Will you be looking for child care soon? Do you know what to look for in a child care setting? Quality child care should look much the same, whether it is in a family child care home or a child care center. As a long time family child care provider, I’d like to share with you some criteria to be looking for in a child care setting.
First, you need to know the regulations for your state. Does your state require home child care providers to be licensed or registered? You can read about each state’s licensing requirements at the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care.
Next you will want to check with friends, family members, acquaintances, and co-workers for child care referrals. Do they know of any child care providers? What have they heard about the provider? After you get some suggestions, pick several child care programs and make appointments to go visit them. When you are there, you will want to look for the following things:
- Is the home or center reasonably clean and well-maintained?
- Are parents welcome to visit anytime? Parents should be welcome to drop-in and visit their children at the home/center anytime.
- Does the provider offer learning activities? What is the program’s philosophy on how children learn? No one philosophy may be right or wrong, but you will want to make sure that it mostly agrees with what you believe.
- Does the program meet or exceed child care training requirements? In Oklahoma, One Star child care facilities are required to have at least twelve hours of training a year. One Star Plus, Two Star, and Three Star facilities are required to attend at least twenty hours per year. What kind of training has the provider attended recently? In general, providers who attend training are usually more professional and up-to-date on issues concerning children.
- In Oklahoma, any parent can request to view the file of a prospective child care provider. You do this by contacting your local Department of Human Services licensing office. They can mail you out a general overview or you can make an appointment to view the actual file. On the Oklahoma Department of Human Services website, the Oklahoma Child Care Locator has an abbreviated version of each facility’s licensing visits that have been conducted within the last year. If the provider has many or repeated serious violations, you will probably want to consider another provider.
- Review the programs contract and policies carefully. Contracts and policies are there to protect both the parent and the provider. A contract is usually a one page agreement between the parent and the provider about child care rates and when the provider will be paid. The policies may go into more detail about such things as the provider’s illness policy, as well as additional items the provider may expect.
- Ask for names and phone numbers of current and former child care clients of the provider. Call them and talk to them, get their feelings and impression of the child care provider.
- View the program’s license issued by Oklahoma Department of Human Services. The license has the maximum number of children a provider may care for at one time listed.
- Child care should be a partnership between the parents and the child care provider. It is important to choose a provider that you will feel comfortable communicating with openly.
- You may want to take a checklist with you when you visit child care programs to help you remember what to be looking for. There are many available on the internet; two of these are available at Child Care Aware: Evaluating a Child Care Provider and Iowa State Extension Office.
In closing, I’d like to say that the most important thing when looking for child care is to follow your instincts! If there is something that you’re not sure about, ask questions. If you’re not comfortable with a provider for any reason, then don’t leave your child with them! Even after you choose a child care provider, keep in constant communication with the provider about what your child is learning and doing. If you have any questions or problems, talk to the provider. Good communication is the key to a good parent/provider relationship.