doesn’t close when the weather gets warm. But there is a solution – a quality child care environment can keep children active and learning all summer long.

So for many families, the last months leading up to summer vacation mean a desperate search for a safe and educational setting where their child can spend 8- 10 hours a day. Get a jump on this year’s search and put your mind at ease early with these helpful tips below for finding quality summer child care.

Finding care

One of the easiest and most common ways parents find care is through word of mouth. Ask trusted friends and family members with children for their recommendations. Most people are happy to share their experiences and will give you their honest feedback on any persons or programs they’ve used. If your social circle has a lack of quality recommendations, you may want to place a call to the Child Care Aware toll-free hotline. A program of Child Care Aware® of America, Child Care Aware® helps families locate child care programs in their communities by referring them to their local Child Care Resource and Referral agency (CCR&R). Your local CCR&R will be able to connect you to a quality, licensed child care provider in your area.

What to look for

As with any search for child care, your priority will be the quality of the environment where your child will spend so much of their time. Schedule a time to stop by and see the school in action before you enroll. Make sure there is an adequate ratio of teachers to children. The lower the ratio, the more individual attention your child is likely to receive. Pay attention to how the adults interact with the children. Are they engaged and stimulated, or do the children look bored? Ask about the teachers’ qualifications. The more training and education they have in child development, the better they will be able to understand your child’s needs and help them learn.

If the program is summer-only and you are unable to visit an active center before enrollment, try to speak to the program director over the phone where you can discuss things like program accreditation, teacher turnover, average group size, and other important details.

Alternative Options

Another option you may want to consider is enrolling your child in a summer camp. Local day camps can be active and engaging learning environments, and are often a great way to get your child more involved in a specific interest or hobby. Day camp costs may also count as an expense towards the child care and depend care tax credit, saving you money on your tax bill at the end of the year.

Have a Back-up Plan

Once you’ve chosen the best option for your family, don’t forget about a back-up care plan. Even the most reliable child care providers may be unavailable in the case of an emergency, or may want to take time off during the summer months for their own vacations. Check with your provider to make sure you’re well aware of any time-off they plan to take, and take steps to make other arrangements in advance.

With a little planning, summer child care doesn’t have to be an annual burden. Summertime should be carefree, but that doesn’t mean pressing pause on your child’s healthy development. Do you have tips for creating a summer care plan? Share them in the comments.

Virginia Progress on Background Checks for Child Care Providers

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Elly and Cameron Lafkin preparing for their interview on Weekend Today, August 2013

Guest Blog by Sharon Veatch, Executive Director, Child Care Aware® of Virginia

At Symposium in 2013, I met Elly Lafkin, one of Child Care Aware® of America’s parent leaders, whose baby, Camden, died in a child care program in Shenandoah, Virginia in 2012. It was heartbreaking to hear that during the police investigation of Camden’s death, the police processed the child care provider’s fingerprints and found that the woman had several aliases and a history of criminal offenses. When Elly said that she and her husband would have made a different choice had they only known about the provider’s past, I knew I would make changing the law in Virginia a top priority for the 2013 session.

There were many things to do and we needed to do them quickly. We drafted background check legislation and materials. We met with Voices for Virginia’s Children to request that the background check bill be included in their children’s agenda. We met with stakeholders such as the Department of Social Services, the State Police, the Virginia Child Care Center Association (VCCA), the Virginia Alliance of Family Child Care Associations (VAFCCA), and the VA Association for the Education of Young Children (VAEYC) and the religious community. With each meeting we had, there were concerns raised that we sought to address.

After meeting with several state legislators, we identified sponsors to introduce the bills in the House and Senate. In January, we succeeded in getting bills introduced to require fingerprint background checks for child care providers: HB 412, with Co-Patrons of Delegate Richard Anderson, Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn and Delegate Chris Peace, and SB 639 with by Senator Emmett Hanger. A fiscal impact concern started to derail the process so we worked out a compromise with the sponsors. The compromise was to require a task force to convene stakeholders (the Department of Social Services, the state police, the child care provider community, parents, etc.) and to recommend ways to implement a fingerprint check system at the lowest possible cost in a practical and effective manner. The task force recommendations would be due on November 1, 2014 with enough time to prepare the recommendations in bill form for the 2015 session.

We testified at budget hearings, committee hearings, and worked with VA legislators and staff. Elly Lafkin testified before the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee to make the case about why parents believe background checks are important. We met with every member of the House HWI Committee and the Senate Rules Committee (the committees where the bills had been referred). In the end, the bill passed the House and the Senate. Our child care team made it happen. Elly is looking forward to standing at the Governor’s side as he signs Cami’s bill into law. Next year we’ll be back with a draft bill to implement the task force’s recommendations.

Get More:
Elly and Cameron Lafkin told their story on the Weekend Today Show, August 2013, with an interview from Child Care Aware® of America.

Oklahoma has the spirit.

OK visit Lynette 2013

Oklahoma’s Child Care Resource and Referral Agency (CCR&R) community kicked off the state’s annual leadership meeting in the Oklahoma City Zoo Aquarium Building last month. I was thrilled to be one of the speakers as part of a two-day visit to the state. It was the first time I shared speaking time with a seal, who occasionally appeared in the porthole behind me. The spirit of  camaraderie and fun among the attendees reflected what I’ve seen at the many states I’ve had the pleasure of visiting during my year since I joined Child Care Aware® of America.

The trip reminded me of the important work these professionals do every day – help families make informed child care decisions for their children.

Big job, changing resources
That’s why when I reported on the latest policy news from Child Care Aware® of America, 30 minutes of Q&A followed. We also discussed the future of Child Care Aware® of America and the continued focus on special populations such as immigrants and tribal communities within Oklahoma. I visited local offices and heard their issues, challenges and hopes for Child Care Aware® of America as we all work under uncertain financial resources.

Facing challenges and rising up
My trip also took me to the site of the Oklahoma City bombing memorial. There, nearly 20 years ago, 19 children and 149 adults perished when a truck filled with bombs exploded beneath the child care center’s window. More recently, communities in this state experienced deadly tornadoes that destroyed homes and schools. The stories of heartbreak and heroism are numerous, as are the sentiments to support and sustain the community.

On the ground, making a difference
On the second day of my visit I had the opportunity to meet with early childhood professionals from various communities in Oklahoma. I was  inspired by their stories of success supporting children and families, the challenges and opportunities they experience and their passion for moving the field forward.

Let’s do something!
Every day, each of us can do something to give children their best chance in life.

We can create strong policies, effective programs and educate families about the many possibilities for our children when they get the right start in child care.

I hope you’ll join me and the team at Child Care Aware® of America in this journey. If you care about children and our country’s economic future, you want to be a part of this movement. Here are three ways to get involved right now:

• Sign up for our monthly e-News to get the latest from the industry
• Share our Facebook page with your friends and family
• Take action at the Child Care Aware® of America policy action center

Lynette is the Executive Director of Child Care Aware® of America.

Memorial Day: A time to remember and reflect

This Memorial Day, we honor and remember all those who gave their lives in service to our country.

Being near the nation’s capital, Arlington National Cemetery and many memorials, we have the privilege of profound daily reminders of military members service to our country.

As an infant, I met my father for the first time when he returned from Vietnam and I was just under a year old. As a military child, I traveled around the world and “served” alongside my father, mother and sisters. I salute my father and both my grandfathers on this Memorial Day and all those who have served and their families.

Memorial Day is so much more than a holiday for me, and to all of us at Child Care Aware® of America. It is a sacred time to reflect on the few who raise their hand and swear an oath to the United States, to our families and to their brothers and sisters in arms, no matter the cost.

We are eternally grateful for their service.

From all of us at Child Care Aware® of America have a safe and meaningful Memorial Day.

Lynette is the Executive Director of Child Care Aware® of America