Ask These 12 Questions for Safe, High-Quality Child Care
Child care. It can be a nightmare and simultaneously a lifesaver. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in the U.S. nearly 50% of children younger than 5 years of age attend some type of child care outside of the home. When choosing a child care facility, you want to make sure your child will be spending time in a safe, happy place. Whether you prefer a child care center, daycare, private nanny, or in-home child care, learn about the availability of services in your area and choose a caregiver that best fits the needs of your family.
- Is the facility registered or licensed with the state? To continue doing business, a licensed child care facility or in-home service must uphold written standards and pass routine inspections.
- Are written policies in place? Having a written policy on illness, medication, health standards, emergency situations, transportation, discipline, and media gives parents and caregivers clear guidelines and expectations to follow.
- What is the sanitation like? Ask about and observe cleaning procedures, especially in diaper-changing and food preparation areas. Clean play areas also help prevent illness spreading between children.
- What is the ratio of kids to caregivers? The AAP makes the following recommendations for the ratio of caregivers to children in childcare centers (based on age):
- < 12 months, one adult per 3 children
- 13-35 months, one adult per 4 children
- 3-year-olds, one adult per 7 children
- 4 and 5-year-olds, one adult per 8 children
- 6-to-8-year-olds, one adult per 10 children
- 9-to-12-year-olds, one adult per 12 children
- What is the turnover of staff members? Children do better with consistency, and if child care center employees are coming and going frequently, it can be detrimental to your child receiving personalized, high-quality care.
- How are staff members trained? Caregivers should be trained in first aid and certified in CPR. While not all states require background checks, it would be ideal to find a childcare center which requires background checks for all employees.
- Will your child get plenty of attention and kindness from the caregivers? During the first few years of life, infants and toddlers need plenty of one-on-one interaction in order to grow and develop properly. Observe the disposition of the caregivers who will be taking care of your child to get a feel for how they handle the children. Ideally, he/she should react warmly and positively with kids and calmly handle fussy children.
- Are the sleeping areas safe? You want to ensure that the caregivers know about SIDS and safe sleep strategies. Babies should always be placed on their backs in a surface intended for infants, with no blankets or bumpers inside the crib. It’s best if newborn babies are not swaddled in a child care center.
- Is the children’s play area secure? It could be disastrous if your child escaped and was able to run around in the parking lot or street.
- What is the policy on visitors? Safe childcare settings should have a procedure in place for visitors. You want to make sure no one is allowed to remove children without prior permission.
- Is the area baby-proofed? Babies and toddlers are curious and want to touch everything! Make sure stairs have baby gates, outlets are covered, toxic cleaners are kept out of reach, and high chairs and changing tables have straps to secure your baby from falling. Visit the facility or home first-hand and see the rooms where your child will be.
- Was the caregiver recommended to you by someone with firsthand experience, or does he/she have references? It’s a good idea to talk to other parents who have taken their children to a specific home or facility to see if the experience was a positive one. For a nanny or babysitter, ask for references and diligently check for good character and skills.
Selecting a good child care setting for your child is a lasting, important decision that will affect the well-being and overall happiness of your child.
What has your experience been with finding high-quality child care? Share with us in the comments!