Searching for childcare is truly one of the most important and, in some cases, heart-wrenching decisions parents face. How do you select the best place for your child? What qualities should you look for in a facility? We asked Randy East, Director of the Elizabeth Perry Rushton Child Development Center, for his list of the best questions to ask during a tour and things to look for when evaluating a childcare center.
1. Is your program licensed? Is the program accredited?
- Daycare centers in Alabama are required to be licensed by DHR, but centers affiliated with churches are commonly exempt from licensing. If you choose to go with an unlicensed center, ask to see the centers policies and procedures regarding equipment standards, background checks, ratios, etc.
- #1 tip…ask to see the DHR posted licensing deficiency report…it is required to be posted in public view.
- Equally important is a search for an accredited center. NAEYC being a first choice, but there are other options with different standards
2. What are the student / teacher ratios? And, how do you maintain those ratios during the day (teacher lunch breaks, absences etc.)?
3. Do you practice a curriculum? How do you assess children developmentally and provide feedback to parents?
- Look for a curriculum that fosters areas of child development surrounding cognitive, emotional, language, physical and social aspects
- Ask about the assessment tools and method of feedback to parents
4. What types of food do you serve at the center and how do you promote good nutrition?
- Look at a menu and see what is being served.
- Ask about how the center makes exceptions due to allergies
5. Evaluate the design of the playground? What standards are in place to insure safety?
- Playground and facilities that promote healthy situations for children free of defect and dangerous areas.
6. What are the educational qualifications of the teachers?
- Education qualifications for staff that promote the commitments to achieve higher learning. Associates Degrees and Bachelor’s Degrees are a plus. Make sure High School diplomas are a minimum!
- Indoors…..Play should also be occurring including dramatic play and blocks. Play not only supports children’s intellectual development; it is also very important for the physical development of children.
7. How do you attract and maintain high quality teachers? What is your staff turnover rate?
- Young children benefit from stable, consistent teacher relationship and a low turnover rate creates security for children
8. What type of diversity does your center represent?
- Evidence that families are supported through good relationships, communication and recognition of diversity of all areas.
9. What extracurricular activities do you include in the curriculum (Spanish, Dance, Music….)?
- Evidence that the community is used to support the advancement of the program (i.e. field trips, invited guests, ex. curr. activities, etc.)
10. Can we review your policies?
- Strong personnel, fiscal and program policies that support a high-quality business approach.
- A good program will provide parents an opportunity to visit, stay awhile and get a good sense of the environment.
In addition to the question above, tour the center and look for the following:
- Children in the program should be engaged with one another and their teachers.
- Listen and watch for a happy sounds of activity—neither too quiet nor too loud.
- Teachers should use positive speech and be loving and responsive to a child.
Overall, it is our advice to find a center that you trust because they consistently follow curriculum guidelines and procedures. One BirminghamMom noted that she always felt better about the care at her daughter’s school because they had much more experience evaluating personnel and implementing safety procedures than she would have in her own home with a nanny or family care. Fortunately, there are many highly qualified full time and part time programs in Birmingham.