Hint: Helping families find good, supportive and affordable childcare is one of their primary roles.
Sometimes, finding good childcare is just a matter of knowing where to look. Word-of-mouth and the Internet are certainly good places to start your search. But Child Care Resource and Referral Centers (CCR&Rs) can help point you in the right direction more quickly and accurately. Here's the low-down on what these centers do, where to find them in your area and how to access their programs.
What Are Child Care Resource Centers?
"CCR&Rs collect information on what types of daycare, financial, parenting, health and educational resources are available to families in cities all across America," says Dr. Diane Levin, a professor of Early Childhood Education at Wheelock College in Boston.
Hundreds of agencies and partners work together to ensure that parents have access to quality affordable childcare and that young children are adequately prepared for kindergarten. CCR&Rs support children by holding workshops for parents and offering training programs for teachers to help them become better educators and childcare providers, according to Dr. Levin.
Where Can I Find a Local CCR&R?
A simple Internet search should do it, says Dr. Rosemary Kendall, a senior researcher for the Early Learning Challenge Program at AEM (Applied Engineering Management) Corporation. Additionally, Childcare Aware of America, a government-sponsored program, provides an online resource for helping parents get in touch with a local CCR&R.
"Childcare Aware has authored several helpful articles offering advice on how to choose the best childcare providers for your family," Dr. Kendall notes. She adds that visiting programs to get a personal feel for them is the "optimal way to determine which situation is the best fit for you and your child."
Who Runs CCR&Rs?
Childcare resource centers are run by government-sponsored agencies that "liaison with local community service providers to create a variety of financial, educational and childcare resources and programs for children and families," shares Dr. Levin.
Rules and eligibility requirements vary state to state, so she suggests you contact your local state-run agencies for information on how to apply for services and inquire about fees and program qualifications and limitations.
What Services Do CCR&Rs Provide?
Child Care Resource Centers typically recommend low-cost childcare centers to families and give them information about federal financial aid or grants. "In addition to the parenting workshops that some local agencies put together for families, there are also resources, such as budgeting tips and advice or classes on how to improve job skills," reports Dr. Levin.
She adds that some federal and state programs provide training for teachers who want to provide daycare and extracurricular programs for older kids who may only need someone to watch them for a few hours after the school day is over.
Other services childcare resource centers can help you gain access to include the Head Start and Early Head Start programs, which are early education, nutrition and daycare services specifically designed for low-income families.
Dr. Levin says she believes Head Start to be one of the best daycare options available. "Head Start programs focus on play-based early childhood education, which really serves young children in the most beneficial way," she notes.
Tisha Berg has been a freelance content writer and desktop publisher since 1997, with articles on family life, healthy living and parenting appearing on Working Mother, AboutOne, Lifescript and United Way. Tisha holds a bachelor's degree in theater history from Hunter College in New York City and is also certified hypnotherapist.