Frequently Asked Questions

If you have questions about child care, we have answers!

Select a topic from the drop-down menus below to learn the answers about some commonly-asked child care questions.


How do I find child care?

For licensed child care, search for a program online through the Colorado Shines website or call the Colorado Shines Child Care Referral Line at 1-877-338-2273 for more information. The Referral Line connects you with a Mile High United Way Child Care Navigator and is available Monday - Friday from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. They can provide a list of referrals to licensed child care providers using their state-wide database in the area of the family's request.

For other types of child care, call the Weld County REACH office at (970) 400-6594 or email

Parents are strongly encouraged to visit each provider under consideration, request references from other parents and carefully review the provider credentials before making a selection.

When should I begin my child care search?

In a word - early! Popular programs fill up fast. Don't be discouraged by waiting lists; if you really like a place, put your name down. People relocate, change jobs and change their minds about child care all the time, so you may move up to the top of the list quickly.

How do I choose between in-home care and center-based care?

This is a biggie. Some parents and children are more comfortable with child care in a home environment. The familiar "home-away-from-home" setting may help children transition more easily into child care, particularly those with shy behaviors or attachment issues. Due to the much smaller provider-to-child ratios, children tend to receive more individualized one-on-one attention. Also, home child care providers may be more flexible with pickup times and may offer evening or weekend hours.

On the flip side, there may be more backup with centers, which typically have a bigger pool of substitute caregivers available. Centers provide more structured learning opportunities and social interactions due to the larger number of children in attendance, who are often grouped by age. Bigger centers may also have the resources to offer extras like music and art. 

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.

How will I know if my baby will be safe in child care?

For your peace of mind and for baby's safety, look for gates, covered outlets, latches on cabinets, easy-to-find emergency numbers (fire, poison control), age-appropriate toys and regularly disinfected surfaces. Once you feel secure with the environment, think bigger picture: you'll want to make sure the doors are locked and entries are monitored, and there should be a list of people approved to pick up your child.

You can also search for a licensed program's reports online through Colorado Shines. Enter a city and state at the top, then select the type of care you're searching for on the left-hand side of the page. Once you've found the program you'd like to learn more about, click "View Details." At the bottom of the page, you'll see five areas under Program Licensing Information. Each of these may offer reports about inspections, complaints, injuries and more. If a report is available, select “Link To ROI” to download a copy of that specific report. These reports will help you to have a conversation with the provider about things that were observed or investigated in their setting. However, the existence of a report may just be procedural; talking to the provider about it will help you understand the incident more fully.

How much will child care cost?

Costs vary greatly, but infant and toddler care is generally more expensive due to lower child-to-caregiver ratios. Center-based care - with its higher overhead including salaries, benefits, curriculum, equipment, materials and facilities - tends to cost more than home-based care. 

Assistance may be available to families struggling with the cost of child care. Click here to visit the Paying for Child Care section of this website.

How will I know if a specific provider/program is right for my family?

What vibe do you get from the staff?
You can learn a lot from observing employees. Are they gentle and nurturing? Do they respond quickly to children's needs? When you visit, don't just follow along on the tour. Stop and talk to the staff. Approach each one as a potential new friend and see if they'll actually communicate with you, rather than just giving rehearsed information. Hang out and watch interactions between caregivers and children as well.

What's the child-to-caregiver ratio?
To thrive, babies need lots of one-on-one attention, like being held, talked to and rocked. That means a maximum of three to four babies per caregiver. For toddlers, no more than five or six. Better facilities often stick to a lower ratio for optimum care.

What are the provider's credentials?
The more early childhood education and experience, the better - but staying up-to-date is also important. Ask about professional development opportunities for the staff to see if they're encouraged or required to take classes to stay current.

What about the turnover rate?
Centers have notoriously high staff turnover rates due to low pay, lack of benefits and the physical and emotional demands of child care. Children thrive in a stable, nurturing environment, so look for a place where employees stick around. Whether it's a center or home child care provider, a place with lots of long-timers is a good sign that it's a great environment.

What about special requests?
Ask if special requests are doable, such as cloth diapering, lunchtime visits for breastfeeding and bringing in alternate snack foods. Not all providers will allow it, but it's important to know that up front.

Is it open when you need it?
Double-check that the provider's hours fit your schedule - you'll be scrambling for backup care if they don't. Don't forget to ask about holidays too. Many centers follow public school closings, whereas home providers may only close on major holidays. Home providers may also be more flexible on extra hours or late pickups, while centers may charge by-the-minute fees for late pickups.

What's the sick child policy?
Will you need to keep your little one home if he or she has a sniffle? How about a cough? Will the provider contact you if he or she spikes a fever? Know that you'll have to come up with a Plan B on mornings when child care isn't an option.

How does the provider communicate with parents?
The more information flowing between you and the provider, the better - phone calls, emails, texts and newsletters. Some providers may even offer webcam service. Good caregivers will want to inform you about your child's day.

When are parents allowed to visit?
Families should feel welcome at all times, period. By wary of any provider who discourages unscheduled visits.

What are other parents saying?
Ask co-workers and friends for recommendations, especially those who share your basic parenting approach. Network with parents at locations you're considering by approaching them away from the provider to see if they'll chat with you for a bit about how they feel about the center or home.

What does your gut say?
You need to trust your instincts. If you can't overcome a funny feeling in the pit of your stomach, it's not the place for you.


How do I choose between working in home-based child care or in a center?

Both settings have advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to have an understanding of each before choosing a side. Both will allow you to exercise your passion in caring for children, but one may be better suited to your schedule and personality than the other.

Home-based child care


  • Great opportunity to make a business out of something you may already be doing anyway.
  • Getting to be with your children while getting to do what you love professionally - caring for others' children.
  • Becoming a role model; home-based child care providers are often more involved in the children's lives because they're not being moved from room to room or teacher to teacher. This consistency is extremely beneficial for the children as well.
  • The ability to call your own shots when it comes to hours, rates, curriculum, vacations, etc.


  • Being your own boss - with no director, board or other providers - means the buck stops with you. It's important to be prepared to interact with parents, remain open to criticism and take responsibility for incidents that may occur.
  • Long hours; opening up your home has the potential to cut into your personal and family time.

Center-based child care


  • Possibility of receiving a benefits package, such as health insurance, 401k participation and paid time off.
  • Greater work/life balance when you don't work where you live; some people need the physical and physiological separation between work and home in order to maintain peace of mind.
  • Working alongside other caregivers who can offer mature conversation and support.
  • Collaborating and learning from other caregivers you work with can help you develop as a professional.


  • Some may view the close proximity of working alongside other caregivers as a drawback, as it could make you feel uncomfortable or self-conscious. 
  • You must be willing to adapt your personal philosophy; at a center, the philosophy of education and activity plan is typically already in place, so you may need to adapt to a new way of thinking. Those with strong opinions about early childhood education strategies should learn about a center's approach before signing up.

How do I decide which type of in-home child care to provide?

Every home child care program is personalized by the provider in charge. Your experience, skills and schedule will determine the type of care that you provide. Parents want a variety of child care options, so make your care unique based on the person you are, and not on some version of what you think parents are looking for. Choose the options that you will feel most comfortable with. 

What age children do you most enjoy?

  • How about infants? Do you love the smell of baby powder, cuddling in a rocking chair and the sight of those endearing little smiles? Or do infants just make you think of non-stop crying and piles of dirty diapers?
  • What about toddlers? They're naturally inquisitive and fascinated by anything and everything. Although their verbal skills aren't perfected, they can usually be redirected quite easily if their behavior goes off-course.
  • Preschoolers? At this age, children are willing to participate in group games and learning activities. It's also the stage during which they truly realize they are people in their own right and begin to assert their independence. 
  • School-age children? Potty-training days are over, but personalities are fully intact.

What type of care schedule fits best with your family life?

  • Are you willing to offer the basic Monday through Friday schedule? Realize this may mean you'll be working more than the regular 40 hour week, as extra hours may be needed for bookkeeping, cleaning and meal/activity planning. If you choose to offer after-school hours, you can provide a bonus to parents by offering homework help.
  • Overnight care? Many parents work the night shift when it's almost impossible to find care. You'll need adequate space for sleeping, however.
  • Weekend hours? Many parents work on the weekends, another time it's difficult to find child care.
  • Part-time/Drop-in? Another option is to offer part-time care, as some parents have their schedules worked out so that they only need care a few days a week or just while they run errands. The drawback to this type of care is that you won't have a guaranteed income to count on, as your income will be based on how many parents call in a given week.
  • Special needs children? By taking in children with medical problems, you can charge more for specialized care.

What questions should I ask families when they tour my program?

The child care provider questions during the initial family tour and interview are every bit as important as the questions parents are asking. You should be asking questions to ensure the family would be a good fit for your program. Listen carefully to the answers and ask follow-up questions if necessary. You want to get as much information as possible so you're able to make an informed decision about the family. Here are some samples to get you started.

Has your child been in care before?
If yes, for how long? Why was care terminated? Do they have a problem with you contacting the former caregiver? (Pay close attention when asking this question; some parents may jump from provider to provider, usually owing money to several caregivers.) If no, who has been the primary caretaker for the child? If the child has primarily been at home with a parent, especially in the case of an only child, you may want to ask if the child has been a part of other groups, such as sports, classes, play dates, etc. This is an important question because a child who hasn't had opportunities to be social may have a little harder time adjusting to a child care situation. This doesn't mean you shouldn't accept the child, it's just helpful to know in advance.

How long do you expect to be needing child care?
Answers will vary, but you can get a rough time frame instead of being surprised down the road.

Does your child have any known health issues?
This is something you should know up front so you can make an informed decision about whether or not you're capable of handling the situation.

Does your child have any special needs (religious, food allergies, etc.)?
Most often, parents will tell you right away, but you don't want to be caught off-guard later.

Are you (or a designated person) able to pick up the child in case of an accident or emergency?
It's important that you're able to contact parents and know that they'll pick up a child at your request, so make sure to find out if this will be a problem.

What's your child interested in?
This is a question that can be directed toward the child during the interview. Do they like board games, baby dolls, toy cars, sports, etc.? This helps you to know if you have the appropriate items to keep the child entertained, or if they share an interest with another child in your care.

What type of eater is your child?
Is the child a heavy eater or on the picky side? What are the child's favorite foods? Least favorite? If they're old enough, this is another question that can be directed toward the child.

What type of sleep schedule does the child have?
Does the child take regular naps? If so, what approximate times? Does the child have a regular bedtime or is the child allowed to simply stay up until they fall asleep? Realize that children without regular sleep schedules may be fussy and uncooperative during the day.

Does your child have any behavioral problems?
Some parents will tell you there are no problems, when in fact, there are. Other parents will downplay an issue. Thankfully, most parents will tell the truth.

What are your expectations of a child care provider?
This is one of the more interesting provider questions. The answers will be as varied as the parents. Some possible answers may be home safety precautions, treating the child as a parent would or teaching the child basic concepts like colors and numbers. 

Do you have backup care?
If you don't provide this, make sure the parents are aware of your policies right away.

Are you willing to sign a contract?
Because you're a professional child care provider with a business, it's important that you treat it as such. You may want to have signed contracts with everyone you're providing care for. Some parents will balk at the idea of being locked-in to child care, but it's a good way to protect yourself.

How do I prevent child care provider burnout?

Child care provider burnout is real, and it can happen to even the best of caregivers for a number of reasons, including:

  • Being the sole caregiver for several children.
  • Placing the needs of the families in care above your own.
  • Working longer than the average work day.
  • Being isolated in your own home.
  • A particular parent or child in care causing grief.

The secret is to be aware and to take steps to prevent burnout before it becomes an issue. Here are some suggestions to make your career a little easier.

  • Practice alone time by taking time in the evenings and on the weekends for yourself. You may not get a chance on a daily basis, but make sure you do a couple of times a week. You could spend your time reading a book, taking a bubble bath, working on your favorite hobby...anything that doesn't involve children, chores or responsibility.
  • Take "mini breaks" during your child care hours when the children are absorbed in activities and don't need your constant attention. It's perfectly alright to allow them to play unaided and in sight while you simply relax and watch.
  • Enjoy quiet time while young children are napping and older children are playing quietly. Just breathe and enjoy the peace and quiet.
  • Keep a collection of toys in the garage, attic or closet and occasionally replace them with the toys you have in the play area. The toys will feel brand-new to the kids and will keep them freshly engaged.
  • Plan activities that don't require direct supervision on your part, such as dramatic play. Once a dramatic play center is set up, the kids will be able to interact on their own.
  • Have a set schedule for child care hours. Don't deviate from your schedule or you may wind up working far too many hours.
  • Consider letting a family go if a parent or child regularly causes you grief. You'll be amazed how much your stress levels will go down by eliminating the source.
  • While you shouldn't let children stare at a TV screen, cut yourself some slack a few times a year and plan a movie afternoon. Choose a couple of movies (preferably ones the children haven't seen before), offer some snacks, pop in the movie and relax.
  • Every three or four months have a slacker week. This means no activity planning and no curriculum, just playing. Spend time outside doing whatever...blow bubbles, play with sidewalk chalk, run through the sprinkler, kick balls around, play on the swings or have a picnic. 
  • Do something different. Plan an activity you wouldn't normally. Try a science experiment or a cooking project. Plan a field trip for a new experience.
  • Change or rearrange the play area. Add a new area rug or window covering. Sometimes making a few changes makes the old seem new again.
  • Get out of the house after child care hours. Find a reason to leave at least once a week to do something for yourself. Visit a museum, talk a walk in the park, visit a friend, get your nails done...anything that will recharge your batteries.
  • Make sure your policies include vacation time - for you! Use your days in the most relaxing way possible. Child care providers spend so much time taking care of others that sometimes they forget to take care of themselves.


If you can't find exactly what you're looking for, contact us at (970) 400-6594 or for answers to your specific questions. We're here to help!