Sunday, March 03, 2013

Daycare Diligence

As promised, here is my checklist of questions and things to look for when seeking daycare for your little buddies and gals!

  1. Registration? Day cares that are registered are more carefully screened, regulated, and provide receipts. Things like child to adult ratios, menus, and safety regulations are all closely monitored. This very item may be one of the most important factors.
  2. Insurance.  Is the daycare insured in case of accident or emergency?
  3. Location, location, location. To be practical, a daycare must be either close to your home, or close to yours or your partner's workplace. Having to do a lengthy commute for daycare drop off may cause more trouble than it's worth. Keep this factor in mind. It may seem small in the beginning, but it affects your time and gas mileage.
  4. Cost. This is another huge factor. You have to be able to afford where you send your child, plain and simple. If lunch and snacks are included, prices are naturally a little higher. Daycare is getting more expensive but it does vary from place to place, so do your research on what is typical before you venture out.
  5. Certifications. Does the caregiver have Early Childhood Education certification? Do they have First Aid and CPR and if so, what levels? Have they had a Code of Conduct Screening? Ask about these items and ask to see the certificates to prove it.
  6. Ratios and Numbers. Knowing how many children and at what ages they are is very important prior to hiring a caregiver. There are limits on the numbers of children below the age of two and again on the total number of children in the daycare. Ask and determine if it is within guidelines for your child's age.
  7. Menu. Do they provide lunch and snacks? This may be important, especially if you are very busy. If food is served, will you receive a weekly menu in advance?If so, ask to see a sample from previous weeks to determine if you are satisfied with the food that will be served to your child. As a rule of thumb, if you aren't comfortable serving a menu item in your home means you are probably not going to like it coming from a daycare.
  8. Times. When can your child be dropped off? Is it early enough to accommodate your work schedule? The same applies for pick-up times. You must ensure that you are off in time to pick up your child or you can at least work out something with your partner and boss to ensure that someone picks up your little one on time.
  9. Transportation. The daycare may offer day outings where applicable and it is important that you are aware of these events and that proper licenses are held by potential drivers of vehicles that may transport your child.
  10. Transition. Does the daycare provide a period where you gradually transition your child and slowly increase their time spent getting used to the facility?
  11. Vacation. When you take your child on vacation, it is assumed that you will continue to pay to hold your spot during that time. However, does your worker assume that you will pay for their vacation? Do they provide a substitute worker when they take vacation, or are you expected to provide alternate arrangements for that time?
  12. Storm Days. Storms are going to happen, but is the daycare going to be open? Is it likely that you will have to take a day off to care for your child if there is a storm?
  13. Sick - What is the policy on sickness? Many registered establishments require all children to be sent home/kept home when showing any signs of illness, particularly if it is contagious. It can be disconcerting to pick up your child(ren) only to discover that they have been around a child who has been very ill all day and remained in their presence, or that your own child has been sick and you haven't been contacted.
  14. Ages/Additional Children. What is the maximum age your child can attend a particular daycare? Do they offer an after school program or will you have to find alternate arrangements when you child starts school? If you have another child, will he/she be guaranteed a spot or at least be on top of the wait list?
  15. Play Space. Is there a designated play area or do they have the "run of the house"? Is there an outdoor area and is it fenced in? Are there safety measures inside in appropriate places? What activities are routine and what other types of activities are going to be offered? How much space is for play, and is it sufficient? Where do the children nap, where do they eat? Is it in a home setting? All very important questions.
  16. Pets. Are there animals in the home? Besides the potential for dirt, dust and allergies, there may be safety issues here.
  17. Leaving notice. Establish guidelines for how much notice you will require should the caregiver decide to stop operating, or if you decide to transfer your child to another facility.
  18. References - Ask for professional and character references, and do your homework and check them!
  19. Previous Relationship. If the caregiver is a relative or a friend, this can go either way. Be careful here. Things can get sticky when it comes to your child and while you may trust a familiar person more with their care, you may have a greater chance for a difference of opinion ruining a relationship.  Decide if you can handle it.
  20. Gut Feeling. To me, this is the single most important factor. Upon the interview with the potential caregiver if there is some nagging unpleasant feeling that you just can't shake, listen to your instincts. Sometimes you may not be able to put your finger on it, but if you are not fully comfortable with the person, do not send your child to them. Remember, your child is going to be spending the best part of their day with this person, and you have to trust your feelings about their capabilities.
Ultimately, these factors will balance out differently for every parent, and you have to decide what will be deal breakers and what will be things you can learn to live with. For example, you may overlook location issues for an excellent facility; or you may accept no meals offered if most other things meet your criteria.  It is unlikely you will get every single item that you wish for, but it is up to you to decide ultimately what is most important.  Hope this list helps! Good luck with your search!

1 comment:

Debra Ferrie said...

Great post! I also did an article once on looking for pre-schools. I learned quite a bit after 3 kids and 56 pre-schools! But in the end, going with your gut usually is the best choice too :-)