What should I look for when choosing a family daycare?

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Deciding on what type of daycare to enroll your child in is one of the most important decisions you will make. Whether you choose a larger institutional type daycare or a smaller family daycare is a personal choice. There are pros and cons to both depending on your preferences. Choosing a family daycare, one that is in a licesned home can have great benefits for your child. You must find out if the provider maintains a license for both themself and the home in which they are providing care. You may obtain a list of licensed family daycares in your state from the Office for Children. You may also find out from this agency how long the provider has been licensed and if there has ever been a complaint filed against them and what the outcome of that complaint was. In many states it is against the law to care for children in your home if you do not obtain this license. Once you have researched this information you may stsrt to contact these daycares to inquire about openings, hours and costs. Although a licensed daycare is bound by the rules of their state they determine their individual policies themselves. Questions to ask....What are your hours of operation? What if any are your late fees if I am late picking up my child? Do you provide meals and snacks or is this my responsibilty? Do you belong to a state funded food program? What are the ages of the children you currently care for? What are the ages of your own children and are they present during daycare hours? Do you require a contract and what are the terms? These are questions you can ask on the phone as you decide what daycares to visit. Once you compile a list of daycares that seem to meet your needs it is time to visit. Compile another list of questions that you will ask that will require eye to eye contact. Some of these questions are What is your dicipline policy? Where will my child eat and rest? Will my child be supervised at all times indoors and out? Could I have an example of a normal day? Are you CPR and First Aid certifies? Do you smoke? Do you have any animals? Is anyone else present in the home over the age of 18 during the daycare day and if so have they had a background check? Remember you will be observing while you ask these questions so you must know what you are going to ask beforehand. As far as the home goes it should be clean and organized but not perfect. Otherwise the provider is cleaning and not providing. The home should be warm and inviting and geared towards children. There should be nothing damgerous witin a childs reach. That includes knives, plastic bags, batteries perfume, shampoo or soap on the side of a tub. The children in care should be active and happy not sitting and staring while you and the provider speak. You will want to find out if there is a probationary period and what the terms are. Most reputible providers will allow a two week probationary period where you can decide whether this is the right place for your child. Lastly, you will need to ask for references. It is important to obtain references for clients that are currently enrolled in the daycare but more important to receive a few from individuals who have left the program. These will be your more honest references. Good Luck and remember that when choosing the right daycare for your child there are no stupid questions and a good provider understands this. If someone is offended at your questions don't waste any more time on that daycare.

submitted by Karen Lua