Selecting Quality Child Care

Selecting a child care program can be a difficult and nerve-racking decision for any parent.  

Using the following checklist will help you in your decision making process.

Click here for a printable checklist that you can take with you when you visit each program.

20 Questions to Consider when Looking for Quality Child Care Programs

Is the program licensed? Ask to see the license. If not, ask why and then check your state’s licensing regulations to make sure the program is not required to be licensed.

Are visits from parents allowed and encouraged anytime the child care program is open? If you are not allowed to visit at any time (without calling ahead), this is not the best program for your child and you should consider a different program.

Does the program have an appropriate number of adults looking after each group of children? This is known as the child-to-adult ratio. Recommended ratios are usually lower for younger children. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that child care centers have no more than 3 infants under 12 months old per adult.

Are children, including infants, supervised at all times, even when they are sleeping?

Does the director (of a child care center) have a college degree in child development or a related field? Do teachers (or the owner and operator of a family child care home) have a credential or college degree in early childhood education or a related field?

Do all adults in the program receive ongoing training in working with children and child development?

Is there a planned schedule for each day or week that encourages learning and includes active and quiet play, group and individual learning activities, rest time and meal times?

Is the environment safe, clean, and well maintained? For example, are safe cribs provided for each infant, and does the program follow safe sleep guidelines? Are electrical outlets covered? Are medicines and dangerous items, including cleaning supplies, kept out of the reach of children? 

Is there a written discipline policy that explains how behavioral concerns are handled? Do discipline techniques included in the policy teach and guide children rather than punish them? For example, does the policy make it clear that there will be no spanking, humiliating, or excluding children? How does the program make sure that techniques are used in ways that are clear, consistent, and fair?

Does the program feel warm and welcoming? Are the children happily engaged in activities?

Do the adults seem to enjoy working with and caring for the children? Are they actively involved with the children and do they pay attention to the needs of each child?

Have all adults working in the program had state and national background checks, including fingerprinting?

Have the adults in the program been trained on how to prevent child abuse and how to recognize and report the signs of abuse?

Is there someone present at all times who has been trained in pediatric first aid and CPR? Do staff know how to respond to an allergic reaction? Is there a first aid kit available? Are the adults in the program trained in how to prevent injuries?

Does the program have a clear, written plan to follow if a child is injured, sick, or lost?

Is there a written plan for responding to emergencies and disasters such as fire or flooding? Does the program conduct regular fire drills?

Is the program open when you need it to be?

Is the program conveniently located for your family?

Does the program provide transportation that could help you get your child to and from the program or to and from school?

Can your family afford this program?

Does the program offer any discounts or scholarships, or participate in a child care assistance program?

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