Evaluating a Child Care Center (page 3)
A child care center should not just be a place where you drop off your child in the morning and pick him up in the evening, kind of like a glorified baby sitting service. Instead look for a program where caregivers check in with parents at the beginning and end of each day. The staff should be available to talk to you about problems you may be having at home with our child and offer parenting tips, parenting classes, books, tapes, and other resources to help you.
If you have family problems that require outside resources such as food stamps, subsidized housing, marital counseling, or developmental testing for your child, the staff should be familiar with local offices and organizations that would offer assistance. They should be interested in your role as mom or dad in your child’s life and encourage involvement from both parents.
Social activities should be hosted by the center so that you have a chance to get to know other families. If you are concerned about something your child is doing, the center may be dealing with similar behaviors, and they may have found an effective solution they can share with you. You should be able to observe what they’re doing and learn from the staff.
You want a staff that can sense changes in children, and you want them to be willing to respectfully question you or offer on-the-spot information. An early child care center’s goal should be to facilitate children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.
- Do the caregivers/teachers seem to really like children?
- Do the caregivers/teachers get down on each child’s level to speak to the child?
- Do the caregivers hold babies often?
- Do the caregivers talk to and engage the babies when they’re awake?
- Is someone supervising the sleeping babies and toddlers?
- Do the caregivers hold babies when they’re crying?
- Do the caregivers meet children’s needs quickly even when they are busy?
- Are the caregivers/teachers trained in CPR, first aid, and early childhood development and education?
- Are the caregivers involved in continuing education programs?
- How long have caregivers/teachers been working for the center?
- Is the director and assistant director trained and experienced in early childhood development and education with at least a bachelor’s degree and two years of experience in child care settings?
- Does the lead teacher have a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field?
- Has the teacher worked in child care for at least one year?
- Does the program follow children’s changing and developing interests?
- Do the caregivers/teachers and children enjoy being together?
- Is there enough staff to serve the children? (Ask local experts about the best staff to child ratios for different age groups.)
- Is the atmosphere bright and pleasant?
- Is the program accredited and/or licensed and/or regulated?
- Are there different areas for resting, quiet play, creative play, and active play?
- Is there enough space for the children in each of these areas?
- Is there a daily balance of story time, activity time, and creative playtime?
- Are specific activities geared for each age group?
- Are there enough toys and learning materials for the number of children?
- Do the older children look stimulated and engaged?
- Do you agree with the way the center sets limits and consequences for the children?
- Do you hear the sounds of happy, engaged children?
- Are surprise visits by parents encouraged?
- Do you sense that your child will be happy there?
- From observing the older children, do you anticipate that the program will be appropriate for your child as he grows and enters the preschool years?
- Are children and parents greeted when they arrive?
- Will the caregivers/teachers tell you what your child is doing every day?
- Will the caregivers/teachers speak to you about problems your child is having and ask if you are seeing those behaviors at home and, if so, ask what you’re doing about them?
- Will the caregivers/teachers share their solutions to problems your child is having with you?
- Will the caregivers/teachers share your baby’s progress and accomplishments each day?
- Are parents’ ideas welcome? Are there ways for you to be involved with the center?
- Does the center offer parenting education?
- Does the center offer special opportunities for the families?
- Is the staff familiar with local resources families may need and can they make referrals in a timely manner?
- Are toxic substances such as cleaning supplies and pest killers kept away for children?
- Has the building been checked for dangerous substances such as radon, lead, and asbestos?
- Is poison control information posted?
- Does the center have an emergency plan if a child gets injured, sick, or lost?
- Does the center have first aid kits?
- Does the center have information about who to contact in an emergency?
- Does the center have a plan in case of fire, tornado, flood, blizzard, earthquake, or terrorist attack in the area?
- Does the center have practice drills once every month?
- Can the staff see each other at all times, so a child is never alone with one caregiver?
- Have all the caregivers gone through a background check?
- Have the caregivers been trained on how to prevent child abuse, how to recognize signs of child abuse, and how to report suspected child abuse?
- Does the center keep medications out of reach of children?
- Are caregivers trained to understand medication labels so that the right child gets the right amount of the right medication at the right time?
- Have caregivers been trained on how to keep children healthy and safe from injury and illness?
- Do caregivers know hot give first aid and CPR to young children and babies?
- Are all child care staff, volunteers, and substitutes informed of an implementing safe sleep policies (infants should sleep on their backs) to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?
- Is there an outdoor play area? Is it fenced and secure? Does it have a variety of safe play equipment?
- Can the caregivers/teachers see the entire playground at all times?
- Are toys clean, safe, and within reach of the children and crawling babies?
- Is the eating area clean?
- Is there a sanitized, safe area for diaper changes?
- Do all caregivers and children wash their hands often, especially after eating, using the bathroom, or changing diapers?
- Do caregivers dispose of the diaper without dirtying any other surface, and do they clean and sanitize the surface after the changing process?
- Is the diaper changing area large enough to accommodate all of the babies in the center?
- Is there adequate supervision for other babies and toddlers when a staff member is changing a child’s diaper?
- Are appropriate snacks given during the day?
Since this is a long list of questions, you’ll want to make an appointment to be sure a staff member, the home child care provider, or a nanny has enough time to answer all of your questions. As you interview staff at a potential center, or the person running the home-based child care, or a potential nanny remember you have the right to ask these questions.
If anyone is insulted or upset by your questions and observations, you should probably leave right away. Any quality child care program or provider will greet your questions openly and honestly. The questions are intended to verify standards of care and are based on the criteria for licensure or accreditation—the staff should be prepared to demonstrate they meet the standards you desire. Your infant’s physical and mental health as well as their cognitive and emotional development may depend on the answers. Keep in mind that your baby is depending on you to find him a safe, nurturing place.
|Text reprinted from Dr. Baum's book Got the Baby. Where's the Manual?!? Respectful Parenting from Birth Through the Terrific Twos.|
To learn more about Dr. Baum and Respectful Parenting, visit her Web site at www.RespectfulParenting.com.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association of Social Workers.
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