Finding safe, suitable daycare is one of the more stressful undertakings parents of young children face. You have to contend with the logistics, such as the convenience of location and hours of operation, and of utmost concern is the safety and development of your child.
National statistics on abuse and neglect by daycare providers aren’t readily available. But some experts estimate approximately 5% of child abuse and neglect cases occur in daycare homes and facilities. The following steps will help you ensure your child’s safety and give you peace of mind knowing you’ve taken the necessary precautions.
There are several things you should do and ask before sending your child to a new daycare.
Is the daycare licensed?
Licensing is required in most states when a caregiver isn’t a relative, and the care isn’t provided in your home. Check the website of your state licensing and regulatory affairs department to look up daycare homes and facilities to ensure their license is current.
Is the daycare in compliance?
On your state’s website, also look up the requirements for daycare homes and centers. Then keep this information handy when you tour a home or facility, so you know whether the daycare complies.
The Daycare Tour
A tour of the daycare home or facility is vital to ensuring your child’s safety. So don’t be shy, and ask for a full tour. Think of it as an inspection, and pay attention to the following:
- Are all areas used by or accessible to children thoroughly childproofed?
- Are there safety plugs in all electrical outlets?
- Are stairways securely blocked off?
- Do kitchen and bathroom cabinets have child locks?
- Do exterior doors have safety locks up high?
- Is there a pool or hot tub in the area? If so, is it entirely fenced off with a childproof gate?
- Is there a fenced outdoor play area?
- Is the home or facility tidy aside from a reasonable amount of toys?
- Are the bathroom and kitchen sanitary?
- Is the heating or cooling set at a comfortable temperature?
- Are there adequate toys and equipment for the number and ages of children?
- Do cribs, playpens, and other baby equipment meet safety standards?
- Is the number of children present within the daycare’s license capacity? Does the daycare also meet the appropriate ratio of caregivers to children?
- Does it smell clean? Or do you smell neglected diapers or cigarette smoke?
- Are the children happy and content?
- Is there ample play space?
- How does the staff interact with the children?
The Daycare Interview
Take this list of questions with you and add yours as well. Childcare providers expect parents to have many questions, and a good provider will be happy to answer them.
- What is the maximum number of children in your care at any time?
- What are the age ranges of children in your care?
- What types of activities do you do with them?
- Are meals and snacks provided? If so, what do they consist of? Also, what time do the kids eat?
- Can I drop in unannounced?
- How do you handle discipline?
- Do you ever take children in the car? If so, are there enough child seats and seat belts for each child?
- Are there other members living in your home or outside staff who will care for the children? If so, who are they and what are their ages?
- How are naps handled?
- What is the experience or education of the daycare provider and staff?
- What is your policy when a child is sick?
- Can I talk to the parents of other children in your care?
- Is video available so I can peek in at my child on my computer or phone?
Visit https://dhr.alabama.gov/child-care/ for more information.
Kimberly Blaker is a freelance family writer. She’s also founder and director of KB Creative Digital Services, specializing in search engine optimization and SEO content, at kbcreativedigital.com.