Do you know what to look for to find a safe day care center for your child? This is one of the most frequent concerns for parents looking for a new day care center. How do you know your child will be safe? Parents may often assume that simply because a day care center is licensed by the state it is a safe facility, but this is not always the case. Requirements for day care centers can vary from one state to another. In some states, the codes are much stricter than in other states. In addition, there may be safety measures which may or may not be addressed at all. For instance, while carbon monoxide detectors are recommend for use in all residential areas, not all day care facilities have them, nor are they even required to have them in many states. It should also be kept in mind that enforcement of safety regulations can vary among the states, so it is crucial that parents perform due diligence to make certain they choose a facility where they can be assured their child will be safe.
It does take time to complete a comprehensive evaluation of a day care center, but it is certainly worth the time investment. First, plan to make an initial visit to the facility and speak to the director or manager. It is also a good idea to plan a second visit on a different day and at a different time. This will allow you to see precisely how well children in the facility are supervised during various times, such as outdoor play, mealtime, and class time.
One of the most important factors to use in determining whether a day care is safe is the staff to child ratio. The simple fact is that when a caregiver must look after too many children, injury risks are naturally increased. You also need to consider group size in each room. When there are too many children in one space, the result is increased chaos and noise, which make proper supervision more difficult.
The number of caregivers the facility has will vary based upon age and group size. According to the American Public Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants up to age twelve months should have a child to staff ratio of three to one. That same child to staff ratio should be maintained for ages 13 months up through 24 months. The ratio increased to four to one for children ages 25-30 months, and goes up to five to one for ages 2 to 35 months. Increased ratios are considered allowable for older children.
While child to staff ratio is important, you also need to consider the qualifications and experience of the staff. These two elements can directly affect the safety of children in the day care center. What type of training does the staff have? Have they been trained in proper CPR and first-aid techniques? Have they received training in early childhood development? Do they know what to do in the event of an emergency? Does the center have protocols in place to handle emergencies?
It is also important to ask if you can take a tour of the facility. This can be a prime opportunity to observe on your own whether the day care center appears clean and safe. Observe the furnishing and equipment. Is it up to date? Do the furnishings have rounded corners? Does the play equipment appear to be safe? Are non-toxic play materials offered to the children? Is there a fenced play area available outside for the children?
When possible try to schedule a visit during a meal or snack time. Observe the quality of the food offered? Is it healthy? Is the center able to accommodate special diets and/or allergies? This can be extremely important if your child has a serious allergy, such as a peanut allergy. Are children well-supervised during meal time?
Finally, make it a point to find out about the center’s discipline policy. What type of discipline is used in the center? How does the center communicate with parents if there is a problem? Are parents provided with weekly update and progress reports?
While it might seem challenging to locate a safe day care center where you can entrust your child will be well-cared for, due diligence can help you in weeding out questionable day care centers and focus on finding a center that is committed to your child’s safety and well-being.