Saturday, April 17, 2010

Evaluating daycare centers and preschools: What to ask

Once you've figured out what kind of childcare might work best for your family, the challenge is figuring out which provider is the right one for your child. There are some differences between formal daycare centers, in-home daycare providers, and hiring a nanny or babysitter.

If you're going the nanny/babysitter route and aren't sure what to ask during the interview, here are 15 questions to ask. Commercial childcare centers and in-home daycare set-ups have different rules, licencing requirements, and issues to consider, though. Regardless of which type of formal childcare provider you choose, ask the owner or director the following:
  1. How the caregivers are trained?
  2. Do they receive or pursue ongoing education?
  3. What is the staff turnover like?
  4. How do they handle behavioral issues and discipline?
  5. How do they deal with crying infants?
  6. Can you observe the classroom or center before you make your decision?
  7. What kind of food/snacks do they provide, and can they give you a menu?
  8. Can they accommodate your child's specific dietary needs, if any?
  9. Will they provide a criminal background check for staff? (In some jurisdictions, this is required by law; in others, it's optional. You always have the right to request one.)
  10. What are the rates and fees?
  11. How do you make payments? (Weekly? Monthly? Credit card? Direct withdrawal?)
  12. Is coverage available on National holidays?
  13. What is their policy on caring for sick children? (Are they sent home if they spike a fever of 100 or more, or is it 101? Are they willing to administer medication if given permission to do so?) 
  14. Are children required to nap? Do they have a procedure in place for older kids or children who won't sleep? (Are they allowed to play with quiet toys, for example, or do they turn on a movie?)
For in-home daycares:
  1. Is there an open-door policy and can parents drop in unannounced?
  2. How long has she been providing care?
  3. Is she monitored in any way? If there are inspections, how often and who performs them?
  4. How many other children are in her care, and what are their ages?
  5. What's the maximum number of children in her care at any one time?
  6. Is she at capacity already?
  7. What does a typical day look like?
  8. Who else will be in house during business hours?
  9. Any smokers in the house? If so, are there restrictions on where they smoke?
  10. Does she have First Aid and CPR training? When was she last re-certified?
  11. Does she provide a contract?
  12. Will she provide references from current and past clients?
  13. Can you visually inspect sleeping areas, changing areas, and play areas?
  14. How will she transport the kids if they leave the premises?
  15. Are there pets on the premises?
  16. Do the kids watch television while in her care? 
For daycare centers and preschools:
  1. What are the staff-to-child ratios?
  2. What is the rate of staff turnover?
  3. Are the staff members certified in early childhood education?
  4. Do the staff members have First Aid and CPR training? How often do they re-train?
  5. Do the kids go off the premises at all? How often?
  6. Do they mix the age-groups?
  7. Is there a formal curriculum?
  8. Is there a contract?
  9. Can you visually inspect sleeping areas, changing areas, and play areas?
  10. Are they fully accredited, or are any requirements in the process of being met?

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