October 22, 2015
Safe, Secure and Happy: Finding the Best Care for a Child With Special Health Concerns
by Scott Thomas
It can be hard enough to find child care for a healthy child. But, for those who have children with special needs, it can be much, much, more difficult. Here are some ways to find the best care possible for a child that needs just a little more help.
Consider a Special Needs Daycare Center
Finding good child care is difficult when you need it for your special needs child. The American Disabilities Act doesn’t allow day care centers to refuse to admit a child because of a disability. But, not all daycare providers have the knowledge and expertise to care for all types of children either.
This is where a special-needs daycare center can help. To determine if your child would benefit from a traditional vs a special-needs daycare, start by listing your child’s strengths. Most parents start out by naming their child’s disabilities. While it’s important for a daycare center to know this, it’s also important for the provider to understand what your child can do.
Rate your child’s ability to communicate and socialize on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being very functional. If your child is below a “5,” then consider a specialized provider.
Reach Out To Trusted Resources In Your Community
Don’t be afraid to reach out to a trusted source in your community. Once you’ve decided that a daycare center focusing on your special-needs child is the best option, you still need to actually find such a center.
Ask around in the special-needs community – support groups that cater to families with special-needs children. Also, join a Listserv that caters to families with children that have special needs.
National childcare referral agencies are another option. The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (nichcy.org) and Child Care Aware (childcareaware.org) are two such agencies that can help you find daycare or childcare center that’s appropriate for your child.
Some local organizations, like Easter Seals, might also be able to help.
Friends, family, your church, and other social organizations might also be able to help. Don’t discount them or forget about them. If you don’t know where to turn, your priest may be the best help in your community. Churches, and other similar social organizations, often have a social leader that is well-connected with the rest of the community.
Assess The Environment Of Ordinary Childcare Facilities
If you decide to place your child in a specialty childcare center, you should ask yourself several questions:
- How will this provider handle behavioral challenges that my child displays?
- Is the environment safe for my child?
- Can this center cater to my child’s special needs?
- Does this childcare center have the staff and training necessary to care for my child?
- Is this center too restrictive or too free for my child’s needs and abilities?
- How will the childcare center handle discipline?
While non-specialized facilities can sometimes cater to children with special needs, you must assess each provider individually, meet frequently with the person giving care, and keep the facility updated about any changes in your child.
The center will probably also want to interview your child, spend some time with him or her, and assess the staff’s ability to care for the child.
Many times, a primary caregiver needs to be appointed for the child, and if this can’t be done, the childcare center will refuse service because they’re not equipped to care for your child.
Hire A Specialized Provider or Nanny
Sometimes, there’s not a perfect solution in the local area. If you feel more comfortable hiring a specialized nanny for your child, search for one who has experience working with special-needs children.
Child care search engines like Care.com, SitterCity.com, and SeekingSitters.com have filters for finding special nannies and sitters that have experience with children that have special needs.
Do a background check to make sure that the person you’re hiring doesn’t have any criminal history. The more severe your child’s disability, the higher the risk for abuse by childcare providers, nannies, and sitters.
Regardless of your choice, you should also consider a “nannycam” which will monitor your home, giving you valuable insight into what happens when you’re not around.
Cameras inside the home are sometimes viewed as an invasion of privacy by some nannies, but this is really for the child’s protection. If a caregiver has a problem with this, it’s best to choose another provider. Your child is worth it.
Melissa Strong works in childcare. She is a mother of three and has a passion for trying to help others with her support and ideas. She writes regularly for a number of family-orientated websites.