Tips for Choosing Child Care

Child Care Quality Indicatorspfp_annual_2014_page_01_image_0002

There are six key indicators which can be used to evaluate the quality of a child care environment:  groups size, adult to child ratio, caregiver qualifications, turnover, accreditation and family involvement.  So when looking for child care consider the following:

Adult to Child Ratio: Ask how many children there are for each adult. The fewer children for each adult, the better for your child. You want your child to get plenty of attention. The younger your child, the more important this is. Babies need an adult to child ration of no more that 1:4, while four-year-olds can do well with a ration of 1:10.

Group size: Find out how many children are in the group. The smaller the group, the better. Imagine a group of 25 two-year olds with five adults, compared to a group of 10 to two adults. Both groups have the same adult to child ratio. Which would be safer and calmer? Which would be more like a family?

Caregiver qualifications: Ask about the caregivers’ training and education. Caregivers with degrees and/or special training in working with children will be better able to help your child learn. Are the caregivers involved in activities to improve their skills? Do they attend classes and workshops?

Turnover: Check how long caregiver have been at the center or providing care in their homes. It’s best if children stay with the same caregiver at least a year. Caregivers who come and go make it hard on your child. Getting used to new caregivers takes time and energy that could be spent on learning new things.

Accreditation: Find out if the child care provider has been accredited by a national organization. Providers that are accredited have met voluntary standards for child care that are higher than most state licensing requirements. The National Association for the education of your children (NAEYC) and the National Association for Family child Care (NAFCC) are the two largest organizations that accredit child care programs.

Family Involvement: The work isn’t over when you find good child care for your child. You and your child’s caregiver are partners now. Here are some ways to be involved.

  • Have parent-caregiver meetings regularly and ask questions
  • Offer to volunteer time when needed, like participating in clean up days, fixing broken toys.
  • Be there for your child’s birthday party.
  • Visit your child at child care and read a book out loud
  • Join in special events, like field trips, Career Day, Black History Month or other holidays

In addition look for a healthy and safe environment.  The facility shoud be clean, any outdoor space should be free of debris and have equipment in good condition.  Employess and children should wash hands regularly and any toxic substances should be out of reach of children.

Infant and Toddler Care

Daily care of an infant or toddler requires knowledge and effort. While personal style and values differ in families, basic principles of care apply for babies both within and outside the home.

Loving and Responsive

A good caregiver provides hugs, rocks and cuddles. They seek eye contact, respond to a baby’s smile and find ways to build upon each experience.

Sociable and Interested

A good caregiver talks to a baby about what they do and see and encourages social contact. They are playful; introducing the baby to new experiences, objects, games.

Respectful of Individuality

A good caregiver understands and welcomes a baby’s development and is comfortable with a special need. They recognize and tune into the baby’s personal rhythm, style, strengths and limitations.

A baby thrives in a good environment. Surroundings must be clean, safe and filled with interesting and stimulating things. Babies should be encouraged to explore, try out their natural curiosities and learn through free play. A good caregiver should accommodate the needs of growing infants and toddlers and have well-organized and separate eating and diapering areas.

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Click here for a checklist of Quality Indicators

*Used with permission of the National Association for the Education and Young Children.

Pre-School Care

A program that meets a child’s needs should be based on an understanding of each stage of physical, intellectual, emotional and social development. Programs providing age-appropriate practices will:

  •  Provide children with a place where they feel safe and secure
  • Allow children choices within limits
  • Help children develop self-control
  • Encourage children to respect one another and cooperate
  • Promote independence and initiative
  •  Inspire the child’s individual creativity
  • Respect diversity and individual needs

Parents’ needs are met by knowing that their child is in a nurturing and educational environment. Programs aimed at meeting parents’ needs will:

  • Employ warm, nurturing and competent staff
  • Respect family’s needs, values and cultural diversity
  • Offer information, resources and supportive services

Click here to read more detailed information.

Click here for a checklist of Quality Indicators

School-Age Programs

Excellent programs meeting students’ needs will:

  • Provide indoor and outdoor space where children feel safe and secure
  • Provide students with age-appropriate activities
  • Allow students to engage in supervised small group interaction
  • Employ competent, trained and caring staff
  •  Inspire the student’s creativity
  •  Respect diversity and individual needs
  •  Allow students choices within limits
  •  Set rules which are fair, reasonable and consistent
  •  Offer snacks
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