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New hot line links parents to safe child care providers

POSTED: June 3, 2009 11:56 p.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Katie Anne Dewhirst, front, 6, swings on the monkey bars Wednesday as Ella Tucker, left, 8, and Destiny Farmer, 8, line up for a swing at the Child Development Center at First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville. The Child Development Center at First Presbyterian Church is listed as an accredited agency.

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Many parents find it tough to find a place they feel comfortable leaving their children during the day, but a new referral line may make finding child care a little easier.

Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning introduced a toll-free number this week to help families locate affordable, quality child care.

A referral specialist from Quality Care for Children, an independent, not-for-profit organization will listen to the needs of individual families to provide child care suggestions in their area, said Theresa Prestwood, the director of development & marketing for Quality Care for Children.

“We’re not making a recommendation. What we’re doing is trying to educate a parent so they know what to look for because quality can change in a second,” Prestwood said.

Prestwood said all of the child care providers in their database are safe.

“All of the people we refer to are licensed or registered with the state, so they’re legally operating,” Prestwood said. “It’s a process the state goes through to make sure the facility meets health and safety regulations, that there’s background checks, that they’ve completed the training they need to do. So for someone to be listed in our service we have to have a copy of their registration or license to put them in the database.”

Prestwood said she thinks the referral line will be especially helpful to families who are feeling the effects of the economy.

“With layoffs and those kinds of things, people are having to re-evaluate and maybe go for less expensive care. We’re trying to encourage people to go for registered, licensed care ... to make sure your kids are safe,” Prestwood said.

Susan Moon, the director of First Presbyterian Church’s Child Development Center in Gainesville, said she has seen some families make changes in child care over the last year.

“We have seen some of our parents who have lost their jobs,” Moon said. “We’ve had some children that have had to go down to part-time instead of being full-time, they’re looking for grandparents to help so they’re bringing them to us less.”

Moon said parents most often ask about safety when looking for child care.

“They’re looking for security in the building and making sure the teacher-child ratio is a safe number,” Moon said.

Megan Bonner said she chose Joyland Child Development Center in Gainesville after a lot of research. She thinks a referral line would have been helpful in the process.

“I called a lot of places and asked a lot of questions,” Bonner said. “I wanted somewhere close to home where they knew they’d be close. You’re not just going to leave your kid with anyone. It’s a big decision that’s really important.”



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