4.Choosing Child Care

Finding and choosing a child care provider or program is one of the most important decisions a parent will make. There is no "one size fits all” when it comes to child care.  Choosing a quality child care provider can have a lasting impact upon your child including how well they may do when it comes time to enter school. Think about what is important to you and your child.  Start looking for child care as early as possible.  Be sure to interview the provider, visit their program and check references BEFORE you enroll you child.

The process can be overwhelming at times.  That’s why we suggest contacting the St. Lawrence Child Care Council as soon as you know you will need care or need to change care your current child care arrangements.  Our staff will guide you through the process, answer your questions and help you explore all the options you have available.

Always trust your instincts! 
If you have any doubts, it may not be the right place for you or your child.

5 Steps To Choosing Care:

1. Start Early
Start looking as far in advance as you can. No matter what type of care you are considering - a child care center or care in someone else's home - finding the right child care option can take some time.

2. Make a Call
Begin your search by calling your local experts – the St. Lawrence Child Care Council who can give you the facts about child care and a list of child care options in your area that may meet your needs. In addition, make sure to ask:
•  What are the licensing requirements in my area?
•  How can I get information about complaints and licensing violations?
•  Does my family qualify for any child care financial assistance programs?

3. Visit and Ask Questions
Visit the child care options you are considering. Find out about these key indicators of quality

•  Adult to Child Ratio. Ask how many children there are for each adult. The fewer the children for each adult, the better for your child. You want your child to get plenty of attention. The younger your child, the more important this is. Babies need an adult to child ratio of no more than 1:4 (one adult for four infants), while four-year-olds can do well with a ratio of 1:10 (one adult for 10 children).


•  Group Size. Find out how many children are in the group. The smaller the group, the better. Imagine a group of 25 two-year old's with five adults, compared to a group of 10 with two adults. Both groups have the same adult to child ratio. Which would be calmer and safer? Which would be more like a family?
•  Caregiver Qualifications. Ask about the caregivers' training and education. Caregivers with degrees and/or special training in working with children will be better able to help your child learn. Are the caregivers involved in activities to improve their skills? Do they attend classes and workshops?
•  Turnover. Check how long caregivers have been at the center or providing care in their homes. It's best if children stay with the same caregiver at least a year. Caregivers who come and go make it hard on your child. Getting used to new caregivers takes time and energy that could be spent learning new things.
•  Accreditation. Find out if the child care provider has been accredited by a national organization. Providers that are accredited have met voluntary standards for child care that are higher than most state licensing requirements. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and The National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) are the two largest organizations that accredit child care programs.

4. Make a Choice
Think about what you saw at each visit, and make the best choice for your child and family.

5. Stay Involved
Your work isn't over when you find good care for your child. You and your child's caregiver are partners now.

       Here are some ways to be involved:

•  Have parent-caregiver meetings regularly, and ask questions.
•  Offer to volunteer time when needed, like participating in clean up days, fixing broken toys.
•  Be there for your child's birthday party.
•  Visit your child at child care and read a book aloud.
•  Join in special events, like field trips, Career Day, Black History Month, or other holidays.

Even if you can't get time off from work during the day, you can still check in at drop-off and pick-up times. Ask the caregiver how things are going, and how your child is doing.

Visiting and participating in events at your child's provider sends a strong message. It tells your child and your child's caregiver that you think what your child is doing and learning is important.

Steps to Choosing Child Care was adapted from Child Care Aware of America.

A few questions to ask all child care providers:

•  Why did you become a child care provider?
•  Tell me about your experience and educational training.
•  How many children are in the program?
•  What are the ages of the children?
•  Who else will have contact with the children in your program and may I meet them?
•  How many children are there per adult?
•  May I contact other parents for references?
•  What does a typical day look like?
•  Can I visit unannounced?

•  How do you handle medical or other emergencies?
•  Are you or someone on site CPR and First Aid Certified?
•  Will you give my child medicine if prescribed by a doctor or if I provide it?
•  How do you handle a child who is crying, when they break the rules or take something from another child?
•  Do you have pets?
•  How much television is watched each day? 
•  What programs?
•  Is smoking permitted in your home?

A few things to look for when you visit the provider’s program:

•  Is the facility cheerful? Appealing? Clean?
•  Do children seem happy? Enthusiastic? Relaxed?
•  Is there a variety of age appropriate toys, books and equipment?
•  Do care givers hug children when they need comfort?
•  Do care givers give individual attention to children?
•  Do they speak with children at their eye level?
•  Do they participate in play?
•  Do they seem to enjoy children?
•  Is there adequate outdoor space and play equipment?

A few questions to ask yourself:

•  Am I comfortable with the caregiver? Program? Facility?
•  Do I trust this person to care for my child?
•  Do the rules or policies seem reasonable and clear?
•  Am I happy with the type and variety of activities?
•  Am I satisfied with the references I checked?
•  If I were a child, would I enjoy spending time here?

For more questions to ask and things to look for when you visit child care programs we encourage you to use these resources:

Guide to Quality Child Care in St. Lawrence County our own guide to help parents in their child care search.  A copy is provided with every child care referral we give.

As You Think About Child Care age appropriate information from the NYS Office of Children & Family Services to assist you with your child care selection.

Parents Guide to Child Care Options offers brief video clips full of information from the NYS Office of Children & Family Services to help parents searching for child care.