Just for Kids

Parents of Hampshire County pre-school children are faced with numerous choices regarding child care.

By Chelsi Baker | 01/02/2013

According to the 2011 U.S. Census, 5.1 percent of the Hampshire County population is under five years old. Local families with full-time working parents must choose a childcare option that is right for them, and there are many choices – from traditional daycare to head start programs and Christian childcare academies to babysitters. However, some options are harder to find and more expensive than others.

Many parents choose daycare for their children because of the trained staff and established curriculum. Romney has two full service daycares, Romney’s Little Rascals and Valley View Daycare. Combined, they can accommodate only 105 children, according to statements made by spokesmen for the facilities.

Shelly Daugherty, a mother of a 3-year-old boy and 7-month-old twins, who all attend Romney’s Little Rascals daycare, prefers it over other child care options because the staff documents things daily and provides a report when she picks up the children at the end of the day.

“If they don’t think they’re feeling well or if there is something wrong, they’ll call you,” said Daugherty. “You know about everything. You get a daily activity report that tells you their mood, what they ate through the day, what their nap was like, what toys they liked to play with through the day.”

The cost of daycare in Romney ranges from $60 to more than $200 each week, depending on how many days the children attend and how many children a family enrolls. Many parents who have children in local daycares think they are worth the high costs, though.

“They teach them and have them do art and activities,” said Daugherty. “You get to bring home the cutest little things. I can tell Spencer has learned so much since he’s been down there. He comes home and tells me things I never have taught him.”

Brook Michael, who lives in Augusta, but works in Winchester, considered taking her oldest little girl, Hailey, to a Christian daycare in Winchester to keep her daughter in a religious environment while she and her husband were at work.

Unfortunately, some daycares in Winchester also have limited capacities, resulting in waiting lists. Most daycares in Winchester can take 40-60 children on average, but in addition to Winchester residents, the daycares attract parents who live in surrounding areas and come to work in town. There are many more facilities in Winchester, but there are also many more children and families who are in need of daycare, according to Candace Russell, administrator of Cuddle Bears Day Care in Winchester.

Faced with the need for childcare and a long waiting list to get access to the facility she wanted, Michael opted for Cathy Hawse, a babysitter she found through friends at church.

“The Christian daycare we looked into had a six month wait,” Michael said. “By the time they had an opening Hailey was already settled in with Cathy and I knew she was more like home. I didn’t want to take her out and get her into a new routine.”

Winchester daycares also tend to cost more then Hampshire County daycares, ranging from $140 to more than $250 each week per child enrolled. Parents with multiple children reported spending around $200 maximum on daycare in Romney.

There is help available to families who need daycare but cannot afford its high prices, though.

Many daycares in both Romney and Winchester accept MountainHeart, a program designed to help pay for childcare based on the family’s income. This can help ease the burden for families who might not be able to afford daycare without assistance.

Parents report that in-home care or babysitters are up to half as expensive as daycares and offer the luxury of charging by the day. Many daycares charge weekly rates that do not depend on how many days the child attends.

Penny Hott, a local mother who uses an in-home care provider for her children, looked into after school programs at daycares before meeting her babysitter, Deana Fout, through a family member. The programs were more than the family wanted to spend, so Hott was thankful to be able to find an alternative.

Some parents prefer babysitters because they believe their children get more personal attention than they would at a daycare where there can be 8-10 teachers for 50 or more kids.

“Deana watches my children, but she also helps raise them. She has a lot of personal qualities I admire. She says grace with my children at meals, and I appreciate that,” said Hott.

For Michael, it is important that her babysitter, Cathy Hawse, offers affection and a nurturing environment to her girls.

“My girls like to be rocked to sleep, so Cathy will sit down and rock them,” she said.

For parents whose schedules change frequently, the firm operating hours at a daycare can be daunting, especially if there is a long commute time involved in getting to work.

“When it snows, I like to ride down the road with my husband, but he leaves for work at 5 a.m.,” Michael said. “We can call Cathy and she will let us drop the girls off early. If I’m running late picking them up at night, they sometimes eat dinner with Cathy and her family.”

Hott also appreciates the flexibility of a babysitter.

“If your schedule changes, it’s hard to get there at the same time every day. Deana is very flexible and very dependable, and that means a lot.”

While using a babysitter or in-home care provider is less expensive and often more convenient for working parents, there are some risks involved.
Teachers at both Winchester and Romney daycares are certified in CPR and first-aid, and they have undergone background checks. People who have been convicted of domestic violence or drug charges are not eligible to teach at daycares. The facilities are also inspected regularly to ensure they maintain proper safety and care measures to remain certified institutions.

“Not all baby sitters have background checks or are certified in CPR and first-aid,” said Candace Russell, administrator of Cuddle Bears Day Care in Winchester. “My daughter used a woman who ran an in-home daycare, and her son fell while he was at her house. The babysitter couldn’t explain how he fell and how he was injured, and my daughter was afraid to leave him there because she didn’t want it to happen again. Sometimes children have unavoidable accidents, but my daughter didn’t know exactly what happened because the only person there was the babysitter. No one else saw him fall.”

Although there are risks that coincide with using an in-home care provider, parents like Michael feel like they minimize risks of using a babysitter by choosing a care provider they know well.

“I feel at ease leaving my girls with the babysitter because she goes to church with us and I know she has a good Christian background,” said Michael. “If parents can find someone they go to church with or someone they know, then using a baby sitter is a great choice.”

For more information on daycares in Hampshire County and the WInchester area, visit
http://childcarecenter.us/ or contact the West Virginia Division of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Children and Families.

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