Choosing child care
Safe, positive child care sets the stage for healthy development and future success. To make sure your child, your family and your ability to work are supported, it's important to choose the right child care provider.
You only want the very best for your child, and when you can’t be with them, you need to feel confident and comfortable that your child is in good hands and in the best possible environment. For this reason, choosing the right provider and care setting for your child is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. But with so many child care options available, the process of choosing the right provider can feel stressful and overwhelming.
To find the right fit for your family, it takes time and patience, and also understanding of what to look for when selecting child care. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and no one type of child care is necessarily better than another. When looking at your options, think about which setting will allow your child to thrive and flourish, and also which will offer you peace of mind.
Approach your child care search as you would a job hunt. Be thorough, do your research and identify your priorities. To help you decide what you want in a child care provider, it may be helpful to ask yourself some questions first:
- Would your child enjoy being around many other kids or just a few?
- Does your child have special needs or behavioral concerns?
- Are there cultural issues to consider?
- Do you need child care located near work, or would closer to home be more convenient?
Remember that every child care provider is unique. Child care comes in many forms and may look different for each family, and your choice will likely be affected by your child’s age, your location and your family’s specific situation. Ultimately, you are the best judge of which program will meet your child’s needs. But before making that decision, you may want to visit several different child care providers. Call to schedule an appointment for your visit, and once there, observe activities and interactions, examine the surroundings and be sure to ask questions about everything from hours, fees and holiday schedules to child-rearing philosophies such as discipline, feeding and sleeping.
To help you size up your child care options and determine which setting checks the right boxes for you, consider the following quality indicators:
- When visiting a potential site, are caregivers on the floor playing with the babies or kneeling at eye level to interact with the children?
- Since children and particularly infants need consistent, predictable care, does the facility experience a high turnover rate?
- Is there a small group size and low caregiver-to-child ratio?
- Is there a sick policy, and what symptoms prevent a child from attending?
- Is the facility clean, child-proofed and well-stocked with age-appropriate books and toys?
- Do you feel comfortable with the level of communication provided by the potential provider, such as reporting behavior, accidents, feedings, naps, diapers, etc.?
- Are references available?
Whatever you see and experience during your visit, it’s important to trust your instincts—children deserve and thrive under loving, nurturing care. If something just doesn’t feel right, explore other options.