Choosing a high-quality day care facility is very important because you are entrusting that facility with your child’s safety and well-being. It is important that you feel comfortable with your child’s day care facility. Otherwise, you will spend the time that day care frees up worrying about your child. (See “Trust Your Instinct When Placing a Child in Daycare with Potential Hazards”)
There are specific qualities you should look for when choosing a day care facility:
- Adult caregivers with training or experience in child development
- A warm, nurturing, developmentally appropriate, and intellectually stimulating environment
- Small child to staff ratios with consistent, long-term adult caregivers
- Good parent-staff communication
Child Care Aware recommends five steps to choosing safe and healthy child care:
1) Start Early – Start looking at child care options early, so you can do research and take your time in choosing an appropriate facility.
2) Make a Call – You can call your local child care resource and referral (CCR&R) agency to learn information about the availability of child care in your area and help you choose a quality child care program that meets regulatory standards as well as your personal needs. You can also contact your State’s child care licensing agency to find out whether a complaint has been filed against a regulated child care program
3) Visit and Ask Questions
- Look– You should visit the child care facility, make sure that children are being supervised at all times, ensure that workers follow hygiene guidelines, and make sure that the play are is safe for children to use.
- Check – While at the facility, you should make sure that dangerous substances such as medicine and cleaning supplies are out of children’s reach, and make sure the facility has a plan in place if a child is injured, suck, or lost
- Count – You need to count the number of adults and the number of children they supervise, and you should make a note of the children’s age. There should be no more than one caregiver per: 3-4 infants, 3-4 young toddlers, 4-6 older toddlers, and 6-9 preschoolers.
- Ask – It is important that you ask questions about the caregivers training, CPR and first-aid training, criminal background checks, licensing, accreditation, turnover, and complaints.
- Be informed – The best thing you can do is be informed by doing research about the child care facility and doing a thorough check of the facility for yourself.
4) Make a Choice
5) Stay Involved
Price is another factor to keep in mind when choosing a day care or child care option because child care can be expensive. It is estimated that 10.6% of a two-parent household’s annual income will be spent on child care. This can be a family’s largest expense after rent or mortgage. The price for child care depends on the type of care, child age, and community.
The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) funds some state child care assistance programs, with each State having different guidelines. The CCDF program is a federally funded program that is in place to help low-income families, or families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). In addition, you may be eligible for tax benefits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit, and Child and Dependent Care Credit.