Choosing high quality childcare for your family is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Research indicates that children who have spent time in a high quality early learning program have better math, language, and social skills as they enter school, require less special education, progress further in school, and have higher earnings as adults.
Finding the best arrangement takes time and planning but is worth the effort. Here are some items to consider as you make your choice:
Do Your Research – Learn About Your Options
You know your child best. Think about where he or she will be the most comfortable. Family childcare providers may provide a more homelike environment and may be less expensive and more flexible. Or opt for a childcare center, which may offer more staff, more space, equipment and organize activities. Whichever you choose, check the licenses and certifications. In a family care setting, ask to see a current First Aid/CPR card and fingerprint clearance card. You can check the current licensing status and enforcement actions for child care centers and group family child care homes on the Child Care Resource & Referral website at www.azccrr.com. Licenses and certifications do not guarantee high quality but are still a good factor to consider.
Arizona has several types of childcare providers. Child Care Centers are non-residential settings that offer care to more than four children for compensation and are monitored by the Arizona Department of Health Service (ADHS). Family Child Care Homes provide care for children in the caregiver’s home and include Group Family Child Care Homes, Department of Economic Security (DES) Certified Family Child Care Homes and CCR&R Registered Family Child Care Homes. In-home childcare includes the services of nannies and others who provide care in your home. Unregulated options include CCR&R Registered Family Child Care Homes and Kith and Kin (family, friend, and neighbor care).
Visit at least 3 Child Care Options
This allows you to ask questions and to see first-hand the kind of care offered. Things to look for include:
- Is the facility and its equipment clean and in good condition?
- Can the children freely choose activities?
- Are toys clean, age appropriate and in reach of children?
- Do the children appear relaxed and involved in the activities?
- Is there room for outdoor play?
- Does the site smell fresh and clean?
- Does the provider and/or staff have a degree in early childhood and ongoing training?
- Is the program accredited through a national accreditation?
Look and Listen for Quality
Because the way children are treated by childcare providers shapes their development in many ways, it is crucial to find a childcare professional that understands and nurtures your child’s learning. Take time to observe interactions with children. Does the provider speak with the children, including infants, in a respectful manner? Do they sing and read to the children? Do they answer the children’s questions patiently and ask the children questions? Do they remain calm and offer children choices of activities?
Check for quality indicators
Research has found that high quality childcare programs have features in common. Quality indicators include:
- Low child to teacher ratios
- Staff with higher education and ongoing professional development
- Low teacher turnover
- Positive teacher and child interactions
- Age appropriate activities
- Good health and safety practices
Choosing appropriate childcare can be a positive experience for you and your child. Once you make a choice, keep the lines of communication open with your provider. This new situation may require an adjustment period, but always trust your instincts. If you have a feeling that something is not right, ask questions, talk to your child, and observe the program. It is important that you have the peace of mind that your child is being well cared for.
To conduct a search for child care at no cost to you, call Child Care Resource &Referral at 1-800-308-9000, Monday – Friday, 8:00a to 6:00p or Saturdays, 8:00a to noon or visit the website at www.azccrr.com.