Choosing Child Care: Questions to Ask

By: Mollie Shauger | Thursday, May 23, 2019 | Child Care

Two young kids laugh and smile at day care program

Whether you’re leaving your child for a few hours or a whole day, you want to know they’re in good hands. The research that goes into finding the right child care program for your kids - one that also fits with your family’s schedule - can easily get overwhelming. Ultimately, you’ll have to feel comfortable with the place, and believe your child will be kept safe, healthy and learning.

To help guide you through the decision making, the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges has created a list of questions to ask potential caregivers when comparing programs.

  1. What are the qualifications?

You’ll want to make sure the child care program is licensed to operate by the proper governmental bodies. Is the program accredited or pursuing any accreditations? Accredited programs meet more than just state-licensing requirements. Also, what educational and real-world experience do staff have in working with children?

  1. When are the operating hours?

One of the first things to know is how early you can drop off your child and how late you can pick them up. Also, are they closed for holidays and what happens during inclement weather?

  1. What are the costs?

You’ll want to know the tuition and if it’s billed daily, weekly or monthly. There might be extra fees for early drop-offs or late pick-ups, or for meals. Check with your employer to see what kind of benefits they offer for child care. Also, check with your local government agencies and child care providers to see what kind of financial assistance is available. The Y offers assistance to qualifying children and families.

  1. How will my child be supervised?

What are the ratios of staff to children? In other words, how many caregivers are supervising a group of children? A smaller group size makes it easier for the caregiver to give more attention to each child. Requirements vary by state but early childhood experts have set their own recommendations. Another question to ask is whether the center has a plan in place if a staff member calls out sick.

  1. How will my child be kept safe?

One of the first things you’ll notice if you visit a child care facility is how people come and go, and if the building itself is secure. What are the procedures for drop-offs and pick-ups and how do the staff keep track of kids who are there? Are their regular safety drills? Also, are staff trained in CPR and other first-aid? Ask if the caregivers have undergone background checks and are trained in spotting and reporting signs of child abuse.


  1. Does my child have opportunities to learn and grow?

Does the program have a daily schedule and how much time is provided for playing, reading, eating and napping? Do they provide a space or other opportunities for outdoor play? Some programs offer enrichment classes like theater or yoga as part of their curriculum, or at an additional cost. Also, does the program have a policy on technology use?

  1. Is the environment clean and healthy?

Between feeding, diapering and playing, there are many ways areas can be susceptible to germs. Questions to ask might include: When are children and staff required to wash their hands? How often are the toys and other equipment cleaned? Also, what’s the provider’s policy on sick children and staff as well as vaccinations?

  1. How are my child’s individual needs met?

Children have varying developmental needs at each age. Those new to a program require extra attention and comfort. As a family, it’s important to identify what your child’s needs are and discuss them with the provider before making a decision. Also, how does the program handle allergies or other dietary restrictions?

  1. How are cultures and customs honored?

Child care provides opportunities to learn about different cultures and traditions, whether through activities and celebrations or as part of teaching lessons. How does the program respect cultures and customs and incorporate them into the classroom? Also, what is the primary language used by providers and are they able to communicate or provide materials in other languages?

  1. How do I know how my child is doing?

You’ll want to know how your child is adjusting to child care and be able to discuss any concerns. How does the provider communicate with parents? Also, how do they contact family members in emergencies? Some programs also offer opportunities for parents to visit their children and join them in activities.

  1. What is the discipline procedure?

What happens if your child misbehaves or is hurt by another child? It’s good to ask about the specific ways in which good behavior is encouraged and how bad behavior is punished.

  1. Do you have references?

Some child care centers will keep a list of testimonials or contact information for people who can provide feedback. It’s always helpful to hear from other families who’ve had children in the program.

Find out more information about child care programs offered through the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges.

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