The Infant Toddler Family Day Care Program of Fairfax helps parents find the best possible childcare provider in the area. It currently serves 360 children, and celebrated its 30th Anniversary on Oct. 13, with a dinner at the Fairfax Marriott. The group has 14 employees and 150 qualified daycare providers, who work as independent contractors, spread out mostly in Fairfax County. They recruit, screen, train, approve and monitor the providers so you don’t have to. The nonprofit has 10 people on its Governing Board of Directors and was co-founded by Phyllis Cassell and Ileene Hoffman.
The group screens daycare providers for you by doing background checks, criminal history checks, reference checks and home evaluations to find the best people to do job of caring for children, ages 6 weeks to 14, or 18 with special needs.
THE PROVIDERS come from 28 different countries and speak 15 different languages, so if you prefer someone from, say, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Africa, Poland – they can make referrals for you.
"We try to match the child’s needs with a provider who we feel is capable of meeting those needs," said Malia Anderson, 56, a childcare specialist and events director from Armfield Farms in Chantilly. She discovered the agency when her son, now 28, was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome.
The cost for childcare varies, but is roughly $1,200 a month for infants up to age 16 months; $1,090 for a child over 16 months; $600 for school-age kids, less than 16 hours, for before and after school. There’s an hourly rate of $10 per hour. A provider with the CDA or college certificate can take up to six children -- an Infant-Toddler rule. But state licensing will allow up to 12 children, depending on the ages.
They serve children with all sorts of issues and disabilities, including Down Syndrome, hearing impairments, emotional disabilities, cerebral palsy and autism.
There’s a built-in substitute system for providers who want to take a break or vacation where another provider will take over. "They have a good program of substitutes," said Ayesha Sheikh of Fairfax, a provider since 2006 with five children. "If I need to go on holidays or vacation, there are many providers who live in my area who can substitute for the kids."
They also make monthly visits to providers’ homes to check on conditions; following some 120-page standards by the state of Virginia. "We do a home evaluation with the provider to assess the safety of the environment, and tell them what they have to do to come into compliance," said Wynne Busman, 61, of Annandale. That means if they have an aggressive pet, they’d ask to get rid of it or stop doing the childcare.
Each daycare provider must complete 16 hours of training – renewable each year. They must also go through a home evaluation checklist that usually takes several visits to complete. They offer classes in CPR, First Aid, and medication administration.
"It can sometimes be challenging," said Busman. "We work very hard to help them come into compliance."
Founded in 1983, the group provides daycare workers with incentives to complete their Child Development Associate or national accreditation and/or the College Infant Toddler certificate through NOVA. They also help individuals start their own businesses with funding through the Fairfax County Consolidated Community Funding Pool.
A PROGRAM called "Childcare Plus" provides daycare during non-traditional hours, such as weekends or late evenings. They also offer conferences on the importance of movement and playing outside, for example. They also offer programs in reading, music and art activities.
Vanessa Page, 37, of Burke has been happy with her decision to use Infant-Toddler for her son Marshall, age 2. "This was not only more affordable, but I like how they have a limited number of children," she said. "The providers seem really dedicated to the children, and I didn’t have to worry about high turnover, or people who were like clock-watchers."
Freida Steele of Alexandria works as a daycare provider for four babies, and calls the agency ‘a pleasure.’ "It puts me in a position where the families have already been looked at and checked out before they come to me," she said. "Overall, I find everybody who works in the company very attentive."
Marcela Escobar of Springfield, who has been a daycare provider since 1986, said: "It is a pleasure to work there; they really help a lot. They make us take classes; they do planning for us. It is really helpful for us."
Gina Salazar of Chantilly has worked for the company for 12 years and couldn’t be happier. "I have had good experiences with different children," she said of her kids from China, India, Honduras and Guatemala.
For more information, call 703-352-3449 or visit www.itfdc.com.