Finding the right child care that shares your values can be difficult. You need to begin your search early, at least 6 months before you are ready to send your child to daycare, since most of the best centers will have a waiting list. There are several steps to take that will ensure you make an informed decision on where to leave your child. First, you must make some decisions about the type of care you are looking for and the location. There are several differences between a daycare center, a home daycare and a nanny. The advantages of each option are another topic and may be discussed in a future article.
The best way to find daycare centers is to get advice from friends and family. However, that is not always possible and you may need other resources. Most areas have a childcare hotline or other resources for finding licensed centers nearby. Check out the National Association of Family Child Care and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Both organizations provide an online database of accredited day care centers.
Begin the process of finding childcare by conducting phone interviews and an initial screening of each provider. This will be a good test to find out how easy it is to reach a person at the center and also provides an opportunity to learn more about their care. Ask the basic questions about their fees, hours of operation and schedule. Once you have selected a few that pass your initial screening, contact the Better Business Bureau to make sure there have not been any complaints filed against the center or childcare provider.
Now it is time to visit the center. This is the most important step in finding the right daycare for your child. You must remember to thoroughly check out the facility, the teachers and all aspects of the care provided.
Here are specific things to look for or ask during your visit:
- Find out what documents are provided to parents and what records are kept to monitor child behavior, performance and well being.
- Ask about their philosophies on important childcare issues such as discipline.
- Learn about the teachers’ experience and background. The lower the turnover rate at the center, the better. Find out what standards they have for teaching at their facility and if there is regular training.
- How many children are in each classroom and how many adults are with them? It is important not to just take their word for it about the ratio of children/babies to care providers. It is common for staff to get pulled from one room to another for help, so observe the ratios yourself.
- Get a written copy of the center’s policies. Make sure they have policies on sick children, watching tv or videos, how to handle emergency situations, and other important issues.
- Check out the toy selection and make sure there is a variety of educational toys for each age range. An outdoor play area is a great additional feature.
- Ask to see a copy of the centers license and credentials.
- Observe how the other children are playing and learning. Make sure they seem happy as well stimulated.
- Make sure the facility is clean. Food areas should be kept far away from diaper changing or play areas. There should not be trash lying around. Staff should wash their hands after diaper changing and children should wash their hands before eating.
- Verify that the center is childproofed with covers over the outlets and other safety standards. Vinyl nap mats for every child should be supplied for sanitary reasons.
It doesn’t hurt to ask for and check references of both current parent and previous parents. Although the center will most likely not provide you with contact information for parents who are dissatisfied, it is important to hear what the other parents are happy or concerned with.
The daycare of your choice should be open to your questions and concerns. The right daycare will let you visit and observe as often as necessary, even once your child has begun attending their program. If the staff appears hesitant to completely answer your questions or avoids full responses, this may not be the right place for you and your child.