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Child Care Resources Handbook

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Practical Steps to Take in Finding Quality Care

This section suggests questions to ask when you phone ahead to child care centers or homes and offers ideas of what to look for when visiting child care centers or homes. It also describes how to monitor the care your child receives while in the center or home you have selected. Especially useful is a checklist that can be copied and brought along on the initial visit to the centers or homes. The checklists can then be used in evaluating your choices after visits to several centers or homes.

The first step in finding child care is to identify several child care providers in your area agencies). Once you have obtained a list of several centers or homes, you may want to phone them, using the suggested "telephone interview questions" to screen out those you are not interested in, and to begin evaluating those you would like to consider further. You will then want to visit several centers and/or homes to collect information before deciding which is the best situation for your child. Consider the topics covered in the interviews when making a decision or following up.

Telephone Interview

phoneThe telephone interview questions provided on the following pages can help you to screen the child care centers/homes. There are separate questions for centers and homes. They can help you determine whether the provider's services meet your needs and your child's needs, and also help you reduce the amount of time spent actually visiting the child care providers. Before beginning your telephone interviews, you may want to make a few copies of these forms and have them available when calling the centers/homes on your list.

On-Site Interview

Adult playing trains with a boyThe on-site visit will allow you to make your final decision. It is best to visit several different child care sites to give you a basis for comparison. Start with the providers who interested you most after your telephone interviews. Be sure to allow enough time for a thorough visit. You may wish to use the following points, as well as the checklist that follows on pages 14-15, to observe and evaluate the child care centers/homes. You may want to make a few copies of the checklist and take them along when visiting the centers/homes.

Schedule a time to visit when the program is "in session" and the children are awake. Avoid the early afternoon hours when most children are napping.

In two-parent homes, both parents should try to visit.

Avoid asking questions that tell the provider what you want to hear such as "You always hold babies when you feed them, don't you?" Instead, ask open-ended questions such as "How do you feed the babies?"

If you are able to see children arriving for the day or leaving at the end of the day, you can see how other parents and the staff relate to each other. You will also be able to see how other children feel about coming to the center/home and leaving.

Follow-up Monitoring

Once you select a child care center or home, you will need to monitor the care your child receives. This can be accomplished when you:

  • Involve yourself in your child's program and parent activities.
  • Observe your child in the child care setting and discuss any problems as soon as they appear.
  • Ask your child what he or she does and how he or she feels about the child care center and/or home. Listen carefully to the responses. Follow up and ask questions when you have concerns.
  • Drop in frequently to observe the number of children and caregivers present, whether there is supervision at all times, the conditions of the facility, and the daily activities.
  • Communicate with other parents in the program.
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