Reviewed & Edited by: Tracy Zeiler, M.Ed., Director of Early Intervention
Choosing a child care program is a very personal decision. It is also a bit overwhelming for parents with many factors to consider in addition to cost.
Our teli staff has helped parents with this decision and suggests that there are three steps in the process: location and type of child care, the research of child care programs, and completion of a visit assessment.
Step 1: Identify the location and type of child care
- Do you want care close to work or close to home?
- Do you want your child with a lot of other children in center-based care or with a few children in home-based care?
Step 2: Research and get references
- Do an online search to find approved or accredited child care programs in your area.
- Word of mouth is your best reference. Let family and friends know that you are looking for quality care.
Step 3: Schedule a visit and interview the staff
An organized and well maintained childcare program keeps children, and the adults who care for them comfortable, healthy, and safe. This is an important factor that good child care programs are more than happy to share with you. Once you’ve identified your choices, call to schedule a visit and conduct an interview:
- How do you feel about your first time there? Is this a positive, welcoming, safe environment? Are there a variety of developmentally appropriate materials and activities for various age levels that encourage exploration and learning? Is there limited media/television use?
- Inquire about staff turnover and how long the current caregivers have been involved with the program.
- Is there a structured learning program available in addition to child care?
- Is there a predictable routine that they use to guide their children through the day? What happens if a child doesn’t nap or nap well?
- Does the staff have the training and knowledge for working with young children?
- Is the program’s policy on discipline the same as yours?
- Ask about supervision of children, hygiene, nutrition, and emergency procedures. Is there adequate security to protect your child and others?
- Providers should welcome and encourage your participation. Look for providers who keep you informed through daily communication, newsletters and meetings.
- If your child has Early Intervention, is your child’s therapist welcome to provide sessions there?
- Pennsylvania’s Keystone STARS is an initiative to improve, support, and recognize the continuous quality improvement efforts of early learning programs. Ask providers if they participate.
Once you’ve made a decision choosing a child care provider, call the provider and let them know you would like to enroll your child. Typically, a registration fee will be required, enrollment paperwork will need to be filled out and a start date will need to be set. Remember that once your child begins care, you should continue to monitor your satisfaction with your choice. You can always change providers if needed.