HOMEWOOD, AL (WBRC) - Any parent knows that finding childcare can be a struggle financially and logistically.
Over the past few years, it's gotten worse in Alabama. From 2000 to 2016, the state went from 4,269 licensed child care centers to 1,799. That's according to the new 2017 Status of Childcare report released on Tuesday.
The report from the nonprofit group Childcare Resources highlights the need for affordable quality childcare in the state. Director Joan Wright says they hope to help parents navigate the overwhelming world of childcare choices, and help providers improve their programs. The center offers free childcare referrals for families, based on working hours, cost and location. Last year alone, 45,858 referrals were given.
Wright advises parents to engage their senses when looking for childcare. Listen to the sounds to see if children are crying or teachers are yelling. She also recommends visiting the center unannounced. Wright urges parents to ask if the center is licensed, and if not, find out why.
What parents need to look for when choosing a childcare center:
- Teacher-to-child ratio
- Group size
- Teacher education and teacher turnover
- Health and safety
- Family involvement
Training and Resources
Tiny tables, music and art centers, blocks and a play kitchen are all now set up inside a new sample classroom at the Childcare Resources offices on West Valley Avenue. It's part of a new training program offered to childcare providers for free, offering lessons on classroom design, developmental goals and peer-to-peer learning. Providers who complete the training course will receive up to $1,000 for supplies for their classroom.
For those who can't travel to the center, a mobile resource center and library travels regularly throughout Jefferson, Shelby, Blount and Walker counties distributing books, resources and information about all training options.
The center also offers training for grant writing for childcare providers. A class is coming up on Dec. 5.
You can learn more about resources for both parents and providers here http://www.ccr-bhm.org/.