Before I decided to focus on my full-time MOM.b.a., I returned to work for 5 weeks after my maternity leave, which had originally been my long-term plan. During that time, Bugga attended daycare, which I felt was the best option for us (versus having a nanny or an in-home care situation). The process for finding the right location was not at all easy. Depending on where you live, you may need to start this process very early, often before your baby is born. And even then you never know - Bugga still didn't have a spot at our first choice location at 12 weeks old (even though we got on the waitlist a month before she was born) all due to sibling prioritization. So for all the planning in advance we still had to scramble to find a backup location.
For those of you about to start this process, below is a pretty thorough list of questions to ask every facility you tour. You might not care about all the questions, but hopefully most are useful. I've even added some I wish I had asked but didn't know to looking at this in hindsight. Good luck!
Questions for Day Care Providers
- What are your hours of operation?
- What are the children's age ranges that you keep?
- Do I need to make an appointment for a tour/question & answer? If so, when? Who should I talk with?
- Is there a contract? Do we have to pay by week or by month? Is there a discount for paying by the month?
- What is the price (food included)?
- What does this price include?
- Can I see written agreements outlining specific hours, holidays, and other breaks?
- What are the fees?
- Are there extra fees (such as activity fees or enrichment programs) in addition to the standard fees?
- What is the fee if my child is picked up late by accident?
- Is there a waiting list? How does it work? Are siblings of enrolled students given priority?
- Is there a deposit? If so, how much? Is it refundable?
- What are your policies on disciplining children (mainly how do they handle the bitters and others that cause problems for the remaining children - time out, discussion, isolation?) Basically what do you do to a child that keeps biting mine and what do they tell the parents?
- Is there a daily written report that will be sent home with my child? What does it include? How many people can you specify to have the authority to pick up my child?
- Ask the day care about their last CPS inspection & see if their responses match the inspection.
- What is the policy if I decide to change day cares? Do we have to give a certain amount of notice?
- Can I come unannounced any time of the day (prior & during to putting my baby in the program) and observe the babies and the workers?
- What are the policies for handling any issues I may have with a worker? (personality issues or if you see/feel something is not happening the way it should with your baby)
- What are the rules with regards to religion?
- At what age do you transition the children to one nap? What if my child needs to sleep more?
- Will you allow mothers that breast feed to bring in their own milk? What is the process for this? How is the milk labeled to keep it to the corresponding child?
- Do you provide food or snacks for the children? Is this an extra charge or is it included? If food is provided, can I see a sample menu for the kids? Do you provide a hot breakfast?
- What is the feeding schedule for children? Is it broken down by age? How do you keep each child straight as to which ones eat solid food vs. formula, etc?
- When my infant starts eating “people” food, can I pick and choose what he/she eats?
Facility & Staff Quality
- In baby’s room, how secure is it?
- Do you have a state license, registration, or certification?
- Can I see your contact references?
- Do you have safety regulations and standards? Can I see them?
- Do you have a secure online webcam so I can watch my child while at your facility? Does it work? Can I have temporary access before enrolling to view the quality or can I see a demo?
- Do your care providers have First Aid & Rescue Breathing Training?
- If we decide to take our child out for a family vacation or some reason, do we pay for the week or time the child is gone? Do we partially pay?
- What is the hiring process for your employees?
- Do you have a list of your employee’s experience, education, and training related to our child's age?
- Do all lead caregivers and program directors have a child development background and a college degree?
- What is your staff turnover rate?
- How many different teachers will be interacting with my child?
- May I contact staff references?
- Will your facility be able to keep up with our active child? Is your group facility equipped to handle infants?
- What are the types of activities and educational programs offered?
- What is the learning curriculum?
- Is there a parents group or program?
- What are the activities for kids? Do you take the children outside? At what ages? Do the older children go on field trips?
- May I participate in program planning?
- What is your child to staff ratio and total group size? (Compare this to state required ratio.) Is this throughout the entire day (drop off, daytime, pick up)?
- What is the maximum number of children that can be in the room with my child at one time?
- What is the changing schedule?
- How is potty training handled?
- What is your policy on sick children? Do you allow other children in the room?
- What is your policy on giving kids medicines? Does this require a note from doctor?
- How often do you clean & disinfect? Toys? Floors mopped?
- Does the facility have a pest control contract and what provisions are taken for the baby room? (spraying in corners and on floor not a good thing of course)
- Do people walk in with shoes in baby’s room? Are booties or shoes off required?
- How do you handle storage of needed materials for each child? Is the stuff labeled properly with my child’s information? Do they have a place where all of my child’s items are always stored?
- Does the baby room have a baby bed designated for each baby?
- Will you let us bring in the infant carseat to be stored until other parent picks child up?
Other factors to consider:
- cost of gas, location, traffic
- extra food and utility expenses for a care provider that comes to your home
- whether the hours correspond well with your schedule.
* Small and large family child care operations should be licensed by the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC). For detailed information on state child care licensing, see the following web site: http://nrc.uchsc.edu/states.html.