What should parents look for when trying to locate an appropriate child care facility for an infant or toddler? Are there key questions parents should ask when contacting the centers?
Parents should invest as much time and energy as they can in selecting the right child care facility for their children regardless of their ages, but infants can’t go home and tell their parents what happened in child care that day, so parents have to rely on the willingness of the child care center to be open with them from the start.
You can research the history of any child care facility by going to the Department of Social Services website at http://childcare.sc.gov/main/default.aspx. After you have checked the history, feel free to call Child Care Licensing to get explanations for anything you don’t understand about previous citations. When you visit the facility, be prepared to observe the environment and staff, as well as ask questions. Tell the director there are questions you would like to ask before placing your child in their care. Good centers will be open to scrutiny. A good measure of a facility is also how easily you have access to your child after enrollment.
For infant and toddler rooms, start with the license. It should be posted in a conspicuous place as you enter the facility, and it says how many children may be of infant and toddler age. When you see the infant/toddler rooms, look around and count the children. There should be at least one staff member for every 5 infants and one for every 6 toddlers. Look in the cribs and ask about such things as blankets, pillows, or stuffed toys. See if any of the infants have bottles in their cribs. Best practice is for a crib to have no more than a tight fitting sheet on the mattress. Otherwise, it should be bare. Observe sleeping infants. Are they on their stomachs or backs? Do caregivers know which is correct?
Stay long enough to observe diaper changing and feeding practices. Do the caregivers wash their hands before feeding and after diaper changing? Do they interact with exploring children?
The bottom line is for you to spend time in the facility before you have your child spend time there, and be satisfied that the facility is safe, clean, and complies with regulations.