Years ago, simply asking a friend or neighborhood teen to babysit for you was as easy as picking up the phone. Or you might have found an advertisement in the local newspaper. But with day care centers and providers springing up like daisies, the choices today are far and wide.
Don’t worry! Finding the right day care provider need not be an insurmountable task. References from friends are still a great way to locate a reputable center. Local newspaper classifieds will have ads run by small family-type childcare providers. The internet provides access to informative websites posted by larger entrepreneurial day care providers which will have information on their qualifications, licensing, pricing, etc. Your local chapter of CCR&R (Child Care Resource and Referral) is a free service that provides guidance by phone, in person and on the internet to assist you in locating a childcare provider, based on your zip code.
Once you determine what type of day care you need – in-home, drop-in, part time or full time – there are several guidelines to follow. We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, a visit to the prospective center is highly recommended. If possible, make it a surprise visit. You’ll see how they treat the children, how discipline and cleanliness issues are handled and how crowded the various areas are. Even a short visit will give you a sense of how the center is run.
In addition to visiting the facility (or while you’re there), obtain references and find the answer to as many of these questions as possible.
Is the facility licensed? Is it up to date? Are the Director and teachers qualified to run a day care facility? Do they have bachelor’s degrees in a child related field? Have the teachers worked in child care for at least one year? Has the Director worked in child care for at least two years? What level of training or experience do the aides have? Does the staff show a genuine love for children or is this just a job?
Does the provider or center have enough supervision? Are the children supervised even when they are sleeping? How many caregivers are there at all times? Have the caregivers had background checks? Is there a high turnover of teachers and/or aides? What is your standard method of discipline? What do you do if the discipline doesn’t get the desired result?
Is there a daily schedule of activities? Are there structured activities as well as play time? Is there scheduled nap time or quiet time for those who don’t sleep? How often are children taken to the bathroom? What kind of foods and snacks are offered?
Are the tables and chairs generally clean and not sticky? Is there a bathroom available for older children to use to wash their hands after toileting and before meals? Are the diapering areas clean and the diapers disposed of in a proper manner? Are the children up to date on their immunizations and are these records available? Are toxic materials locked away and poison information posted? Are medications kept safely out of reach of the children?
Are the playgrounds and play areas kept clean and in good repair? Is the sandbox clean? Is the playground surrounded by a fence? Are the toys age-appropriate?
Is there an emergency plan in place if a child gets hurt or lost? Is there a first aid kit on the premises? Does the staff know CPR and first aid? Do they practice fire drills? Is there a program in place for disasters such as earthquake and/or tornado?
This list may seem excessive at first, but a visit to the day care center or family home will tell you a lot about the surroundings, and the answers you get to your questions will tell you whether this is the place for your child. Follow your instincts! A concerned parent must take care to ensure the safety and well being of her child, even if it means asking some uncomfortable questions of the day care provider.