Looking for childcare is a time consuming and stressful process. In my experience, many parents do not know what to ask a potential childcare center or home daycare.
The first question to ask any childcare provider is if they are licensed and how long they have had their license. Licensed childcare providers must fulfill the requirements set by the State of Connecticut, in regards to safety, staff/child ratios, and trainings. Licensed centers are also subject to unscheduled inspections, to verify the providers are following all the regulations. Parents can ask to see the most recent inspection report, and can call the Department of Public Health at 1-800-282-6063 to ask about complaints or investigations against any center or home provider.
Parents should ask about the education and training of anyone working at the center or home daycare. The State of CT requires center staff to complete continuing education hours each year. Many centers send staff to workshops and conferences to fulfill this requirement; however, some only require staff to attend monthly staff meetings, or read parenting magazines. Home daycare providers are not required by the state to get continuing education hours; however, many do through organizations such as the Southington Daycare Providers Association or the Early Childhood Collaborative of Southington, which offer free or low cost trainings to any childcare provider in Southington or surrounding communities.
Parents should also ask how many children the center or provider currently care for, and how many they can care for under their license. The ages of the children in care is important, if parents are concerned about their child having peers close in age. If parents are looking at a center or a group home daycare, staff turnover is also a concern, and should be addressed.
When visiting a childcare center or home daycare, the parents should be aware of the surroundings. The area should be clean and free from any hazards. There should be adequate room for the children to play, eat, and sleep. There should be age appropriate toys, books, and games for the children to play with while in care. Parents should inquire about outdoor time, questioning how often and for how long that occurs. If the provider is going to supply meals, the parents should ask about the nutritional value of the meals, and ensure the children are not served empty calories for snacks or at meal times.
Parents need to ask about the discipline policy of the center or home daycare. Obviously, physical punishment is not an option, and parents should be wary of places that rely solely on time outs as well. Redirection, when staff intervene and focus the attention of the child on appropriate behavior, is preferred.
Ultimately, it is the relationship parents and children have with the provider that will determine the appropriate place for each family. Trust is the biggest factor in this relationship. If the parents trust the provider, then all other issues can be worked out with open, honest communication.