BALTIMORE - Finding the right caretaker is a time consuming process. Make sure to follow these tips from the Maryland Department of Education before starting the process.
If possible, begin looking several months before your child will need care, says the Maryland State Department of Education.
You'll need time to visit child care centers and finding family day care homes to compare programs and services.
Do your research
Before visiting a center find out if it is licensed by the Office of Child Care . The following questions, provided by the Maryland State Department of Education, should be asked before visiting facility:
- What time do you open and close?
- How much do you charge, and when are payments made? Weekly? Monthly?
- Does the price include meals and snacks, or do I need to bring food for my child?
- Are your services and fees written down in the form of a contract or service agreement?
- Do you have a schedule of times when your program will be closed (for holidays, staff vacations, etc.)? What are your policies regarding closure due to unforeseen circumstances (illness, severe weather, etc.)? Will I be charged for those days?
- If for some reason my child can no longer attend your program, how much advance notification would you require?
- How many other children are in your program, and what are their ages?
- What kinds of activities are offered on a daily basis?
If you're uncomfortable with any of the answers, the place is probably not for you.
Visiting potential childcare providers
Make sure to visit centers when children are there and participating in activities. This will give you an opportunity to see if the programs and child will be a good match. After finding a center that you think is suitable, bring your child to visit to see if they feel comfortable there.
You should be specifically focusing on the caregiver, the children, and the space used for child care. Ask yourselves the following questions while observing:
Talking with the caregiver
- Can you talk easily with the caregiver? Are you comfortable with the person or the staff? Do you feel you can trust the caregiver?
- Does the caregiver seem to enjoy being with the children? Is he/she really listening and responding to them?
- Is the caregiver able to keep up with the children, or does he/she seem overly tired?
- Are the children supervised at all times?
- How does the caregiver discipline the children? Be aware that Maryland law forbids corporal punishment.
- Does the caregiver use a calm voice? Does he/she speak to the children on their own level?
- Does the program have written policies and procedures? If so, do parents receive copies?
Watching the children
- Do the children seem to enjoy being with the caregiver?
- Are the children given a chance to make choices? Are they able to "explore" on their own?
- Do the children seem to understand and follow the program's rules and routines?
Observing the child care space
- Is the caregiver's child care license or registration displayed? Is it current?
- Does the program area look clean and safe?
- Do the children wash their hands before eating and after using the toilet?
- Are cleaning supplies, sharp objects, medicines, and other dangerous items put away out of the children's reach?
- Is there enough space indoors and outdoors so all the children have room to play? Is the outdoor play area safe?
- Is there enough heat, light, and ventilation?
- Are there fire extinguishers and smoke detectors?
- Are all toys and materials in good condition? Are they suitable for the children's ages? Can the children reach them easily?
- If meals and snacks are provided by the program, are they nutritious? Are they the kinds of food you want your child to eat?
- In general, does the program have a safe, healthy, and happy "feel" to it? Is it a place where children can be children?
If you feel comfortable after asking yourself all the above questions, you've probably found a good facility for your child. If you feel uncomfortable about any of the answers, you should continue looking for another center.
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