Looking for day care is one of the more stressful tasks parents of young children face. Not only do parents have to contend with the logistics, such as convenience of location and hours of operation, but of utmost concern is safety and development of their child.

Although national statistics on abuse and neglect by day care providers alone isn't readily available, some experts estimate approximately 5 percent of child abuse and neglect cases occur at day care homes and facilities. So parents should take extra precautions in finding suitable care for their children.

FINDING THE RIGHT DAY CARE

There are several steps you can take to ensure your child's safety and well-being at a new day care. If possible, try to visit several day care homes or facilities so you can make comparisons.

Is the day care licensed?

The first thing to look for is whether a day care facility or home is licensed. Licensing is required in most states if the caregiver isn't a relative. Visit your state licensing and regulatory affairs department website to look up a day care to ensure its license is current.

Is the day care in compliance?

While you're at your state's website, find out what your state's requirements are for day care homes and centers, so you know what to expect. You'll want to keep this information handy when you tour the home or facility to make sure it's in compliance.

The day care tour

A tour of the day care will tell you a lot. Don't be shy about asking for a full tour; think of it as an inspection. Look for the following:

  • Are all areas that are used by or accessible to children thoroughly childproofed?

  • Are there safety plugs in all electrical outlets?

  • Are stairways securely blocked off?

  • Do kitchen and bathroom cabinets have child locks?

  • Do exterior doors have safety locks up high?

  • Is there a pool or hot tub in the area? If so, it should be completely fenced off with a childproof gate.

  • Is there a fenced outdoor play area?

  • Is it tidy aside from toys children are playing with?

  • Do the bathroom and kitchen appear sanitary?

  • Is the heating or cooling set at a comfortable temperature?

  • Are there adequate toys and equipment for the number and ages of children?

  • Do cribs, playpens and other baby equipment meet safety standards?

  • Is the number of children present within the capacity the day care's licensed for? Does the day care meet the appropriate ratio of caregivers to children?

  • Does it smell clean? If not, do you smell neglected diapers or cigarette smoke?

  • Are the children happy and content?

  • Is there ample space for the children to play?

  • How does the staff interact with the children?

The day care interview

This is another and equally important step to finding a quality, loving environment for your child. Take this list of questions with you and add your own questions as well.

  • What is the maximum number of children you have in your care at any time?

  • What is the age range of the children you care for?

  • What types of activities do you do with the children?

  • Are meals and snacks provided? If so, what is served? Also, what time do the children eat?

  • Can I drop in unannounced?

  • How do you handle discipline?

  • Do you ever take children in the car? If so, are there enough child seats and seat belts for each child?

  • Are there other members living in your home or outside staff who will care for the children? If so, who are they and what are their ages?

  • How are naps handled?

  • What is the experience or education of the day care provider and staff?

  • What is your policy when a child is sick?

  • Can I talk to the parents of other children in your care?

  • Is video available so I can peek in at my child from my computer or phone?


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Kimberly Blaker is the author of a kid's STEM book, "Horoscopes: Reality or Trickery?" She also writes a blog, "Modern FamilyStyle" at modernfamilystyle.com