How To Find Quality Child Care
Parents are especially choosy when selecting a facility where their child will receive care while they are working, attending school or dealing with the daily hustle and bustle of life — and they should be. But how do you measure the quality of a child care program?
Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania require programs to be certified. However, certification only indicates that a program complies with basic health and safety standards. Child care experts have developed stronger national standards to measure quality in preschools and in Head Start, family child care and school-aged programs. The standards are tailored to the type of program.
To find quality, parents can look for programs that have achieved accreditation standards or are participating in Pennsylvania’s Keystone STARS Initiative. These standards require increased professional development of staff members and set guidelines for the education of young children.
Three major U.S. organizations accredit child care programs. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accredits full- and part-time child care centers, preschools, Head Starts and kindergarten programs. The National Association of Family Child Care (NAFCC) accredits group and family day care homes. School-age programs are accredited by the National School Age Care Alliance (NSACA).
What to Look For
You should keep both your child’s age and developmental stage in mind when visiting a day care site. This will help you evaluate the site’s potential in meeting your child’s needs as he or she develops.
Every child is entitled to high quality care and opportunities to learn and grow. You can find a child care site that promotes your child's learning and growth in many areas.
But quality child care doesn’t just happen. Look for positive signs of a well-run child development center. You have to know what to look for, what questions to ask on an interview and how to check references.
The following are some steps to take in finding quality child care. Remember, do your research! Take your time in selecting the care option that is best for your family, and then take your time in making your
Look. Trust your first impression. Does the home or center look safe? Is the environment clean and oriented to children? Visit more than once and stay as long as you like. Even after you start using child care, visit often.
Listen. What does the child care setting sound like? Do the teachers and children seem to truly enjoy one another? If it is too quiet, there may not be enough activity. Too much noise may mean a lack of control.
Count. Do teacher/child ratios meet or exceed state requirements? A small number of children per adult is especially important when caring for young children and babies.
Ask. What is the knowledge and experience of the people who will care for your child? Will my family’s cultural values be respected and incorporated in the curriculum? Is there a staff person present at all times who has been trained in CPR and first aid? Do teachers communicate regularly with parents? Are parents encouraged to visit the program?
Be informed. Make sure your child care provider is state-certified. Ask if the facility is accredited by NAEYC, NAFCC, NSACA or, in Pennsylvania, if it is participating in Keystone STARS.
Peg Szczurek is program director of the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC).