What questions did you ask your daycare providers?

Amy - posted on 10/03/2012 ( 7 moms have responded )

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Fingers crossed my husband finally has a job after not working since May, unfortunately his schedule is going to be very similar to mine (retail hours) and we are now on the search of flexible daycare providers. This will be the first time we've done daycare so I'm just curious what other moms look for? What questions did you ask? What made you choose one over another?

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Katherine - posted on 10/03/2012

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1. What is your policy regarding sick kids?

Working parents have the additional stress of determining what to do when a child is sick. Different centers have varying policies, and you want to ask how a particular center handles the problem of sick children. Do they send kids home with any sort of sniffle or is fever a requirement? Or, are they extremely lax in letting sick kids remain creating an exposure risk to otherwise healthy kids? Parents should also find out what care options exist when a child care provider becomes ill.

More: Is Your Sick Kid Too Ill To Attend School or Daycare?

2. Do you have a sick care option?

For some parents, finding a child care provider who has a "sick care" option for mildly ill children is a job-saver. A child with strep throat won't be allowed at many facilities and at school. However, once antibiotics have kicked in, rest and relaxation, combined with isolation from other kids may be all a child really needs. Some facilities have a sick care option at an extra charge to allow parents to still have care for their kid. It may be worth asking about.

More: Backup Care Options

3. Do I have to pay for days when my child is absent due to illness or vacation?

If your child is out for three days due to illness or away for a week on a vacation, do parents still have to pay for child care? In many cases, the answer is "yes." After all, a center's or caregiver's overhead costs continue. Some facilities offer a break if a child has an extended illness and others offer a certain number of days as credit to be used toward vacation, illness, or other type of absence. This detail should be stated in writing to parents, so be sure to look for it.

More: Drop 'n Run Care Hurts Everyone

4. What is your discipline policy?

This can be a really sensitive topic for parents, and it is important that you thoroughly understand what discipline approach is utilized and that you are comfortable with it. Most centers and care providers have written guidelines for review. Not only do you want to find out what they do, but you also want to clearly understand what type of practices are prohibited. If you have a particular concern, ask to meet with the center's director or have a one-on-one with a provider.

More: Taking The Bite OUT Of A Biting Child

5. What types of meals and snacks do you serve?

Parents and providers often have different notions about what is a nutritionally balanced and suitable meal or snack. Parents must be sensitive to the fact that child care providers cannot tailor meals to individual children (unless parents bring the food); however, particular requests or items to avoid should be noted. Any food sensitivities must be stated and clearly understood (such as allergies). After that, ask what the stance is on occasional treats, junk food, and food preparation.

More: Packing A Kid Lunch Can Put More Than Pennies In Your Pocket

6. Do you charge extra if I'm late picking my child up?

Some child care providers charge $1 for every minute a parent is late picking a child up after closing hours. Others are more lax and a few may even offer parents a couple of exceptions due to extenuating circumstances. However, a few minutes is one thing; 30 minutes late is typically never acceptable. After all, your lateness prevents staff from going home and on to their planned activities. Some facilities may even have firm rules for tardy parents in which they can choose to cease care.

More: Communicating With Your Childcare Provider

7. What is your staff turnover rate?

It should come as no surprise that staff turnover rates at daycare centers are high. While 30 to 40 percent is the average annual turnover, it doesn't mean that is the rate at your preferred day care. It is important, however, to ask. You want to know what the frequency of staff changes because it can affect your child's comfort and sense of security if changes are too frequent. And, high turnover can signal a serious problem in the center's operation.

More: Why the Search for Child Care Can Be Frazzling

8. What is your overall child care philosophy?

Does this daycare focus more on nurturing and providing quality care or does it have an academics component as well? How are providers trained and what do they determine is "age appropriate?" What types of enrichment activities are done and how will parents be informed of these? Do kids all do everything or is there a way for youngsters to choose their interests? Does the provider offer stations of choice? Is there a schedule that is adhered to each day?

More: Style of Care Matters

9. What are your security/safety policies?

Parents should look around at the overall environment and determine their level of comfort in its cleanliness and overall safety protocols. What is the supervision ratio? Is there a security check-in and check-out in place and is it enforced? Is it well-ventilated, well-lit and a comfortable temperature? Are toys sanitized on a regular basis? Are there camera monitors? Is the outdoor play equipment installed correctly?

More: Is Your Child Care Asthma-Friendly?

10. Can I observe/visit my child whenever I like?

Parents should feel welcome and wanted, and know that their assistant can be a valued addition to activities. Does your potential child care provider ask whether you are interested in volunteering or whether you'd like to help out at an upcoming class party? Do you feel welcome to come and go at any time or are there regimented visiting times only? Some prep programs may want to limit access because it can cause a disruption to learning time; others embrace parental interaction at any time.

Andrea - posted on 10/11/2012

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I'm new to this site but very familiar with the daycare concerns. I feel your pain. My 20 month old son will be starting a new childcare facility next week! If you have a minute, I have the perfect questions to go with (its a lot but better safe than sorry!) And I insist that you research the facility(s) and take the time to visit them. Here is what I went with...I gathered these questions and keypoints myself before my son was born. Hope this helps you Amy. :-)

Cleanliness –

- Is entire facility clean and well maintained?

- What is toy sanitation process or policy?

- Is there a separate area for changing and feeding/eating?



Atmosphere:

- Staff genuine to all the children (take notice while there)

- Children should look happy, alert and clean (take notice while there)

- Stimulation for children (verbally and mentally):

o Will infants be on the floors playing?

o Swings, bouncers available

o How do they soothe a crying child?



SAFETY:

- First-aid kits handy

- Clearly marked fire escape routes, fire extinguishers and smoke detectors visible



Security:

- Doors to facility kept shut and locked at all times?

- Sign-in sheet or door code security system?

- IDs required to be shown for pick and drop off procedures?

- Procedure/policy in place if my child gets sick or injured?



Child to teacher ratio:

State law =

- 4: 1 (infants)

- 5 :1 (toddlers)

- 6 :1 (older children; pre-school)



School/facility and teacher licensing: (ask about all)

- Background checks for all staff

- CPR certifications and are they up to date

- Teacher experience caring for infants, toddlers, etc OR licensed educators

- Staff medical check-ups up to date

- Staff turnover



Educating:

- Does facility educate the babies as well as the older children?

- Is there structure to daily lessons?

IS THERE WRITTEN COMMUNICATION OF MY CHILD’S DAY? (Ask to see this daily report)

- When and what he ate?

- When he was changed and when had a BM?

- When slept and for how long?

- New milestones documented for us?

DO YOU FOLLOW MY CHILDS SCHEDULE OR YOUR FACILITES SCHEDULE?

WHEN DO BABIES GET MOVED UP OR MOVED TO ANOTHER ROOM?

- Tour other rooms/entire facility

CAN WE DROP OFF AND PICK UP AT ANYTIME?

- Can we drop in at any time to visit our child? (Red flag if not an open door policy!)

- Can I call to check on my child at any time throughout the day?

Kelly - posted on 10/24/2012

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What they will do with a baby that wont stop crying?

What their pick up policy is so that you know who is picking up your child. (for example if it is an in home daycare and the providers friend comes over. Do they let other help care for your child).

Where will your child sleep? If there is more than one child that sleeps in the crib and they sleep at the same time what do they do then? Or is there more than one crib.

Are they a smoker. Keep this in mind that if they are and they are the only provider in the house then willl your child be left unattended when they step outside or will they smoke in the house?

Do they have pets?

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Make sure to check with the state you live in. They all have a department that watches over daycare providers and makes incident reports, complaints and violations public. Also, make sure to check out the reviews on Yelp.com

Gabrielle - posted on 10/04/2012

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We asked about emergency procedures. One place we looked at said they grabbed the babies and ran...there were 6 or 8 babies and 2 adults, so how the heck were they supposed to manage that? The place we picked had an emergency plan in place, including placing babies in rolling cribs and wheeling them out away from the building, and emergency bags for each child, with changes of clothes, diapers, a bottle with drop-ins, and formula that you could mix with water. We also asked a lot of the things that Katherine mentioned below. I used the book Baby 411 as a great resource for this (and a number of other things).

Casey - posted on 10/03/2012

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That seems thorough, the only thing I can think to add is what accreditation agency's they use. All daycares should be accredited by then state, but some go beyond that. The daycare I used to work at was a chain and was inspected by the chain in order to use there name. Their regulations were much stricter and more detailed than the states. Also, nothing beats spending some time in the classroom and getting to know the teachers and daycare director. Drop in unannounced a few times to see how things are being run. I still stay 15-20 min when I pick up my daughter and play with the kids( mostly my daughter but the other kids always run over to greet me and show me things) and talk with the teachers. I get a glimpse of her day and the people she spends her time with.

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