Choosing The Right Center

It can be very difficult to pick a day care center where your child will be safe while his intellect and social skills are nurtured. The process can be eased by figuring out which questions to ask and to whom. In general, you'll want to ask questions of the administration, the staff, and the parents whose children are enrolled in a particular center. Also use your own powers of observation to ascertain whether a center adheres to proper standards.

Start by checking out the staff to child ration: How many children are at the center per each staff member? The fewer the number of children per staff member the better off your child will be. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that there be one staff member for 3-5 preschoolers or 7-10 older school children.

Good Practice

Is there a separation between older and younger children? It's a good practice to separate the two since this will reduce the number of infections that are spread.

Policy is something you might not have thought about, but you should see eye-to-eye with a center regarding its policies on discipline and educational issues. Ask if you can have a written record of the center's policies.

Illness Policy

How does the center care for children who become ill? Are staff members willing to give medication? How does the center address contagious illness or illness among many children? By what criterion are children considered too sick to attend daycare? Is there a first aid or sick room for children who come down with minor illnesses? Do any of the staff members have paramedic training or is there a staff nurse or doctor in-house? Must children be vaccinated in order to be eligible for daycare? Are the children required to undergo a physical exam prior to admission? Does the staff keep a record on each child's history regarding illness, injury, and accidents?

What are the center's staff requirements? Are all the staff certified in basic first aid techniques? Have the staff members been taught how to identify abused children? Have they been trained regarding child development? How is training in regard to illness and injury prevention? Does the center have firm rules about hand-washing? It is imperative that staff members wash their hands after each diaper-changing and prior to food preparation.

Safety Standards

Does the center post phone numbers for poison control and ambulance services where staff members have easy access and can see them clearly? Is the playground lined with wood chips or other impact-absorbing materials where there are slides and swings? Do young children have access to high places? Are the children insulated from contact with strangers? Are fire drills held monthly or more often? Are there smoke alarms in every area of the building? Are space heaters in use and if so, are they used as intended? Are there covers on all electric outlets? Are safety gates in use where there are small children? Are the sharp edges of furniture cushioned? How is cleanliness maintained? Washable toys must be washed daily with a disinfectant or a solution of bleach and water.