BE A SAVVY CONSUMER
Before You Observe
Licensing: While this doesn’t guarantee quality it does regulate several critical factors including health, safety, credentials, staff training, background checks, and ratios. Click here for information about why ratios matter. All facilities must have their current license posted in a conspicuous place at the entry. If the license is labeled provisional or probationary, you should request an explanation. Licensed facilities are inspected for compliance with regulations about once every two years and you can ask to review these findings at the facility.
Accreditations and quality ratings: Learn a facility’s Qualistar rating by visiting the website, clicking on the “Find Child Care” button and reviewing the rating report. Click here for a brief description of what a Qualistar rating is or read more details on their website. Because obtaining this rating is voluntary, not all facilities are rated.
Some programs have chosen to obtain accreditation through a national agency such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which is another measure of a high-quality facility. Click here to learn more about NAEYC’s ratings and other accrediting organizations.
Some facilities participate in the School Readiness Quality Improvement Program and have received coaching and environmental ratings from our school readiness coaches.
Other sources of information: Many parents like to get recommendations from friends and other family members. You can also check to see if the facility has a Facebook page or website. Keep your eyes open for notices about open houses or fund raising events for local facilities – attending one would give you a chance to meet staff and parents.
Check It Out In Person
Phone the facilities you’ve decided to visit and make an appointment to observe AND to talk with the director. Before you go, either develop your own checklist, or use one developed by Qualistar (see Making Your Way Through the Child Care Maze), or by the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies called Is This the Right Place for My Child? and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. These can be easily downloaded and printed. The checklist developed by Qualistar is one page and, although it doesn’t have room to write notes, is user-friendly, and can be used with all programs, whether or not they are licensed.
Once you’ve visited a few places you should take some time to talk with another family member or close friend about you’ve found out before making your decision. You might also ask if you can visit with your child to see how he or she responds to the setting, other kids, and teachers.
Our local Child Care Resource and Referral Coordinator can help you find child care for your child by offering a free, enhanced referral service. Additionally, you will want to do all the background research described above, as well as do interviews and observations. You can use the same checklists as above, and ChildCareAware has a free brochure with a checklist that you can download here.