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JUST ASK...

The right questions help you choose the best care for your child.

Most child care providers give parents plenty of information on their websites and in their handouts, addressing issues ranging from safety procedures to drop off and pick up times. But how do you determine which provider is right for your child?

“If you know the basic facts, then it comes down to what did you respond to? What did you really like?” says Sharon Easterling, executive director of the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC).

Although your final decision might be intuitive, be prepared to gather facts. “It is important that parents come to visit with their questions ready,” says Diane Morgan, director of operations at the Malvern School. Here are questions to help you find the right care for your child.

It’s Important

The choice of child care provider in your child’s formative years is very important, says Sharon Easterling of the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children. Research shows children learn more in the first five years of life than at any other time.

Daycare/Preschool Facilities

• What can you tell me about the teaching staff?  Inquire about their qualifications, credentials and how long they’ve been there. “You hope to find a good core group of teachers who have been there for a while,” says Morgan.

• May I talk to other parents? Most day care centers and individual providers will furnish parent references uponrequest.

• How will the staff communicate about my child’s development? You will want regular feedback about educational milestones, napping and eating habits, and potty training progress.

Nannies and In-home Caregivers

• What is your philosophy?  “Sharing the same philosophies that Mom and Dad have is important to a long term relationship,” says Beth Stover, agency director for ABC Nanny Source, which places nannies throughout the region. Adds Easterling, “Every program has its own philosophy and educational approach. You want to find something compatible.”

• How much experience do you have? “One of the first things I look for is the number of years a person has been providing child care,” says Alicia C. Harding, director of Monday Morning Moms of Burlington and Camden Counties, NJ. “The people who stick with it really love it.”

• What is your basic schedule, including meals and snacks? Easterling recommends looking for a provider who maintains the same routines that you would.

• Do you have a back-up plan if you are unavailable? You might have to use a sick day or a vacation day if your provider or nanny can’t provide care for some reason.

Easterling offers one last piece of advice. “At the end of the day, if you see happy teachers and happy kids, that’s a good indication that you’ve found a good program,” she says. 

Suzanne Koup-Larsen is a contributing writer to MetroKids.

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