Back to Work?
New adoptive parents have special concerns when it comes to child-care choices. Here’s how to make an informed decision.by Fran Eisenman
Your baby has arrived! As you start to settle in, you're in awe of your new addition and want to be with him endlessly. But before long, financial pressures beckon and you must return to work. As an adoptive parent, you may hate the prospect of leaving your baby or cringe at the thought of separating from him just when you're beginning to bond.
Though separation seems hard, you can relax. Research has shown that babies need familiar, consistent caregivers, with whom they can develop a trusting bond. As long as your child-care arrangement provides that component, it can meet your baby's emotional needs and enhance his relationship with you. (How? Each time a familiar adult meets a baby's needs, the baby builds trust—the backbone of healthy attachment. That trust can be transferred from one adult to another, with each relationship being unique.)
That's not to say that all caregiving situations are created equal, or that your child won't fare better in one situation than another. Here are the pros and cons for three common child-care settings.
- One-on-one care (family member, trusted friend or neighbor, hired nanny)
Pros: A baby gets individual, consistent care. This may be especially useful for recently adopted babies or toddlers, or for those who have trouble eating, sleeping, or being comforted. Parents can set up a child's daily schedule and educate the caregiver about adoption.
Cons: A private nanny can be expensive. Toddlers adopted from foster care or an orphanage setting are used to having other kids present and may feel socially isolated.
- Family day care
Pros: Small, family-like settings (often in a caregiver's home) can be socially enriching and provide a sense of familiarity and comfort to your adopted child. Parents may find family day care to be more flexible than day-care centers, in terms of hours and other arrangements, and cheaper than hiring a private caregiver. Cons: You'll need a backup plan if the caregiver or your child gets sick. Your child won't get as much individual attention as she would with a private caregiver.
- Day-care centers
Pros: Children generally spend the day participating in developmentally appropriate activities—a benefit for some adopted babies. (Others, who are easily overwhelmed, can find day-care centers too busy.) Staff may be trained to work with kids and to meet safety and hygiene standards.
Cons: In addition to less individual attention, some centers have significant staff turnover, so the care may not be consistent. Parents have less input about their child's eating and sleeping schedules.
New England-based social worker Fran Eisenman is the adoptive mother of two.
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