Health & Safety
How Do I Choose a Child Care Program that is Best For My Child?
As a parent you want the very best for your child. Finding quality child care is one of the most critical decisions parents face. Just as a child needs clothing and shoes that fit, they need a childcare program that is also a good 'fit'. Most often parents make their childcare choice based on:
While all of these issues are important, there are many other factors to consider when choosing the safest and healthiest environment for your child. (i.e. Alabama's Minimum Standards for Licensing and Accreditation) Following is a list of suggestions to aid in your evaluation of caregivers and childcare programs.
- Start Early! Some programs have long waiting lists. If at all possible, begin several months before care is actually needed.
- Take Your Time and Make Visits! Visit as many programs as you can and talk to other parents about their personal experiences. Check to see if the program is not only licensed, but may also be accredited by The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) or The National Association for Family Childcare (NAFCC). Not all quality programs are accredited, and not all accredited programs are of high quality, but those that are, have met voluntary standards that are higher than most state licensing requirements.
- Ask Questions! Ask about the turnover rate. How long have the caregivers been with the same center? How long has the private home-based center been in business? It is very difficult for children to develop the vital nurturing attachments they require if caregivers are constantly changing.
Also, ask what qualifications the caregivers possess. Have they had training and education
in child development or a related field? Do they continue to attend workshops and
What you want to see:
Small child to caregiver ratios:
- One adult for every four infants
- One adult for every five young toddlers (12-24 months)
- One adult for every six older toddlers ( 2-3 years old)
- One adult for every nine or ten preschoolers
- Also consider the group size as a whole. Having two dozen toddlers in one room even if there are 4-5 adults is too many. This environment would be too chaotic. Young children do best in more intimate settings where they can get to know the caregiver and other children.
A safe and clean environment-
- The facility looks clean and cared for.
- No obvious danger signs such as electrical outlets within reach, cords to trip over, sharp edges on furniture, hard surfaces, or broken toys.
- Outdoor equipment is securely anchored and sturdy with proper surfacing materials like pea gravel, cushioned mats, sand, or thick grass.
- Children are closely monitored at ALL TIMES!!
- The staff is able to explain their health and safety procedures.
- The staff has a clear policy for handling emergencies.
- Children are not allowed to bully other children.
- Snacks and meals are nutritious.
The atmosphere is welcoming and the children look happy-
- You are greeted personally and so is your child.
- Parents are welcome to visit the home or center at any time.
- The adults seem to enjoy being with the children.
- The children are given plenty of attention and the adults listen as well as talk.
- The adults speak to the children in a respectful way. NO yelling or screaming!
- You see the caregivers interacting with the infants, toddlers and preschoolers- not just watching them.
Play and learning are valued-
- Children have opportunities to make choices.
- There are a wide variety of toys, educational materials, and activities.
- The adults engage the children in conversation and ask questions.
- Toys and activities are appropriate for the age level and are easily accessible.
- Infants are held, cuddled, talked and read to.
- The children are read to daily.
- Very little time is devoted to watching television or movies and then only high-quality educational programming.
WARNING SIGNS to WATCH FOR!
- Crying is ignored and caregivers respond sluggishly at their own convenience.
- The children are criticized for failed attempts to master a skill.
- You hear the caregiver say the word 'NO!' frequently- even when the child is not in danger.
- Your child's area is cramped and overcrowded.
- Children are left unattended when playing or sleeping.
- You witness a child being treated harshly, physically or emotionally.
- The caregiver makes the statement, "I won't keep a child that I cannot spank!"
- When you make the initial visit, the caregiver spends a great deal of time talking about discipline and control.
- Caregivers doing things for the children that they can do for themselves in order to save time and clean up, such as pouring juice, buttoning coats, and spoon-feeding older toddlers.
- ANYTHING that makes you uncomfortable! Trust your instincts when observing a program. If things don't seem right, they probably aren't!