Finding Quality Childcare
It can be a daunting task to find quality childcare with all the horrible things we see in the news. I have worked in childcare for almost 10 years and here are my suggestions; from one mom to another and from a childcare professional to moms.
Make a list of things that are important to you and your family. Childcare professionals need to know if your child is a vegetarian, if you do or do not celebrate holidays/birthdays (some childcare centers do not celebrate holidays in general), if your child can bring a lunch box, does your child have to take medication, and if your child has a special need such as cerebral palsy, speech impediment, etc.
Does your child take naps? If so, you can ask the center about their nap time schedule. If your child takes a nap at say 10am but the classroom that the child will be in doesn’t lay the children down until 11am then you may need to work at home before hand to help your child make this adjustment.
Write down the times that you will need childcare. When you go to a center or interview a potential nanny it’s always a good idea to share your childcare needs with them; this way the person/place can plan ahead. If you only need them on an as-needed basis this needs to be discussed as well. Some individuals need a certain amount of hours to pay their bills.
A childcare center has set hours but most offer before school and after school care if you need to get to work before your child goes to school and need somewhere for them to stay that’s safe until the bus arrives. Take note that before and after school care can be an additional fee on top of regular childcare if you are using a center.
Research! I can’t stress this enough. Most states have websites that you can search a childcare center and find their ratings based on teacher to child ratio, cleanliness, supervision, etc. A childcare center may look like it’s worth a million bucks on the outside but if you dig a bit deeper you may uncover that they have had issues with not properly supervising children. In SC, there is a website that lists the date of an incident, what happened, and what was done to fix the issue. This resource can be an eye opener.
Check their licensure! A child care center whether it’s an in home day care with only 5 children up to a large center is required to be licensed. (Check the individual requirements for the state you are in.) If you are planning on using a nanny or babysitter you can always ask if they’ve went to school for childcare and if they could show you their credentials and what experience they have. Check references as well. Run a background check on the individual. Also, childcare centers are required to do background checks on their employees and these are to be kept in a file along with their credentials. Lead teachers in classrooms are required to have certain credentials. You can ask to see them!
Another important thing to check is their CPR/First Aid/AED certification. Every person working in a childcare center is required to be certified. (You can find out if they are by asking to see their certifications.) If you’re planning on using a nanny/babysitter ask if they’ve been certified or if they’re open to getting certified. (It’s at your discretion if you want to pay for this certification for them.)
Ask about their policies! Whether you’re going to use a nanny or a center it’s always a good idea to know what their policies are on certain things. For example, what is their discipline policy? Do they put a child in time out, call the parents, or do they believe in spanking? What is their policy on medications? Often times a center needs to have, in writing, if a child is on medications and the directions for giving it to the child.
Check social media! You can always do a quick check on Facebook, google, Instagram, etc. for the center or individual that you are considering using. If a center has a Facebook page, check to see if they have reviews. Don’t hesitate to reach out to people who have left reviews whether they are good or bad. If an individual has a Facebook page that is contradictory to their resume, don’t hesitate to ask them about it. If they have pictures of them smoking and they say they are a non smoker then maybe they’re not a good fit for your family. We all have been young and dumb and what is put on social media can follow us forever. Maybe they made mistakes but have reconciled them.
Take a tour! If you’re planning to go with a childcare center drop by, unannounced. I can tell you from experience that when parents have called to make an appointment for a tour, a former director of mine let each classroom know and told us to be on our best behavior and to make sure everything was spotless. You want to be able to walk in and feel welcomed even if you didn’t make an appointment. You want to be able to see the good and the bad (a child having a temper tantrum and how the teacher handles it). If you show up unannounced the center will not have time to clean up or change their normal routine. You want to see what it’s like on a normal day.
Ask about their security! As a parent you want to know what goes on behind closed doors, ask if they have a camera system in place. Some centers offer a website login for parents to be able to view during the day, in live time. Most centers have a system before a person is able to enter their school. At a previous center that I worked at we had to input a special code (every person gets their own, including parents) before the door would unlock.
Make a note of the playground! Ask how often they inspect their equipment. As a previous childcare owner, I was regulated by the state to check our playground once a month and an inspector from the state would come check it out unannounced every so often as well. There are requirements for child care centers with regards to play grounds in the state handbook (or so that is the case for NC and SC.) Check to see if your state has one that maybe you could download and browse through before going to a center.
Use your resources! Feel free to reach out to your local county or state agencies if you need help locating a center or person close to you. If you need help paying for child care, ask about vouchers! Each state is different but it never hurts to ask.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me. I hope that your journey to finding quality care is fun, exciting, and peaceful.
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