by: Ann Marie Quaid, owner and director of The Childhood Center

Finding the right child care can be stressful. You don’t want to leave your child with just anyone. Start by asking yourself, “Do I want home or center care for my child?” Home day care is in someone’s actual home, and there is usually only one person caring for all the children. Center day care is located in a building that is set up to care specifically for children. After you have made your decision on which type you would like, start exploring. Search the web, drive around the area. Call and visit many different locations. Each center is different. There are many ways to teach and care for children. Not all facilities will meet your specific needs.
How do you know if it is the right place for your child?
1. Go with your gut feelings
If you walk in to the center and you get that uneasy feeling, go with your gut. Remember your child will probably have that same feeling every time you drop them off. You should be able to go about your day and not worry about how your child is doing. However, it is perfectly ok to miss them.
2. Use your five senses
Look
Is the center clean? Are there calm colors on the walls and floor? Are the toys inviting and age appropriate? Does the staff look like they enjoy being there? Are the children happy and engaged in activities?
Listen
Is the center to loud? Do the children have to yell, beg, or cry to be heard by the teachers? Are they crying, laughing, or totally silent? Do the teachers answer the children in a calm and pleasant manor? Are the teachers excited to see you and eager to talk with you?
Smell
Does the center smell like dirty diapers and cleaning supplies, or does it smell fresh and clean?
Taste
What is the centers food plan? How do the feed the children? Do they hold the babies? Do you wish you could eat there also? Is the food area clean?
Touch
Is the center set up for little hands? Are the toys age appropriate, inviting and exciting?
3. Check them out.
Go to www.dfps.state.tx.us. Click on, find child care, located on the right side of the page. This will give you a list of involuntarily suspended or revoked child care operations as well as other useful information. Explore the site. They are the governing agency that all day care providers, home or center, must comply with. Ask to see a copy of the minimum standards at the center.
4. Staff Experience
Ask for documentation on staff experience. All staff are required to continuing education each year. The teachers and director should be proud to show you the proof of all the hard work they have done.
5. Turn-over rate
What is the staff turn-over rate? Ask how long have each of the teachers been with the center? If the center staff is unhappy and leaving then so will you.
6. Curriculum
Find out what the curriculum is. Make sure they are teaching age appropriate lessons that are on line with your values and morals. Ask the teachers to give you an example of a lesson, or ask what the lesson is that the children are working on at that moment.
7. Emergency plan
Learn their emergency plan. How will they notify you in every type of emergency? Medical, fire, weather, etc. What is the location the children will be for every emergency?
8. Child to adult ratio
The state of Texas has strict guidelines for how many children to adults that can be in a room. This guideline is are located at www.dfps.state.tx.us. On the left side of the page click on Child Care licensing, then go to Day Care Operations tab that fits your needs. It is very confusing, so do not be afraid to ask the director to show you her copy and explain your child’s room ratio. It can vary based on the age in months of each child.
9. Can you show up unannounced
If the center doesn’t want you there unannounced, you don’t want your child there.
10. Talk to other parents
After you have enrolled your child make sure you plan a few minutes at drop off and pick up to talk with other parents. Listen to them. Are they happy or unhappy with the center?

Once you have found the right place for you and your child, keep asking questions. Talk to your teacher and the other staff. Get involved and stay involved. Does the teacher need extra supplies? Ask, often, if there is anything she needs? Being involved lets the teacher and your child know that you are thinking of them during the day. It also lets them know that the success of the class is important to you. Treat your teacher just like you want her to treat your child.