By Katie Saltz
Choosing a childcare provider is a daunting task for many parents. Working families need access to affordable, reliable childcare, but where does one even begin?
Web searches are a good start, but cross check those Google reviews. The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Community Services offers an online childcare provider search.
You can check the licenses and STARS rating for childcare facilities and even view inspection reports.
Word of mouth is always a valuable tool when looking for childcare. Ask your coworkers or your social media network for recommendations.
Reviews from actual parents can provide a wealth of information that you won’t get from a childcare director.
Arrange to visit multiple facilities and bring the following checklist:
• Paperwork. Ask for copies of the center’s policies, procedures and menu, if applicable. Look for license and any compliance reports. These should be posted somewhere in the center.
• Observe an interaction. Drop-by visits by parents should be welcomed (with appropriate security measures in place, of course). You want to see how the staff care for the children when they don’t expect a parent to be around.
• Cleanliness and safety. Ask how often toys, surfaces and play structures are cleaned. Make sure the children’s areas are child-proofed to your standards.
• Consistency. What is the staff turnover? Long-term staffers are a good sign, since you want your child to have consistency of care.
• Trust your gut. There are no stupid questions, so ask the director about anything that concerns you. If something about the facility, a staff member or the policy bothers you, trust your instincts and keep looking.
A similar checklist can be applied to an in-home sitter as well.
• Ask for references. Follow up with these and ask for examples of how the sitter cared well for their children.
• Observe an interaction. Ask the sitter to come for a trial shift while you are home.
• Cleanliness and safety. Ask about a criminal history, driving record and understanding of baby-proofing.
• Consistency. Are they seeking additional employment elsewhere, or could any upcoming life events change their plans (graduation, marriage, etc.).
• Go on instincts. Never feel bad for turning someone down for a baby-sitting job. Your child is priority No. 1. If something feels “off,” listen to that reaction.