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Child Care Questions
Questions to Ask Before Searching for Child Care
What are your family's needs?
- How many hours you will need?
- What is the total amount you can afford to pay for child care?
- What is your desired location?
- What are your child-rearing philosophy and goals?
- What are your child's needs: your child's age, personality, and other special needs such as developmental delays (e.g. autism, Pervasive Development Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Down's syndrome, developmental and/or cognitive delays, neurological disorders,), behavioral/emotional disturbances (e.g. ADD/ADHD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Tourette's Syndrome), orthopedic or sensory impairment (motor function problems, hearing or visual impairments), FAS/FADE (fetal alcohol syndrome, fetal alcohol drug effect), health impaired (e.g. juvenile diabetes, HIV, asthma, heart conditions, epilepsy, arthritis, epilepsy, failure to thrive), English as a second language
What are your options?
- Do you want in home care, family day care, center care, short-term cooperative, preschool?
- Does the provider have multi-child discounts, sliding scales, and/or scholarship programs?
- Are there religious child care facilities, Montessori programs, or programs for children with special needs in the area?
Where should you look for child care?
- Ask trusted family, friends, neighbors, co-workers for recommendations.
- Search via internet, want ads, bulletin boards, Yellow Pages.
- Use a referral agency (www.optionsforworkingparents.com/our_programs.htm)
Beginning the Search
Introduce yourself, state how you got the provider's name and your reason for calling. Ask for the director. Ask if they have 10-15 minutes to answer questions. Give the provider your name, as well as the name age and sex of your child and when care is needed. Then ask several preliminary questions to get a sense of whether or not the provider meets your needs (see sample questions below).
Face to face interviewing
Even if you enjoyed the provider in the telephone interview, it is essential that you meet with the provider in person to gather more information, observe the providers in action, inspect the site, and let the providers interview you. Make sure you have the provider show you the equipment and toys, where the children nap, and how they have child proofed the facility. Ask questions related to the facility atmosphere (e.g. safety and stimulation concerns), staff and child interaction (e.g. skills of employees), activities (e.g. structured versus unstructured activities), and tuition/fees/rules (e.g. fee policies.) See below for an extensive list of questions you should consider.
Questions to Ask Potential Child Care Providers
- Do you have an opening?
- What ages do you accept?
- Is there a waiting list?
- How long is the waiting list and what is the expected turnover time?
- What is the total capacity in terms of number of children you will accept?
- What are your hours?
- Are you licensed? If so, for how long?
- How long have you been in business?
- How many children do you care for? What are their ages and sex?
- How many are full-time? Part-time?
- What is the child to caregiver ratio for each age group?
- What is your vacation and illness policy?
- What are your fees? Are there sliding fees, scholarships, and/or multi-child discounts?
- Are you a member of the food program (federally funded child care food program-CCFP)?
- What training or experience do you and your staff have?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have pets?
- What is the application process?
- Do you offer drop-in daily and/or hourly rates?
- What is the philosophy of the center or home?
- Do you charge for sick days or when the child is on vacation? Do you close for holidays and if so which ones?
- What is the policy on sick children?
- When are the fees due?
- Is there a charge if you pick your child up late?
- How much notice is required for your child to leave the facility?
- Does the facility accept government subsidies?
- Does the facility provide receipts for income tax credits?
More detailed questions:
- Do you hold infants during feeding?
- How much time do infants spend in the crib, play pen and/or walker?
- Describe how you would play with my infant.
- Describe how you deal with parent/child separation, particularly in cases of separation anxiety.
- What will I be expected to provide?
- What type diapers would you prefer? Can I use cloth?
- Describe how you discipline?
- Describe how you handle toilet training.
- Describe organized activities you provide for children.
- Are the educational programs designed to prepare a child for primary education?
Other important questions:
- Tell me about yourself. How did you decide to become a provider? What do you like most about being a provider? How long do you plan to be one? Does your family support your business?
- Can you describe what a typical day might be like for my child?
- How do you handle emergencies?
- Are you affiliated with a hospital?
- What is the procedure for contacting you?
- Do you have infant and child cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training? Do you carry liability insurance?
- Are children ever transported in a vehicle while in your care? If so, do you have a valid driver's license and what is your driving record?
- Can parents "drop in" for a visit?
- Are parents encouraged to volunteer and participate in center activities?
- Do you go on any field trips?
- Is there limited access to television?
- Do you or any of the staff speak a language in addition to English?
- Do you provide transportation from the center to home or from the center to school?
- Are meals included in the price? If so which ones (e.g. breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner)?
- Can you accommodate special diets (e.g. vegetarian, certain food allergies)?
- Describe the feedback I will receive about my child at the end of the day.
- What types of records to you maintain concerning my child's behavior?
- What is your snow day policy?
- How to staff support the emotional development of children?
- How many days did parents need to use alternative care this past year?
- What are some things you hope my child will learn here?
- What would you do if you and I disagreed about something?
- How much staff turnover has there been in the past year?
- How long has the staff been working at the facility (average tenure of staff)?
- Does the classroom staff have experience and skills in child-care methods and developmental learning?
- How capable are the providers at being able to resolve conflicts between children?
- Does the center have strict procedures for hiring caregivers?
- Are applicants interviewed by management, fingerprinted when required by state law and required to take a medical exam in compliance with state licensing regulations? Are background checks and written references mandatory?
- Can you provide me with a list of references?
- What health precautions do you take?
- What are your rules?
- Can I see your contract/license?
- How are complaints handled in the organization?
- How is the lighting and ventilation?
- Are safe, sanitary, hygienic conditions maintained?
- Is the staff prepared or trained for possible allergic reactions or other special needs?
- Are there several toilets and wash facilities available and are children encouraged to wash their hands?
- Is there an outdoor area that is safe to play in?
- Is there space for running about freely for active play and still other space where quiet play may go on undisturbed, both indoors and out?
- What is the emphasis of the activities? To have fun? To learn? Both?
- Are the learning programs designed for each age group?
- Do the activities emphasize physical fitness as well as mental development?
- How big are the activity groups?
- How noisy is it?
- Are the toys used in the activities safe and appropriate for the children's ages?
- Do the children have sufficient rest?
- Will the children be watching television? Is so, what programs and how much time each day?
- What do you want to know about me (and/or my partner and child)?
Questions to ask yourself
- Are your questions, comments and visits welcome?
- Does the provider appear to love children and seem warms and friendly in general?
- Could you and your child develop a trusting relationship with the provider(s)?
- Does the provider demonstrate a balance between running a business and nurturing children?
- Does the center take your needs into consideration? Is the staff accommodating and flexible?
- Does all of the staff seem amicable and competent, or just certain members of the staff?
- Do the children seem happy?
- Does my child seem happy here?
- Are the activities the kind your child enjoys?
- Does my child seem to get along with the other children?
- Does the provider understand developmentally appropriate activities for the different age levels and does the provider seem dedicated to helping children learn and thrive.
- Does the provider seem to discipline children appropriately?
- Does the provider give praise in a manner that will enhance your child's self-esteem?
- Does the overall environment appear comfortable, safe and healthy?
- Do the children seem to get individualized attention?
- How does the staff physically handle the children?
Once you decide:
Make a follow-up appointment with the provider to review arrangements and to sign any necessary forms. Make sure you have a written policy and contract from the provider. If the provider does not give you something in writing, clarify the agreement in writing yourself and ask the provider to sign the document with you. You may want to schedule a two-week trial arrangement. If you take this extra time up front, you will be less likely to experience any unpleasant surprises later.
Adapted from Joan Sprain (2004) Regents of the University of Minnesota.
Professional information to be aware ofLicensed - All listed in-home Family Child Care providers are licensed. Centers are licensed, exempt or certified.
Exempt - Programs not required to be licensed. Examples may include part-time preschools, summer camps and programs operated by government agencies such as school districts, parks and recreation departments or community centers.
AEYC - The provider is a member of the Association for the Education of Young Children (a professional organization).
Family Child Care Association - The Family Child Care provider is member of a professional organization consisting of a network of family child care providers.
Directors Association - The director belongs to a professional organization of child care center directors.
Master provider - The Family child care provider who has met a higher standard of training/certification.
Accredited - Provider has been nationally accredited by either NAEYC (centers) or NAFCC (family child care).
Certified - Programs cannot be licensed because they are a governing agency which cannot legally be licensed by another governing agency. They meet requirements similar to the licensing process.
Early Childhood Education (ECE):
CDA - ECE credential - Child Development Associate.
Associates degree - AA degree in ECE.
Bachelors degree - BA degree in ECE.
Masters degree - MA degree in ECE.
2+ years experience - The provider has at least 2 years of experience in the ECE field.
Workshop(s) - provider who has taken workshops on ECE topics.
College credit - college credit course(s) in ECE.
College degree-non ECE - non ECE college degree.