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Parents' day care dilemma: Homes vs. centers

By Chad Previch Modified: August 7, 2007 at 12:30 am •  Published: August 7, 2007
Ask Carly Gilkerson to list things she hopefully never has to do again and picking a day care provider is probably near the top. The Edmond mother has done it twice and neither time was smooth.

"It's a huge pain,” she said. "When you find somebody good, don't let them go.”

Her two children, Sara, 9, and Ethan, 4, are now in two different home day cares where she feels they are lovingly watched. But that was after removing her daughter from one day care center and some other horrors.

Her quest is similar to many parents' experiences. In the end, she decided to go with a home day care instead of a day care center because of the close interaction.

Many parents, those in the field say, do not know there are differences between the two. But there are variations, such has how many children and what ages they can take, whether alcohol or tobacco is allowed and what kind of inspections they're subject to.

Tips for choosing a center

Melinda Belcher, resource and referral coordinator with the Child Care Resource Center in Tulsa, said each parent will feel differently about choosing a home or center. Some like the homey feel of the day care home while others prefer the school atmosphere of a center.

Belcher offers the following tips:

•Look for working smoke detectors.

•Make sure the home owner or center operator allows parents to visit any time they want. If the day care operator allows only scheduled visits by the parent, that provider might not be the right one.

•Parents working nontraditional hours might find more options with the home, Belcher said.

•Talk to the operator for at least 20 minutes, ask for references and phone numbers of other parents. "It's just like a job interview,” Belcher said.

•Parents also should ask themselves whether they would want to play there for eight hours a day.

More regulations on centers

•Mary Leaver, spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services, said there are 3,700 homes and 1,800 centers in Oklahoma. Oklahoma Dept. of Human Services

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