COPE CopeLine Supervisor

September 2019

Your Wellness & Work-Life Newsletter

The Childcare Guidebook

Choosing childcare can be a stressful and time-consuming task for parents. Knowing where to look, what types of care are available, and how to make the best choices is challenging. Even though this search can be hard work, your efforts will be well worth it. Quality care will provide a secure environment for your child's mental and emotional growth. What might be an ideal childcare arrangement for one family isn't necessarily going to work for another family.

Your goal should be to find the best arrangement given your resources, your needs, your child's needs and the options available in your community. This booklet is intended to make your search easier. Each section is devoted to a component of the decision-making process. First, read through this guide, and then share it with your spouse or partner. Begin working together to set your priorities. Does the care provider need to be nearer to your home, your place of work, or your spouse's? What can you afford to pay?

More detailed, county by county information should be available through your EAP counselor.

Beginning The Process

This guide is divided into the following six sections:
1. Thinking It Through
   a. Your Needs
   b. Your Child's Needs
2. Child Care Options
3. Making Your Choice
4. Parent - Provider Teamwork
5. Financial Considerations
6. Tax Information

1. Thinking It Through

a. Your Needs For many parents, the decision to place their child in care with someone else can be difficult. Parents want to do what is best for their child, but sometimes their own fears and anxieties make the choice difficult. Many parents feel guilty about not "being there" for their child. This is especially true of parents who had a mother who stayed home to care for them.

Because our economy and work force have changed, the majority of parents today can't afford to stop working. Even those who can afford to interrupt their careers for family care often feel torn about leaving the work force. Work gives many people an important outlet for personal expression and growth. We define ourselves largely by our job titles, and even though being a parent is a full-time, demanding job, we don't think of it in the same way. The result of these conflicting demands and desires is that we try to be good parents and successful in our work, but end up feeling we haven't really accomplished either.

One way to alleviate the guilt and worry is to view good childcare as a healthy compromise. If you know your child is enjoying his or her childcare experience, then you can feel positive about the efforts you made to secure the arrangements. In other words, you've found a solution that works well for you and your child. It's a win-win situation.

Here are some typical concerns parents have about childcare - identify which ones worry you too.
  • Do you sometimes feel torn between the demands of your job and your role as a parent? If so, in what ways?
  • Have you ever worried about a caregiver "taking your place" with your child?
  • When you were a child, did both your parents work outside the home?
  • If your parent stayed home with you, do you owe it to your child to do the same? For how long?
  • Do family or friends make negative comments about your childcare arrangements? How does it make you feel?
  • Do you lose sleep or have trouble concentrating at work due to worry about childcare arrangements?
  • Have you put off making decisions about childcare because you are confused about your options?
  • Is the cost of childcare a major concern for you?
  • Does your child have special needs you must provide for?
Talk with other parents who have gone through this period of doubt; many of your worries may prove unfounded. Share your concerns with your spouse, partner or friends. Talk to your Employee Assistance Counselor.

b. Your Child's Needs Children of all ages need affection and attention, opportunities for physical and mental growth, and a healthy, safe environment. However, children's needs will vary based on their age and developmental stage. The following are some general guidelines for different age groups. Since you know your child's personality and preferences the best, develop some questions of your own.

Baby's Needs (0 - 18 months)
  • Nurturing and love.
  • Adequate individual attention from a familiar and consistent caregiver.
  • Routines that can be adapted to your baby's needs
  • Opportunity for exploration and learning (activities so that babies aren't left alone in cribs for long periods of time).
  • Clean environment (i.e. diapering and eating areas are separate).
  • Safe environment, including "baby safe" toys.
  • How would you manage a child who cried continuously?
  • At what age do you think discipline should begin?
  • What kind of discipline would you use with children the age of my child?
Young Children's Needs (18 months - 5 years)
  • Adequate adult guidance.
  • Activities to stimulate creativity and build self-esteem.
  • Routines that build a sense of security.
  • Other children to play with.
  • Safe, clean, pleasant environment indoors and outdoors.
  • What kinds of meals do you provide?
  • What activities do you provide for children this age?
  • How do you handle toilet training?
  • What do you do if a child is angry and behaving aggressively?
Older children (school children ages 5 - 11)
  • Age appropriate learning opportunities during vacations and after school.
  • Other children of the same age.
  • Adequate adult leadership and oversight.
  • Space enough for active sports and games.
  • Who will direct the program? Who are the other caregivers?
  • What activities are planned?
  • How do children travel between school and child care?
  • Do you offer care during school holidays?
  • How could you help if my child is having trouble with homework?
  • What would you do if my child was ill or injured?

2. Child Care Options

There are a number of different types of childcare available. Each type will have advantages and disadvantages. Read through the following descriptions and consider which type of care best suit your situation and your child's.

In-Home Care
In-home care for your child involves a caregiver either coming to your home to care for your child, or actually living in your home in order to do so. Live-in caregivers are often called au-pairs or nannies. If you choose in-home care, your child will have the security that comes from being in a familiar setting. This arrangement can be especially good for very young children. You won't have to worry about pick-up and drop-off schedules as you would with care outside your home, unless, of course, the caregiver requires transportation.

Many parents have enough trouble communicating with their child's caregiver without an actual language barrier. When the childcare provider speaks your language poorly or not at all, the problem is compounded. You and your child care provider need a basic understanding about each other's expectations. Clear communication of day-to-day tasks, household rules, and emergency procedures is vital.

Finding someone you can trust to come into your home, someone who is like a family member, isn't always easy. Also, in-home care will be more expensive. Good caregivers are in high demand and you will have to pay competitive wages if you want to hold onto them.

Also, keep in mind that there are tax and employer obligations to comply with if you hire in-home care (see Section 6 of this Guide for more information).

Family Daycare
Family daycare is the most common type of childcare available. Family daycare is an arrangement where the substitute caregiver watches one or more children in his or her home going to the babysitter instead of the babysitter coming to you.

Often, the caregiver is also a parent. The home-like setting is a benefit. It allows your child a change to interact with other children. Family daycare usually offers flexible hours and is cost-effective for one or two children. This arrangement is especially good for infants, toddlers, and children with special needs.

Not all family daycare providers are licensed by the county or state. Those that are licensed must meet required guidelines, including a limit to the number of children in their care at any given time. Drawbacks to consider include the possibilities that the caregiver will give priority to his or her own child. Also, you will face a crisis if the provider gets sick or quits suddenly.

Daycare Centers
Daycare centers usually handle a larger number of children. They may be non-profit or for profit, and may be located in a church, office, shopping center, or converted home. A daycare center is staffed by teachers and their helpers and offer planned educational and playtime activities. Daycare centers are licensed by the state and must meet minimal safety, health, and staffing requirements (see Child Care Resources for the Childcare agency in your area to obtain a current listing of licensing requirements).

A daycare center offers your child the chance to join in activities planned for a group of children that are his or her age. Not all children's social skills develop at the same rate, but for those who are ready to make friends, this can be a positive experience. There are group daycare programs for toddlers, preschoolers, and school children, but few offer infant care.

The drawbacks to daycare centers may include: not enough individual attention, an unwillingness on the part of the center to accept sick children, or children who aren't toilet trained. Providers who work in shifts, and the more institutional environment, may not suit all children.

Nursery Schools
Nursery schools typically offer group programs to children from 2 1/2 to 4 years old. Most programs are open three to four hours a day and usually follow the public school calendar, so there is not care on holidays or in the summer. Nursery schools are also licensed by the state.

School-Age Child Care Programs
These programs provide care and activities for school-age children before and after the regular school day. In many cases, these programs are available during school holidays and summer vacations. School-age programs are offered by school systems, community groups, social service agencies, daycare centers, or by young organizations such as YWCA/YMCA and many boy's and girl's clubs.

3. Making Your Choice

Step 1: Decide on the type of care and location that seems best suited to your needs.

Step 2: Contact the Childcare Resource & Referral Agency in your area (refer to the Childcare Resources and Additional Parent Resources sections of this Guidebook).

Step 3: Begin calling the listed providers to determine who has an opening that fits your budget and is a person or center you would like to learn more about. See the list of suggested questions for childcare providers located in this guidebook.

Step 4: After narrowing your selections through telephone screening, follow-up with a visit to the centers or providers you are most interested in. Again, review the questions on your list and take time to observe the interactions between the provider(s) and the children. Arrange for a second visit and bring your child along.

Step 5: Discuss your final decision with people you trust.

Step 6: After you have decided, arrange for a meeting with the caregiver to complete your child's enrollment

4. Parent - Provider Teamwork

As a parent, it will benefit both you and your child if you view the daycare experience as teamwork. You and the provider you choose will work together to achieve a positive learning and growing experience for your child. Communication is crucial in teamwork. Be open and clear about your feelings, concerns, and desires. Remember that being open includes expressing your positive feelings too. Providers need to hear about what pleases you, just as parents need positive feedback. Keep the following in mind when developing a spirit of teamwork:
  • Show respect for the provider's role, but do not hesitate to ask questions.
  • Voice your concerns early and in a constructive way. Go directly to the responsible person, not a helper.
  • Be responsible. Pick up your child on time, pay fees promptly, etc.
  • Keep the provider well-informed. Advise the caregiver of changed phone numbers, important medical developments, the names of persons allowed to pick up your child, etc.
  • Learn the provider's rules. Are children allowed to bring their own toys to day care? Are parents required to label all personal possessions and clothing with children's names and date of birth? What physical symptoms of illness indicate a child cannot be admitted to the center?

5. Financial Considerations

The cost of child care varies, depending on the type of care you choose and the location. In general, costs for infant care are higher than for older children.

Family Daycare: Average rates range from $155 to $235 per week for full-time licensed care.

Daycare Centers: Average rates range from $160 to $310 per week.

Nannies: Live-in (average 45-50 hours) can range from $400 to $600 per week, plus room and board. This does not include additional costs for Social Security and other taxes, as well as possible health insurance. Live-out nannies (average 45-50 hours) typically charge $300 to $700 weekly. This does not include membership or placement fees associated with a nanny service.

Baby-Sitters: Standard rates for a defined schedule are typically $7 to $10 per hour.

Before & After School Programs: In-home care averages $90 to $310 per month and Childcare Centers average $100 to $410 per month.

When determining your budget for childcare, consider not only the rate, but also the associated costs for transportation, food, and supplies. If you think you may qualify for some form of financial assistance, discuss this with the childcare center or your local Childcare Resource and Referral Agency (see resources). Also, include any possible tax credits in your budget.

6. Tax Information

If you employ a childcare provider, such as a nanny, you must comply with employer tax obligations. These include:
  • Social Security and Medicare (FICA)
  • Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
  • State Unemployment Tax
  • Worker's Compensation
  • I-9 Documentation
Call The IRS 1-800-829-1040: Ask for publication 926, Household Employees Tax Guide.

Call the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly INS) 800-357-2099: The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services has information on I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification,

For information on State Unemployment Taxes:

DC Office of Taxes and Revenue 202-727-4829
Business Tax Registration (Form Fr-500)

Comptroller of MD 800-492-5524
Combined Registration Application (Form COM/RAD-093)

VA Employment Commission 804-786-5085
Alexandria Office - 703-813-1300
Liability for State Unemployment Tax (Form VEC-FC-27)

Government Subsidies for Child Care Costs
The largest amount of Federal support for childcare is through the Child Care Tax Credit. Tax-paying parents who use childcare services because they are working, looking for work, or attending school, can receive this support. The amount of eligible credit varies depending on cost of childcare and the income of the taxpayer. The tax credit is not a refund to individuals, but only a credit against taxes.

Childcare expenses that might qualify for the tax credit include care at a childcare center, after-school program, family daycare in a home, in-home caregiver, or a housekeeper who also cares for the children. For more information, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 and ask for a free Internal Revenue Service booklet, Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.

Other Government Benefits
Federal and State Programs provide childcare services for low income parents. Preschool education programs are provided through Head Start. Low-income children with disabilities are eligible for SSI benefits. More disabled children are now eligible due to a recent Supreme Court decision that has broadened the disability criteria. Call the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, 202-401-2337.

Earned Income Credit
The EIC is a tax credit for families that work (full-time, part-time, or part of the year) and have children. The EIC is a "refundable" credit (unlike the Child Care Credit), which means that eligible families can benefit from the credit even if they don't owe income tax. Eligible families that don't owe income tax receive a check from the IRS. If a family does owe income tax, the EIC reduces the amount of taxes owed.

To receive the EIC, eligible families must file a federal income tax return and attach a form called Schedule EIC. Both parents and children must have social security numbers, and parent(s) must be U.S. citizens or legal U.S. residents. Families can obtain free help from IRS operators during regular weekday business hours by calling 1-800-829-1040. In 2012, families that have earned income less than $36,920 ($42,130 married filing jointly) with one child and $41,952 ($47,162 married filing jointly) for more than one child living at home for more than half the year will qualify for the EITC. For more information on the EITC, visit the IRS's EITC FAQ webpage

7. Childcare Resources

The following information is provided to assist parents in locating childcare services in the greater metropolitan-Washington, DC area. It is the parent's responsibility to interview and screen the providers before making a final selection.


City of Alexandria Dept. of Social Services 703-746-5437
Arlington County Office for Early Childhood
Children's Services
City of Fairfax Human Services Coordinator 703-385-7894
Fairfax County Dept. of Family Services 703-324-8100
  School-Age Child Care Program (SACC) 703-449-8989
City of Falls Church See Fairfax County  
Fauquier County Child Care Assistance Program 540-422-8400
Fredericksburg Dept. of Social Services 540-372-1032
Loudoun County Dept. of Family Services 703-777-0353
  Parks & Recreation, County After-School Activities (CASA) 703-777-0343
Manassas Dept. of Social Services 703-361-8277
Prince William County Social Services 703-792-7500
  School-Age Child Care 703-791-8844
Stafford Dept. of Social Services 540-658-8720


Anne Arundel Child Care Connections 877-261-0060
City of Baltimore Locate Child Care Family Network 877-261-0060
Baltimore County Child Care Links 877-261-0060
Charles County Dept. of Community Services 301-934-9305
Chesapeake Locate Child Care Family Network 877-261-0060
Frederick Dept. of Social Services 301-631-2687
  Child Care Choices 301-695-4508
Howard County Child Care Center 410-313-1930
Montgomery County Child Care Resource and Referral Center 240-777-3110
  Child Care Subsidy Program 240-777-1155
Prince George's County Locate Child Care Family Network 877-261-0060
  Dept. of Social Services 301-209-5000

District of Columbia

District of Columbia Childcare Service Division 202-727-0284

West Virginia

Berkeley County Bureau for Children & Families 304-267-0100
Morgan County Bureau for Children & Families has recently changed

Questions for Child Care Providers

Professional, qualified providers will welcome parent's questions about the care they provide. Visit and observe several childcare settings before making your choice.

About The Center
  • License: Is the provider licensed? For what ages? For how many children? Is the license displayed? Is it current?
  • Openings: Is there an opening in your child's age group? If not, when might an opening be available? Is there a waiting list? Is there a charge to be on that waiting list?
  • Tuition: What is the fee? What does the fee cover? What does the fee not include? Will you have to pay for days when your child is on vacation or out sick?
  • Financial Assistance: Is there any financial assistance offered for child care? What do you need to do to apply?
  • Hours/Late Charges: What are the center's hours? Are drop-off/pick-up times flexible? Is there any charge if you are late picking up your child?
  • Yearly Schedule/Holidays: What is the center's yearly schedule? Are there holiday or other times when the center is closed?
  • Illness: What is the policy if your child is sick? Is the program set up to care for sick children? What happens if your child gets sick during the day? Will you need a doctor's note to return your child to the program?
  • Visits/References: Are drop-in, unscheduled visits welcome? May parents contact staff references or other families who use the center?
About The Caregivers
  • Qualifications: Who will care for my child? What are their qualifications? Has the daycare center done careful background checks on prospective employees?
  • Curriculum/Training: Who directs the curriculum of the center? How closely are the staff supervised? How are they trained?
  • Philosophy: Do you feel comfortable with the caregiver's beliefs on how children should be:
    • fed
    • taught to care for themselves
    • disciplined
    • played with
    • talked to
    • comforted
  • Communication: Does the caregiver seem to enjoy children of your child's age? Are you comfortable talking with him/her? How do you feel about his person?
About The Facility/Program
  • Is the center/home in a safe neighborhood? Is it smoke-free?
  • Is there enough room for all the children to play indoors and outdoors?
  • How clean are the kitchen and bathroom areas?
  • Is there a good assortment of quality play materials?
  • Are the planned activities ones your child will enjoy?

Additional Parent Resources

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
800-424-2460; 202-232-8777
1313 L St.NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20005,

COPE, Incorporated was a metropolitan Washington, DC company that provided Employee Assistance Services since 1978. The company was qualified to help companies with organizational challenges in areas as diverse and complex as human resource policy, labor relations and crisis managements. In addition to individual short-term counseling to identify and resolve personal and workplace issues, our services included critical incident debriefing, grief counseling, career transition, alternative dispute resolution, handicapped accommodation and management consultation. We also offered training programs such as Sexual Harassment Prevention seminars, Workplace Violence Awareness, Diversity Training and Drug-Free Workplace policy instruction. COPE ceased counseling operations in 2019. It continues to offer online educational resources.

Michele Ginnerty, M.S.
Marta McKinnon, M.Ed., LPC, CEAP
Nancy Bowes Kinney, MSW, CEAP
Edited by Mary McClain

Published by COPE, Incorporated
All Rights Reserved, 2020
Cope Incorporated