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Preparing for Child Care

Start your child care search with confidence. Just like it's wise to choose a pediatrician before the birth of a new baby, parents should research child care options in advance.

Where to start? The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services provides a list of licensed child care centers and licensed or registered child care homes.

Some parents prefer to have a child care provider come to their own home. Jamye Coffman, M.D., a child abuse pediatrician and medical director for Cook Children's Advocacy Resource and Evaluation (CARE) Team, advises parents to monitor their nanny or babysitter at all times. Child maltreatment can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss, but you need to be aware of the potential signs and ways to prevent abuse before it happens. Coffman herself says, "I would set up cameras in my home."

If you've selected a child care center, Dr. Coffman advises that you go visit it yourself. Two adults should be in the room with the children at all times. Ask about the visitation policy. If parents are discouraged to check in, look for a different facility or ask friends, family or your pediatrician for another recommendation. You should feel confident your child is in a safe and positive environment.

If you take your child to an in-home day care provider similar rules apply. Dr. Coffman says she always prefers two sets of adult eyes on the child, and she recommends that you visit frequently.  A good day care operator will welcome the opportunity for you to check in on your own child.

Most importantly, Dr. Coffman says to trust your gut. Your instincts will help you through life as a parent. "If you think something is off about where your child is being cared for, you don't want to risk waiting until something does happen to change caregivers. If you have that gut instinct, look for another day care or nanny."

Take the first step - find a pediatrician