Most of us will be there at some point: we need to find a child care provider we can trust with our children. We might start with asking friends or searching online. But those in the know highly recommended that we start with our local Child Care Resource and Referral agency (CCR&R). By starting with CCR&R, we ensure that the pool of child care providers we’re choosing from are licensed (registered or certified) and located in our local area.
There are a number of indicators and criteria to consider when interviewing providers. Begin by trusting your first impression and answering the following questions: Does the home or center look safe? Do the adults seem to enjoy being with children? Are there plenty of toys? The first two questions are the most important you can ask about a child care provider, and your answer should be that you feel your child will be safe and happy. Visit the location more than once and stay as long as you like before making your final decision. Even after you start using child care, visit often.
Look for providers who welcome family involvement
Quality child care homes and centers that wish to build strong family partnerships encourage family involvement, which has been shown to be extremely beneficial for early childhood learning and development. A study by Harvard Family Research (“Involvement Makes a Difference: Evidence That Family Involvement Promotes School Success for Every Child of Every Age,” Project No. 1 in a series from Spring 2006) showed that outcomes of family involvement in child care included:
- Social competence
- Cognitive development
- Communication skills
- Literacy development
- Vocabulary growth
- Language expressiveness
- Comprehension skills
- Positive engagement with peers, adults and learning
For some of us, it is impossible to visit our children during child care hours; if that is your situation, consider having other family members visit, such as partners and grandparents. Just remember to make the proper arrangements with your provider.
During your visit, take notice of what the child care setting sounds like. Do the voices sound cheerful and patient? Is it too quiet? There may not be enough activity. If the child care setting sounds overly chaotic, it could mean that there is a lack routine — also important in early childhood development. Routines help to make your child feel safe; children feel the most secure when their lives are predictable. When a child care provider creates an environment that feels safe, children learn that they can trust others to take care of them and meet their needs, so they become free to relax and explore their world.
Pay attention to ratios
It is also important to count the number of children and staff in the program. A small number of children per adult is especially important when caring for groups of toddlers and babies. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has a guide for teacher/child ratios that aligns with or exceeds the state license capacity requirements.
Learn about staff
Ask about the knowledge and experience of the people who will be caring for your child. Do they have specialized experience or education? Are they participating in quality improvement programs, like the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)? Do they have or are they striving for National Accreditation? Quality child care providers are happy to have you ask these questions, and are always learning more about teaching and caring for children. Find out about the efforts in your community to improve quality child care and education. Is your childcare provider involved? How can you help?
Check for inclusive care
Another factor to consider is whether the child care is inclusive, which means that children with and without disabilities, emotional/behavioral disorders, or special health care needs are all together in the child care program. It also means that all children participate in all of the setting’s daily routines and activities.
According to guidelines by the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities (http://oregoninclusivecc.org), the benefits of inclusive care to children and youth (whether or not they experience disabilities or other special needs) include:
- Young people are not segregated. The negative effects of labeling and lack of familiarity are decreased.
- Young and school age children have opportunities to learn from and share experiences with each other. This includes positive models for learning, communication and behaviors.
- All children feel a sense of belonging. Children of all ages learn to appreciate diversity in others.
When everyone participates, children have opportunities to be creative, resourceful and providers also benefit from inclusion in multiple ways, such as:
- Gaining new knowledge and skills, benefiting all the children in your setting.
- Developing new contacts and partnerships, which can enhance your business.
- Connecting to community resources.
- Showing flexibility, respect and an understanding that we all have unique abilities and needs.
And finally, as a parent, regardless of your child’s abilities and needs, you benefit from inclusion. Here’s how:
- You have more options and choices in care for your child.
- Your family has an opportunity to experience and understand differences and similarities.
- Your child has expanded opportunities for learning from and teaching other children.
- You see the variety of developmental levels and stages among a diverse group of children.
- You have the comfort of knowing your child is in a safe, nurturing environment.
Resources for finding quality child care and assistance
- Oregon Child Care Resource & Referral 1-800-342-6712
- Clackamas County Child Care Resource & Referral 503-675-4100 1-866-371-4373
- Multnomah County Child Care Resource & Referral 503-491-6200 1-866-227-5529
- Child Care Resource & Referral in Washington & Columbia Counties 971-223-6100 1-800-624-9516
- Employment/Education Related Day Care Fund (ERDC) 971-673-7300 503-731-3400
- Head Start and other government funded programs 503-675-4100 503-675-4103
- Oregon Child Care Division 503-947-1400 1-800-556-6616
You can also dial 2-1-1 statewide, or 503-655-8861, for information and referral to find out more about child, youth and family programs and assistance offered in Clackamas County.
Checklist for finding quality care
- Do you like the look and “feel” of the place? Is it clean? (Check bathroom, kitchen and play areas.)
- Do you like the person in charge? What kind of training and experience does he/she have? Ask to see proof of:
- State registration or certification
- Professional Development Registry (PDR) level
- First aid and CPR certification
- Nutrition education
- Is there good supervision of the children? How many children are being cared for and what ages are they?
- What kinds of activities are offered? Are the toys right for the age(s) of your child(ren)? Is the play area safe?
- Can you drop in and visit whenever you want?
- What kind of discipline is used? Does it fit with your ideas about how children should be treated?
- Is the provider able to meet your children’s needs (or willing to learn how)?
- Is care available when you need it? Is it in a convenient location for you?
- Is the cost within your ability to pay?
- Who will take care of the children if the provider has to leave for an appointment or emergency?
- (Once your child is in care) Is your child happy and relaxed at the child care location? Does he/she look forward to being there?
This checklist was developed in collaboration by: Oregon Commission on Children & Families; Oregon Child Care Division, Employment Department; Adult and Family Services, Department of Human Resources; Oregon Child Care Resource & Referral Network.
To add to this checklist, I would recommend checking for licensing violations, by contacting the Office of Child Care’s central office. You should also verify that all adults living in the home or present during child care hours have completed an Oregon Central Background Registry check and have passed. This is information the provider will have on hand. If the provider cannot supply proof of enrollment in the Central Background Registry, or you have concerns, you should contact the Office of Child Care’s Central Office at 1-800-556-6616.
Susan operates a Certified Family Childcare, currently Oregon Registry Step 9 and participates in QRIS. Providing childcare with preschool curriculum since 2010, she has a degree in psychology and continues studies in early childhood education.