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Child Care

Relative, Friend or Neighbor Child Care

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

A final type of childcare is to have a relative, friend, or neighbor provide care. This is similar in some ways to a family care setting, but the person is usually only providing care for one child and perhaps his/her own, as well.

grandparents and childThe first advantage to this type of care is that because it takes place in the context of a pre-existing relationship, both children and parents' transition into care becomes easier. Because the parents likely already know and trust the caregiver, they are less likely to feel anxiety or stress when leaving their child with the caregiver. Children too generally feel more comfortable receiving care from a known and trusted caregiver.

In this care arrangement, children may be cared for in their own home or in the caregiver’s home. If children are cared for in their own homes, travel time is reduced to zero, and the child is automatically in a comfortable setting with his or her own toys, bed, etc. Because the caregiver already has a relationship with the family, the caregiver’s home will most likely also be known, comfortable and familiar to the child.

A disadvantage to this care arrangement which is shared with the nanny arrangement, is that there is no participation in a formal food program, and therefore, parents must provide the food or make sure the caregiver is providing appropriate and healthy meals for the child. There is also generally no set curriculum, so in many cases more unstructured play time occurs during the day than would be the case with more formalized educational day care. Parents must consider whether the care provider really wants to spend entire days with the child and is knowledgeable about quality methods for providing childcare or is instead just trying to help out and make a few dollars on the side. In this situation too, the caregiver may become ill, requiring parents to have a backup care plan in place.

An issue that must be considered with this type of care that is not as relevant for other types of care is the maintenance of the relationship between the parent and the relative, friend, or neighbor providing care. It can be more difficult for a parent to disagree with the way the care provider has handled given situations with the child, such as discipline issues, than is the case when a paid professional is providing services. If parents have an issue with a day care center, family caregiver, or nanny, they are free to find alternate care, and, in most cases, exit the care relationship without having to interact with that caregiver again. However, when a relative, friend, or neighbor is providing care, it becomes more difficult for parents to share concerns or wishes about care issues without ruining the relationship and causing family or friendship rifts.

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