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Four Conditions for Day Care
Jason Godin

My wife and I both work Monday through Friday, a necessity for us to make ends meet. Unlike my wife, however, I follow an academic calendar as a college history teacher, which means that I spend three wonderful summer months with our toddler children. Yet from roughly the beginning of January till the end of May, and again from roughly the beginning of September till the middle of December, we must find day care for our children. 

The Godins balance work and child care to keep their family going.

The Godins balance work and child care to keep their family going.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that parents, as “first responsible for the education of their children,” have a fundamental right “to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions.” Parents “have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators” while public authorities “have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise” (2229, italics in original).

My wife and I made a tough but necessary choice on who would care for our kids based on these words. As practicing Catholics and “first teachers” to our toddler children, we established four conditions that had to be met, in this order:

1. institutional values, not only stated in writing  but also practiced in action by faculty
2. facility and faculty health
3. cost effectiveness
4. high degree of parent involvement. 

Institutional Values

The greatest concern my wife and I had was finding a day care that shared our values. After all, our kids are spending the bulk of their waking hours each weekday with someone else, and we wanted to make sure they would be with people who believed and practiced the Catholic faith.

Thankfully, we found a day care in our parish with that qualification. A crucifix hangs in every classroom. Faculty members impart biblical lessons through age appropriate activities such as listening to kid’s music with messages about loving God and neighbor, honoring your parents, and celebrating the lives of saints.

Facility and Faculty Health

Day care facilities should, at a minimum, provide a safe and secure physical environment. Outside playgrounds should have structurally sound fencing and safe building materials underneath the equipment. Primary doors into the facility itself should remain clearly posted and locked during non-operational hours. Bathrooms should remain clean and well-stocked. Classrooms should have doors with windows. 

My wife and I also discovered when first selecting day care that the best ones focus just as much on faculty health as the health of the facilities. The administrative staff at our children’s day care strives to maintain a student/teacher ratio that is lower than the state average. Fewer small children to watch allows faculty members not only to retain their sanity on the good days, but provides them time to report incidents in detail on the not so good days.

Cost Effectiveness

Day care in the United States is very expensive. Although tuition varies by geographical location, statistics reveal that full-time institutional day care costs average between $100 and $400 a week per child. Infant care is even higher. In addition to tuition, day care facilities also collect monthly and yearly fees for classroom supplies, late tuition payment, picking up your children late, and withdrawing early. 

Since we are registered parishioners at the same church as the day care, we receive a discount tuition rate. And we have actually found most costly are all the “miscellaneous” but still necessary items. So we purchase diapers, pull-ups, and wipes in wholesale quantities.
 
Parent Involvement

My wife and I made sure that the facility allowed us opportunities to participate in activities with our children. We wanted a day care that valued the input of parents as much as the talents of the children. But we also wanted day care that exercised discretion when it came to who specifically could interact with our children on a daily basis. 

Day care facilities across the country, and especially Catholic ones in the wake of the clergy abuse scandals, have instituted more rigorous guidelines for parent volunteering. Even as working parents, my wife and I have both reviewed and met the new standards at our children’s day care. Parent volunteers (in fact, all volunteers) must complete a comprehensive training process, which includes criminal background check, online application, and completion of the diocese’s ethics and integrity workshop. Additionally, all volunteers must receive recertification every three years.  

Catholic working parents, as they continue to remain responsible as the primary educators of their own kids, should take heart when it comes to the difficult but necessary task of selecting day care. My wife and I believe that when we placed special emphasis on these four conditions, the decision was easier to make in the short term, and provided some peace of mind for us in the long run. We never felt absent before, during, or after such an important decision.

Jason Godin teaches U.S. history at Blinn College in Bryan, Texas, and is a Third Degree member of the Knights of Columbus.