Day Care Centers

As more families become two salary households, the need for daycare centers has increased dramatically in the past ten years. The primary function of these centers is to provide a place where parents can bring their children to stay while they go to work each day. Although it is often difficult for first-time parents to leave their children in the care of a relative stranger they are more and more likely to be without another option.

Daycare centers differ from preschools by one primary component, the absence of an educational curriculum. Since the economy has taken a sharp plunge downwards more people have been forced to pull their children from a preschool setting for the more economical version in a daycare. Sacrificing the early education of their child has been a difficult decision for most. While some daycare centers may claim to do some general learning games with the children it is not required of them to offer it and many simply don’t.

In a recent article published by the Child Welfare League of America, “Childcare and Development: Facts and Figures,” it was stated that only 2 out of 10 daycare centers provide quality care while the other 8 could only be classified as mediocre at best. Those are scary statistics considering these centers are places that parents like you rely on for the safety and well-being of their children. However, armed with a mental checklist and various verification procedures it is possible to find a well run daycare center that you can feel safe using.

To start the process it is important to establish a list of criterion before searching for the best daycare for your family. Sit down with your partner and discuss what the three to five most important features are that you both can agree on. Stick to your guns! If a center doesn’t exactly meet those standards, speak with the person in charge to see if something can be arranged. Common concerns include:

  • Close to home/work
  • Provide meals for the children
  • Ratio of children/caregiver
  • Limit to TV/movie watching
  • Number of total children in center
  • Proof of center license

After an initial search of the local area has been conducted, your list of possible candidates must be checked to ensure that they are all licensed by the state. It is a sad fact that there are many centers, especially those operating out of people’s homes, that are not licensed yet often claim to be. Since this process can be of great cost and time to the center many forgo it, which ultimately means that state is not aware of this business and will not make regular visits to ensure the safety of your children. A great resource for this is the U.S. Department of Health and Services website.

The last step in this process is visiting each center in person. While a center might look great online, so much can be determined from the first fifteen minutes there. Is it clean? Do the children look happy? Are the staff disgruntled? Don’t be afraid to ask questions; if the staff appears to be uncomfortable with or avoiding them at all, leave immediately. There is no compromise when it comes to finding the best care for your child, even if it means going to a center that is a little farther away from home or has a higher price.

An ideal daycare center is one that appears clean, friendly and encourages parent involvement. Each day your caregiver should provide a sheet that details what your child ate, bowel movements and what educational activities they engaged in. This is the minimum that you should come to expect. If after a week (or earlier) you feel uncomfortable with anything at the center, voice your concerns to the director and if they aren’t met immediately, start to look for another daycare center. Finding the perfect center for you will take some time but it is well worth the effort once you feel complete comfort in leaving your child there.