Putting a child in day care may be necessary because of a work schedule, or to even give a parent a break and help them keep their sanity. A good licensed day care program is also good for the child, providing social play and new learning experiences. However, choosing a child day care center or in-home day care provider to hand your child over to causes many parents anxiety and apprehension – for good reason. Finding quality childcare will help alleviate this anxiety and may even have you looking forward to your child’s first day at day care.
The First Test
Send an email to the day care expressing your interest in their services and to inquire about openings. The response to your email is the first impression you will get of the provider. A timely, well-written professional response means that the day care provider wants to make a good first impression, and shows that they are likely to respond to all your communications similarly. A response that arrives days later or is poorly written shows that the day care provider does not care about their business. This is not a good sign when you are considering whom to trust with your child.
Set up a phone interview with the day care provider. During the call have a list of questions ready to ask to get an initial overview about the day care. Ask basic questions such as: how many children do you have, do you have other staff to help, do you have any pets, how long have you worked with children, what is your educational background and how is discipline handled? This phone call should be about 20 minutes, just long enough for you to decide if you want to visit the home, or move on to someone else.
First Visit to the Day Care
Visit the day care during operating hours. This allows you to see how the provider interacts with the children. Also, take a look around – is the home clean, are there age appropriate toys, and are there books? The answer should be an absolute “yes” to each of these questions. If the house is filthy or there are no toys – move on. Are the kids playing or sitting in front of a TV? Playing would be the better answer here. Also, evaluate the care of any pets in the home. Dirty cages or pets that are otherwise not well cared for, should raise the question of if the provider will provide the best of care for your child. If the provider cannot take time to clean a cage or feed a pet – what will they skip in the care of your child? Poor care of pets also does not teach humane or responsible animal care – a clear sign to look for another day care.
Interview the day care provider during the visit. The National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) publication “Is this the Right Place for My Child? 38 Research-Based Indicators of High-Quality Child-Care” gives in depth information about what to look for in a day care. Included is a list of questions to ask, and what the answers to those questions should be. Take this list to every day care and ask every question on the list. Some of the questions seem like the answer should be obvious. However, if you use this list you will find that some of the responses you will get surprising. This list truly is a great help in interviewing a day care provider.
Call Child Care Licensing
Call the government department in your area (usually through the county) that licenses day cares. Ask questions about the licensing procedures that providers must pass to become licensed. Ask if there have been any complaints about the provider and if the day care has ever been cited for any violations. Day care.com keeps an updated list of government agencies that license day care centers.
At the interview, as the provider for references. They should have no problem giving you a list of current and past parents happy with their services. Call the parents on this list and ask about their experiences. Also, ask how they met the day care provider. If every reference just happens to be a friend, take that into consideration.
Visit Several Day Care or Child Care Centers
Visiting more than one day care allows you to compare and see the wide range of people caring for children and hopefully you will find a couple of great day cares to choose from. Even if you think you’ve found the perfect day care, visit a few more. If no others can live up to your favorite, you will be much more comfortable with the one you choose.
Follow Your Instincts
If your gut is telling something is not right – listen to those instincts and continue looking for another day care. Likewise, if you just really like someone listen to those instincts as well.
Pick Up Your Child Early
When you first put your child into a day care, without giving the provider advance notice, randomly pick your child up earlier than scheduled a few times. When a day care provider is not expecting a parent is the best time to see the activities and mood of the day care.