Special Needs Child Care Guide: Care Options
Finding the right caregiver for your child
Navigating child care options can be overwhelming for any family, and additional consideration must be given when deciding on care for a child with special needs. Many families with children with special needs must hire more than one type of caregiver. This, in and of itself, can make the search for care more daunting. More and more, parents are attempting to create a pool of qualified caregivers they can call upon for a variety of needs. Below are general child care options to consider, plus factors to keep in mind when looking for the best option to help your child with special needs to thrive.
- Family care. If you have the benefit of having relatives who are local and available, consider incorporating family into your child care plan. This option no doubt will offer peace of mind, knowing that your child will be cared for by a loving relative who is personally invested in helping your child to thrive. Nevertheless, family care has its own set of challenges that will need to be addressed, such as figuring out compensation or clarifying boundaries.
- Mature sitter. Mature sitters represent anything from professional child care providers to older women looking for supplemental income now that their own children are grown and out of the house. Canvas your local special needs support groups, as you may be fortunate to find a parent of a now-grown child with special needs who understands the concerns you have and the accommodations your child will need and who is willing to care for your child.
- Nanny. A live-in or live-out nanny would provide one-on-one care for your child in your home. The benefits are that you need not worry about the extra steps of day care drop off and pick up, and that all of your child's favorite toys and any special gear will be at the ready; the downside is that you lose the socialization experience you child would gain in a group day care. When researching nanny options, look for nannies with specific interest or experience in working with children with special needs. Note that nannies with experience in this domain may command higher wages.
- Licensed child care center. In addition to the benefits of socialization, sending your child to a privately run child care center offers the benefit that the center must comply with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In a nutshell, Title III states that child care providers cannot exclude persons on the basis of a disability, and must make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and physical accessibility to integrate those with special needs into the child care center. (Note that child care centers that are run by religious entities such as churches, mosques, or synagogues are not covered by Title III.)
- Respite care. Sometimes you may simply need a break through temporary care. Respite care can give you time to yourself and restore your inner resources so that you can have enough to give to your family once again. Connect with local families who have children with special needs and local agencies to identify sources of respite care.
Deciding on the right care option for your child can be a challenging process, but you will enjoy immense peace of mind once you identify the situation best suited to your child's needs and gifts. Start looking into care options early, as there often are waiting lists (particularly for less prevalent infant care) for many programs.
Christine Koh is a music and brain scientist turned parent and writer about parenting issues for Care.com. She is also the editor of BostonMamas.com.
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