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Choosing Childcare: Finding and Keeping the Best Childcare Arrangements


In 1969, as a single mother in Washington, DC, I had to struggle to make precarious arrangements to care for my preschool child while I worked to survive. My salary as a teacher barely covered expenses, so I sought another position and found one in the Office of Education (now the Department of Education).

Working with other federal employees who were also parents, I discovered a huge unmet need for childcare among these employees. I organized over a two-year period to create the first childcare center for the children of federal employees, located in what had previously been the Department of Education’s Executive Dining Room. The Center opened and became a model childcare program for the entire government and private industry.
I testified on the need for childcare before the Congressional Committee reviewing proposed childcare legislation. Later, I transferred to the Office of Economic Opportunity to plan and administer the first National Research and Development Program for Day Care.

Over two years, $2.5 million was allocated to support a variety of projects to obtain more detailed information on programs, standards, licensing, facilities, resources, research, and more. I also worked on the committee that helped launch unanimous support for childcare’s being selected as the first priority at the White House Conference of 1970; then the first bi-partisan legislation to support quality childcare passed Congress, but the legislative program was vetoed by then-President Nixon.
Frustrated by that veto, I left Washington, DC, to complete my Ph.D. studies and conduct the first cross-cultural study of childcare. After my doctoral dissertation was published, I wrote the first book to guide parents to find childcare services: Choosing Childcare. This book was republished by Dutton, and then by Barron’s.

Now this new, revised edition of the original Choosing Childcare: A Guide for Parents is available to assist you in your search for the best quality childcare arrangements you can locate.

I wrote other books documenting needs, programs and the potential of childcare services, as well as articles, and chapters in other books. I remain an advocate for the improvement of services to children and families.


The combining of work with parenthood is a delicate and challenging task. The job requires all the resources, ingenuity, skill, good humor, and strength you can muster. Millions of parents are working or must return to work after their children are born. Others want to return to school, volunteer in the community, or need some time to pursue personal needs and responsibilities. Before they can do any of these things, however, they must see that their children are well cared for while they are away from home.

Some fortunate parents have friends or relatives living nearby to assist them in caring for their children in an informal and inexpensive way. Many do not and must look elsewhere in their community to locate the best available and most affordable childcare.

The goal of this unique guide, the first book published on "Choosing Childcare," is to help you find, evaluate and select the best care possible for your child. Using the guide may help you find not only the most suitable arrangement more quickly, but also help you feel better about your choice and maintain your trust over time.

Choices vary. A caregiver may tend your child in your home, in a family childcare home, or in a childcare center. However, finding a good and convenient arrangement is not easy. Good childcare programs usually have long waiting lists, may be inconvenient to reach from your home, or may cost more than you can afford. Most communities fall short in providing enough good childcare services to meet the demand for quality, accessibility and affordability.

All parents in search of childcare seem to want the same thing -- a secure place that will provide consistent quality, sensitive care, learning opportunities, and expressed values that do not conflict with their own. They seek a safe, attractive place staffed with trained and caring adults who have an ample and varied supply of teaching materials, toys, and equipment. Parents prefer a sliding fee scale based on their ability to pay.

For many parents the search for childcare is only one of several personal and family problems. Eager to solve at least one problem as quickly as possible they may settle for the first available childcare arrangement.
One young mother told me how she had met a woman at the Laundromat who said she would take care of her fifteen-month-old son. The woman had not had any recent childcare experience, but she had just lost her husband and thought she would enjoy having a young person to look after. The mother was anxious to begin a new job and gave the care of her child to the woman. The first few days the mother called during the day and everything seemed all right. But when she arrived at the end of the day to pick up her son, she noticed the baby’s pants were wet and the baby was cranky and irritable long into the evening. One day, deciding to check on the situation, she dropped by and found the woman watching a soap opera on TV while her son was unhappily parked in a playpen with wet diapers.
Because unsatisfactory childcare arrangements can become as great an emotional problem and energy drain as finding the childcare in the first place, it is worth the time and effort to make a thorough investigation before choosing a childcare provider. Finding the situation that will make you and your child happy may take weeks of searching and visiting, but the quick solution is no solution if your peace of mind -- or your child -- suffers.

The information in this guide will assist you in selecting the best possible childcare services with the least amount of time and effort. Included are detailed time-tested checklists giving specific points to look for in each of the places you visit. The kind of realistic questions you should ask at different stages of your search are included to make your challenging job easier.

The information and suggestions given should help reduce your feelings of uncertainty in selecting the most appropriate childcare situation. However, only you can make the final decision based on the personal needs of you and your child.

I recall vividly the harried and stressful experiences I had when my daughter was a baby and I had to return to work. The balancing act between home and work is never easy, yet we learn from our experiences. I want to share the experiences with you to help you find the best possible childcare available in your community for your child.


This is an excellent book which fully accomplishes the aim stated in its subtitle providing a guide for parents in the task of choosing childcare.
This book should be required reading for every parent about to make that choice for the first time or about to make a change. Dr. Auerbach provides a step by step guide for parents who are in the process of making this important decision. Sometimes parents find it difficult to know what to day to perspective childcare personnel Auerbach provides the kinds of questions to which parents will want answers. The author is careful to present objective description of the various alternatives for child care-in-home sitters, family childcare and center based care available in most communities. By carefully considering the pros and cons of each setting all parents should be able to choose the pattern of childcare which would simultaneously fulfill the needs of their children and their needs as parents.

Betty M.Caldwell, Ph.D., University of Arkansas, Little Rock, AK.