I recently returned to work full-time and the biggest challenge I faced was finding acceptable childcare for my children. There are so many things to consider for the non-eco-minded mom, that adding a natural lifestyle to the mix can make the task even more daunting.
In my search, I found a program that was helpful—Eco-Healthy Child Care. This national program ensures that child care settings are as happy, healthy, safe and green as possible by reducing children’s exposure to toxins. It’s important to note that many childcare centers are not on this list, and that does not mean that they don’t meet the requirements. It simply indicates that they may not have applied to the program and may not even be aware of it. You can search for providers and there are currently 607 endorsed centers in 46 states. If there are no endorsed centers in your area, don’t fret—there is a checklist for providers to fill out to get endorsed. I found it helpful to print out the checklist and use it to ask questions and make my own decisions. The center my children will be attending is not currently endorsed, but I will be letting them know about this program so they can seek endorsement.
When I was researching daycares in my area, I utilized every search tool I could find. Most states and many counties have departments dedicated to childcare. In addition to holding a database of licensed daycare facilities, as well as information for parents to help them decide on a daycare that’s right for them. The state and county websites often will provide a checklist of items for parents to both ask about and look for when visiting centers. I used the one provided on the Nassau County Child Care Council’s Website. Some of the questions seemed like no-brainers to me, for instance “All sharp objects are out of reach.” However, at one center I did see a child walking around with a pair of adult scissors, so don’t think any of the items on the checklist are overly obvious.
The checklists provided are helpful, but there may be more questions you’ll want to find out. For example if you’ve decided to use cloth diapers, you’ll want to find a center that will use cloth diapers on your child. Some may not be willing to comply with this, in which case you might be forced to consider eco-friendly disposable diapers for use in daycare. If you follow an organic diet, you’ll want to know if the daycare serves organic food. If they don’t, it’s important to find out if they will feed your child organic food if you provide it. In my experience, approximately half of the daycares provide meals and the other half require you bring your child’s meals each day.
Location is another thing to take into consideration when selecting child care. When I searched for daycare, I began my search near my home. I thought it would be easiest to have my children close to home, but due to wait lists, I ended up looking at centers closer to my job. In the end, I chose one less than five minutes from where I work. There are many benefits to this—the first being that I’m close by in case of an emergency. In addition, this gives me the opportunity to drop in unannounced, or to attend events that parents are invited to, without using a whole vacation day. In the end, I found it to be a blessing that the centers near my home were full. Another thing to consider in terms of a child care center’s location is what’s nearby. One of my friends loved a daycare center, but less than 100 yards way was a cell phone tower. While much research seems to say there is no link between cell phone tower exposure and cancer or other health issues, I’m not willing to take the risk with my children. Cell phone towers and widespread cell phone use is still relatively new, so personally I would not send my child to a center located near something questionable like a cell tower.
Returning to work is never easy on a mom or her kids, but sometimes it must be done. Finding childcare that meets your needs and provides a safe, nurturing environment for your children is one of the most important things you can do for them. Making sure that the child care provider you choose will be in line with your green values is imperative in helping lay the groundwork for your child’s values, as well as for keeping them safe as their young bodies develop.