By Karen Cortés
Special to CTLatinoNews.com
As autumn approaches, many families are exploring new child care options to accommodate changing school and work schedules. The right kind of care can set the foundation for a lifetime of health and learning, whether you choose a traditional child care center, in-home or family care. Whatever works best for your family, be sure that your child is going to receive the same quality food and nutrition in his or her care setting that you would expect at home.
There are standards for food service at both family day care provided in homes as group day care centers, says William Gerrish, spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
Family day care programs must include adequate nutritious meals, stored in a safe and sanitary manner, and drinking water must be accessible to children at all times.
A host of regulations govern food serve in child care centers. When a child day care center or group day care home provides either meals or snacks, dated menus must be prepared at least one week in advance and be posted in a conspicuous place. Changes shall be documented by the end of the program day. The kitchen facility must be physically separated from the area where care is provided, and group centers must have a registered dietician consultant available to the operator and staff for advice regarding nutrition and food service.
A report from ChildCare Aware of America places the average cost of infant care in a Connecticut child care center at $12,884, and $10,539 for a four-year-old. The YMCA of Greater Hartford, the largest provider of child care services in the region, encourages all family to think “quality first” when evaluating possible caregivers, not cost, when deciding where to make this significant investment in a child’s health and well-being.
Nearly 10,000 Connecticut children receive some sort of financial assistance for care. Among the agencies providing financial assistance is the Connecticut Care 4 Kids program, which helps families pay their child care costs to help parents stay employed. It also helps families on Temporary Family Assistance who are working or learning skills to obtain employment.
If you’re not sure where to begin in your search for a healthy care provider, the United Way of Connecticut offers 211 Child Care, a confidential and free child care referral telephone service in Connecticut. 211 Child Care maintains current listings of all state licensed child care centers and family child care homes, as well as listings for nanny agencies, nursery schools, play groups and summer camp programs in Connecticut. (Visit www.211childcare.org or dial 211).
For more information about healthy child care options in your area, visit the YMCA of Greater Hartford at ghymca.org, or the Connecticut Department of Social Services at www.ct.gov/dss and view resources for families with children.
(Photo by anotherlunch.com via Flickr)
By Karen Cortés