A Parent’s Guide To Finding Day Care
Watching the milestones of infancy, leading into the curiosity of a toddler and then the investigative efforts of a preschooler is momentous in the eyes of any parent. As your child grows and absorbs as much as possible from the environment you quickly realize that the early experiences of life and those exposed to your child during early development is a critical part of the learning process. It’s a difficult decision to not only allow others’ to care for your child but also to find quality care that will offer the most enriching format for learning based on your child’s developmental processes.
As a parent you realize that meticulous attention to detail can help you decide the necessary steps for child care placement. Talking to other parents that offer experiential views or professionals like your pediatrician can help in the recommendation process. Ultimately, your own investigation of the child care centers that are top of the list paired with referrals and facility tours is the best way to narrow down the options and make your final selection.
The first quarter of the challenge in finding child care stems from obtaining a thorough list of at least five, if not more, places that you can check out further. Once you obtain a list, schedule an appointment to take a tour of each place. During the tour pay attention to:
• Cleanliness of the facility. Scan the facility from top to bottom, paying particular attention to the bathroom, kitchen, play areas and nap stations. In communal areas such as child care centers, it is commonplace for germs to spread amongst the kids. You want to feel assured that the facility takes the necessary precautions in maintaining sanitization and cleanliness of the common areas to ensure your child has the best opportunity possible for maintaining health.
• Note the amount of staff per child and the behaviors of staff with the children. Depending on your state, a ratio of one staff to 5 or 6 children is common. You want to make sure your child will get the necessary supervision from a well-staffed facility. Additionally, you want to feel secure in the fact that your child is spoken to with respect and handled appropriately by staff. Introduce yourself to staff during your tour and get a sense of each personality. Pay attention to the behaviors of the other children as well as how they interact with staff. Let instinct be the guide of your visual and personal perceptions during the tour.
After touring each facility, narrow down the list and then conduct a thorough background check of those placements that make the cut. This part of the process is the most crucial and lengthy because it allows you to get a detailed understanding of the policies of the facility, the value of education and teacher qualifications as well as any record blemishes the facility might have from the regulating state in which it is located.
Consider the following factors to help you determine if the facility is the best fit for your child:
• Credentialing of staff and state accreditation. Child care facilities that are properly registered with the state must undergo a specific accreditation process, or accountability based on established and researched quality standards. Your local state department office can supply information about the facilities you investigate if they are accredited by the state. Similarly, if the facility touts quality education programs, the teachers will have certain certifications and credentials. Discover the requirements of the facility for its teachers, the developmental programs or ongoing education required for the teachers and check that all teachers are certified in first aid and CPR.
• Review the educational curriculum of the facility. Request a summary of the educational philosophy and goals of the programs offered and if applicable any information that backs the claims. Take a look at the typical curriculum, learning experiences offered and compare these to the common developmental milestones for kids of your child’s age. Consider the current curriculum as well as the future as a means for preparing your child for the basics necessary to enter the elementary school system.
• Review the safety policies of the center. Discuss the protocol of the facility if your child becomes sick and the method in which the center uses to protect your child from stranger danger. Some places use a personal key code system, some use words. You want to know that your child will not be allowed to leave with anyone but the authorized people or persons you identify as appropriate.
It is not an easy task to find the best placement for your child. You seek quality, compassionate care but a nurturing learning environment, which are two different aspects of child care. If your first list of facilities does not pan out, keep searching because you can find the best option to meet the needs of you and your child.
Submitted by Dan Gilbert on behalf of Primrose Schools, a member of the AdvancED accredited family of Primrose Schools (located in 16 states throughout the U.S.) and part of the network of day care preschools delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning curriculum. Dan has written a number of articles on topics varying from bilingual learning to teaching the importance of volunteering.