Four steps for selecting
a child care provider

Step 1: Interview the caregivers

Call the provider first, and ask…

  • Is there an opening for my child?
  • What hours and days are you open and where are you located?
  • How much does care cost? Is financial assistance available?
  • How many children are in your care?
  • What age groups do you serve?
  • Do you provide transportation?
  • Do you provide meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks)?
  • Do you have a license, accreditation, or other certification?
  • When can I come to visit?

Then, visit the provider. (Visit more than once, staying as long as you can!) During your visit, look for…

  • Responsive, nurturing, warm interactions between the caregiver and the children.
  • Children who are happily involved in daily activities and comfortable with their caregiver.
  • A clean, safe, and healthy indoor and outdoor environment, especially the napping, eating and toileting areas.
  • A variety of toys and learning materials, such as books, puzzles, blocks and climbing equipment, that your child will find interesting and which will contribute to their growth and development.
  • Children getting individual attention.

Ask…

  • Can I visit at any time?
  • How do you handle discipline?
  • What do you do if a child is sick?
  • What would you do in case of an emergency?
  • What training have you (and other staff/substitutes) had?
  • Are all the children and staff required to be immunized?
  • May I see a copy of your license or other certification?
  • Do you have a substitute or backup caregiver?
  • May I have a list of parents (current and former) who have used your care?
  • Where do children nap? Do you know that babies should go to sleep on their backs?

Step 2: Check references

Ask other parents…

  • Was the caregiver reliable on a daily basis?
  • How did the caregiver discipline your child?
  • Did your child enjoy the child care experience?
  • How did the caregiver respond to you as a parent?
  • Was the caregiver respectful of your values and culture?
  • Would you recommend the caregiver without reservation?
  • If your child is no longer with the caregiver, why did you leave?

Ask the local child care resource and referral program or licensing office…

  • What regulations should child care providers meet in my area?
  • Is there a record of complaints about the child care provider I am considering and how do I find out about it?

Step 3: Make the decision for quality care

From what you heard and saw, ask yourself…

  • Which child care provider should I choose so that my child will be happy and grow?
  • Which caregiver can meet the special needs of my child?
  • Are the caregiver’s values compatible with my family’s values?
  • Is the child care available and affordable according to my family’s needs and resources?
  • Do I feel good about my decision?

Step 4: Stay involved

Ask yourself, how can I arrange my schedule so that I can…

  • Talk to my caregiver everyday?
  • Talk to my child about how the day went?
  • Visit and observe my child in care at different times of the day?
  • Be involved in my child’s activities?
  • How can I work with my caregiver to resolve issues and concerns that may arise?
  • How do I keep informed about my child’s growth and development while in care?
  • How can I promote good working conditions for my child care provider?
  • How can I network with other parents?

This information is adapted from Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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