Important Features to Help Parents Navigate Child Care Consumer Education Websites
One of the main purposes of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 (CCDBG), is “to encourage States to provide consumer education information to help parents make informed choices about child care services and to promote involvement by parents and family members in the development of their children in child care settings.” Each state must have an online consumer education website.
Before this reauthorized law requirement, the 2014 America After 3PM survey found that 51% of parents felt child care information for school age programs was not readily available in their community. With that lense, we reviewed all the state child care consumer education websites that were reachable (40 websites) to identify trends, challenges and innovations that might support consumer decision-making and awareness.
We identified a number of search details that helped enable parents and caregivers of school-age children to make well-informed choices for their child's or children's care.
Below we provide a checklist an advocate can use to see if a state is providing useful information on their website. If a state is not offering the option, it might help to talk to the state's department responsible for the site about what they can do to provide that information to the field.
To find a state's website, we have some states that made their website address public in their CCDF state plans available in the map below.
Age: Does the state allow you to search by age category, such as "infant", "school-age" and "school-age only"? Can you check multiple boxes for children of multiple ages? Some parents may be interested in having their fifth grader in a center alongside infants and/or younger sibling, others may look for something more targeted to a particular age group.
Map: Does the site have a map that allows you to see how close all programs you may interested in are to places such as work, home or a child's school? Does it allow you to see multiple programs at once, so you can consider travel plans for multiple children of varying ages if necessary? A parent who requires different programming for a toddler and for a ten year old will benefit from seeing where multiple programs are housed.
Transportation: Does the site have a way for programs to identify what kinds of transportation may be available to bring school-age children to a site after the school day ends? Working parents often cannot leave to transport students from a school to a center mid-day.
Schedule: Does the site allow you to search by a specific set of hours such as before-school, afterschool, overnight, or on weekends? Does it allow you to search more specifically by hour and or by day, for example Wednesday from 3-8 PM? Parents who have non- traditional hours, such as those in service fields might benefit from more detailed search options.
Financial Information: Does the site list the cost of care at the listed center? Does it provide the ability to search by payment options such as child care vouchers or a 21st Century Learning Community? Many websites list more than one type of program on their site so that parents can search for one in particular or see the range of options in their neighborhood.
Environment: Does the site discuss what kinds of enriching activities are provided to children and youth in their care? Five year olds may require a different range of activities than twelve year olds might.
Quality Systems: Does the site have a way of understanding how programs are involved in the state's quality system? Some school-age programs might have exemptions (ie not having to have a napping center) that should not affect how they appear on a quality scale.
Language: In addition to the search site itself being offered in different languages, does the search function allow you to find programs where staff speak different languages? Parents may feel more comfortable when they can leave their child with professionals who can communicate with the parents in their native language.
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