Child Care – What to Look For

By: Michael Russell

Trying to find good quality daycare is very hard. One should start early. Starting six months earlier than you need daycare is not too long, because when you find the daycare that meets all your needs and your child’s needs, there will probably be a waiting list. Also, it takes time to visit the centers, interview the care givers and do the “kid test”.

There are some things you need to think about first. Do you want childcare closer to home or work? Are you looking for child care centers or in home day care? Centers may have more children, but they are most likely to be accredited. Centers also have to meet state guidelines. At home providers may have fewer children and an “at home” feel but they are not always required to meet certain state guidelines. You should do your research. Ask around and get a feel on what other parents think. There is nothing better than word of mouth. You could check references given to you by the providers and you should, but are they going to give you references that are going to say bad things about them? Talk to parents whose kids go to that provider. Try to find parents who used to take their children there. Be specific. Don’t just ask if they liked it, ask them why they did or didn’t.

You can also call you local child care resources and referral center. They can you give state guidelines on childcare and they can give you a list of providers in your area. Make sure you ask them what the requirements are for licensing. They can also give you a list of complaints and violations. After you narrowed down a list of providers you need to visit and ask a lot of questions. Sure you can do this by phone but you need to get a feel of the center while you’re there. By the time you visit, you should know the child to adult ratios that the care givers need to follow, so look around, are there more children than providers that are required by law? Another thing to consider is group size. There is a group of 25 two year olds with five adults and a group of 10 two year olds with 2 adults. Both of these groups are within the proper child to adult ratio, but which one may be calmer?

Look around. Do you see smoke detectors, more than one exit, fire extinguishers, outlet covers? You can acquire a checklist of all things to look for from the child care resource and referral program. Check the care givers’ qualifications. Inquire about training and education. Do they know first aid? Do the caregivers attempt to continue to educate themselves by going to workshops? Try to see if there is a high turnover rate. Children need consistency. You don’t want them going through more than one caregiver a year.

Check to see if the center has any accreditations. Centers have to meet certain state guidelines, but did they voluntarily go above and beyond that and get nationally accredited? Don’t forget to do the “kid test”. Bring your child to the provider and see how they react. Will there be a good relationship with your child and the providers and the other children. You should bring them a few times so they can get a feel for the place. Look for your child’s reactions. Trust your gut. It will take time but it will be worth it knowing your child is safe and happy.