Drop-in day care centers offer convenience for parents

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HOUSTON - Forget what you know about traditional day care. The model is changing and it is giving parents more options.

So-called "drop-in day care centers" with flexible hours and flexible payments are popping up in west Houston and are attracting parents who work odd shifts or just need a break.

The drop-in centers are open for child care later on weekdays and most are open until midnight Friday and Saturday nights.

"If I have to run an errand in Katy, he hates being in a car because he gets nauseous sometimes. We just come here and we drop him off and there are no sick kids because they have records up to date, which is awesome," said Denise Davidson, a mother of three.

Drop-in day care businesses are under the same requirements and standards as the traditional ones. Immunization records are collected.

"We keep a file on every child as well as every employee," said Desiree Worrell Mosley, director of the Time for Tots center. "We require everyone is background-checked and FBI fingerprinted. We also do drug testing here, and even though it is not required for the state, it is required for Time for Tots."

Gwen Carter with Texas Child Care Licensing said the key to using a drop-in day care is to do your homework before you need the help.

"Go before the day you are going to drop off your child. Go at different times of the day. Do your homework and look online to see what the history of the center is and talk to other parents who have children there," said Carter.

The state regulates hourly drop-in centers just like regular day care centers.

"The licensing requirements by the state are pretty extensive. Just in order to open the facility like this, you have to jump through a lot of hoops. And it should be that way," said Christian Easterling, co-founder of Time for Tots.

Don't forget to ask about the experience and certification requirements of the caregivers.

Rates at drop-in day care centers in the Houston area average from $8 to $10 per hour. There are also all-day rates.

Parents can check to make sure drop-in child care centers are registered with the state and following state required regulations at www.txchildcaresearch.org.

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