You know your child best and know what kind of childcare will suit them and meet your family's needs. There are many types of childcare and all - except nursery schools and nannies - must be registered with Social Services.
Some points to consider
Your childcare needs will be influenced by:
- the hours you work and how regular your shifts are
- whether you would prefer childcare closer to home, work or your child's school
- how children will be transported between the childcare setting and home and school
- and whether your needs are likely to change soon
Your child will likely benefit from:
- a routine with minimal disruption
- a comfortable environment which supports their particular emotional and physical needs - including social and educational development
- a setting where they can build trusting relationships with the person(s) providing their care
Draw up a list
You can find registered and approved childcare providers in your area on the Family Support NI website. Save time by phoning several places and asking a few key questions.
Visit at least two or three examples of your chosen form of childcare and be sure to go during times when the carer is looking after other children. This will allow you to see how the children behave there and how the carer responds to them.
Take a list of questions and discuss with the carer the daily routine and issues you feel strongly about, such as diet or discipline.
Time to choose
Once you have a shortlist, double-check that the options meet all your requirements - suitability, cost, availability, location - and that you've done a dummy run to check it's really going to fit into a tight deadline. Don't be afraid to go for a second visit if you have any misgivings - a good child carer will welcome this.
Confirming your decision
Double check all the arrangement and secure the place by paying any deposit, if it is required.
Get it in writing
You should use a contract or formal written agreement containing details of costs, hours and conditions to make sure there is no room for disagreement in the future. Nurseries will usually give you an agreement to sign, so read it carefully.
|Think about your childcare needs sooner rather than later. It may take time to get what is right for your family or there may be waiting lists.
|Don't be rushed into something you are not happy with. Try to be clear about what you need and look at all the options.
|Talk to other parents about what has worked for them. Your Health Visitor and Early Years Team can provide advice about childcare options in your area.
|Don't let cost prevent you from exploring an option. Remember that quality and flexibility are important. If you use registered or approved childcare providers, you may be able to receive financial help towards the cost of your childcare.
|Plan ahead. Think about possible changes in your circumstances and childcare needs so that you can plan ahead to make sure your children have stability and continuity.
|Don't worry about asking questions. Quality childcare providers will be happy to answer your questions.
|Put discussions with possible childcare providers on a professional footing. Draw up a list of questions to ask.
|Don't agree to any arrangements that you won't be able to keep. You need to be honest about your hours and other requirements so that people know what to expect.
|Trust your own judgement and instincts. You understand your child's needs best and know what will suit your family.
Family Support NI
Family Support NI holds the Northern Ireland public register of all registered and approved childcare providers in Northern Ireland. You can use their website to search for registered and approved childcare in your area.
Childcare partnerships are operated by the HSC Board to offer information and support to childcare providers, parents and employers.