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Quality Matters! Choosing the Best Child Care Option for Your Child

September 6, 2017

Child Care

At some point most parents will have to leave their child or children in the care of another person. Choosing the right person can be one of the most challenging decisions a parent will make. There are many factors to consider when choosing child care: the age of the child needing care, whether you would prefer a relative or use the services of a child care program, the quality of care that a program provides, the cost of child care, the hours that care is needed and any other special considerations that could impact the type of care needed.

Selecting a child care provider

Parents should be prepared to speak with several providers to determine if the provider’s style is a good fit for the child and family. Some key points to consider before actively beginning the search are the type of provider (licensed child care center, licensed family child care home, or informal family, friend and neighbor caregiver) you’ll need and the type of setting you prefer. The next step is to interview teachers and directors to learn more about their care giving and discipline philosophies. This is also the opportunity to ask age-specific questions. Find out what kind of caregiver-child ratios are maintained and whether your child would be in a mixed-age classroom. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) provides resources on what to look for in programs for various ages. It’s also important to observe staff interacting with children and parents. Teachers and directors should be warm, supportive and nurturing to children, and welcoming and respectful to parents.

What does quality look like?

Some indicators of quality child care are easily visible, such as ratings from a quality-rating system or accreditation from a national accreditation program such as NAEYC or National Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NECPA). These programs have rigorous standards that programs must meet that include teacher qualifications and continuing education, ratios and group sizes and classroom materials and arrangement. Programs that earn these ratings or accreditations have demonstrated a commitment to quality and best practice in the care and education of young children.

Other quality indicators can be observed in programs even in the absence of formal recognition. Programs of quality provide nurturing, developmentally appropriate learning opportunities for children of all ages. They demonstrate the importance of caring relationships between adults and children as the context of early learning. Quality programs also recognize that play is the work of young children and therefore provide rich play experiences, facilitated by adults, that allow children to develop the skills they need to be successful in school and in life.

Follow these steps when searching for a quality care provider for your child:

  • Screen programs over the telephone to determine if the location, hours and cost meet your needs.
  • Check references and state licensing reports (In Ohio, or Kentucky)
  • Interview providers, asking questions about program practices, teaching philosophy, daily routines, curriculum and family involvement.
  • Observe how program staff interact with children and with parents.

This article was written for the September 2017 edition of Parent Source.