How to choose a safe daycare facility for your child or children in California & beyond...

Your child’s healthy progress is dependent on the safe and positive experience he or she receives during the early, formative years. In order to make an informed decision about which daycare facility to choose for your child, you need to consider the following two items:

Adult supervision: Remember how we briefly discussed lack of adult supervision in other articles posted on this website, and how it can lead to child injuries? You need to know how many children are cared for in the program; how many total caregivers there are; what the overall group size is, in terms of children; how discipline is given; whether or not the younger and older children are separated; what the policies are for dropping off and picking up your child; and whether the children are supervised at all times, including nap time.

Cleanliness of the facility: You need to find out if the children and staff regularly wash their hands, whether or not a sanitizer is used; whether or not any of the toys and surfaces are regularly cleaned with a bleach-type solution, and whether or not the facilities are orderly and clean.

QUICK PARENTAL TIP—Ratios for child care (children-to-adults). You can use the following graph to get an idea of how many adults at a daycare of child-care facility should watch a specific age group of children:

3:1 — 0-12 mo
4:1 — 13-30 mo
5:1 — 31-35 mo
7:1 — 3 years
8:1 — 4-6 years
15:1 — 7-8 years
18:1 — 9-10 years
20:1 — 10+ years

As a parent, when considering a daycare or child care program, be sure that children are grouped according to their respective ages and that the daycare facility is registered or licensed to work with a particular age group of children. Obviously, differentiation of age groups is developmentally important because it allows for appropriate social interaction among the child’s peers and adults involved with the child care program. It is also, important to remember that state licensed daycare and child care programs have the duty to provide care to special needs children, but the requirement under California law is only to a reasonable standard of care. Therefore, I strongly recommend that special needs children be integrated into the typical daycare environment, but parents should choose a daycare program with specially qualified staff to best aid a child and his or her special needs.

It is also important to remember that the adults interacting with your child, no matter how often, will be their role models almost every day. Your child will emulate, and sometimes imitate, behaviors and speech from these adult child care providers. You need to be proactive about determining how well these behaviors mesh with your specific parental philosophies. How hands-on are the daycare providers when resolving disputes or disciplining a child? Having a proactive stance on these concerns will help you choose the right daycare center for your child. In the same vein, how does the daycare center communicate with parents, and does this communication style meld with your expectations? Any parent should want to keep a pulse on events and happenings at the daycare center, but does this mean a parent would want written or verbal updates? Also, at what point will the daycare communicate a perceived problem or actual concern with a child? Setting and maintaining an expectation in the beginning is crucial for good communication between you and the daycare facility.