Doesn’t every mom want to stay at home with their children? (Well, most days!) But let’s face it, most of us don’t have that option, or maybe you don’t want that as an option. This means you have to find a great childcare center that is right for your family. How can you find a good center? In today’s world, this can be tricky.
I have worked in early childhood education for many years now. I even fell in love with it so much that I obtained my Master’s degree in the field. And believe me, I have seen the good and the bad when it comes to daycare and preschool. So here are a few steps that I suggest you use in order to prevent from seeing the bad!
Oh! Don’t forget to keep a notebook handy during your search! You’ll see why!
Before you start calling around and going on visits, DO YOUR RESEARCH, you can find out a lot about a childcare center by going online and doing a little research. It’s actually quite simple. Most parents just don’t know where to find the information. Each state should have a department of children and family services website. For example, Florida’s department of children and family services website is, myflfamily.com.
If you are not sure your state or local website, Google “department of children and family services for (state)” and it should pop up. (if you can’t seem to locate your State’s department of children and family services leave a comment below and I will help you find it)
When you locate the appropriate website, there should be a provider search tab. (most likely under a childcare tab) Click on the tab and then enter your zip code. Once you find a few that you are interested in, click on the name and then you will be able to look at their inspection records. These are public record but can tell you a lot about the childcare center.
Scroll through the inspection and look for any regulation that says noncompliance. If it says this it means that the childcare center did not pass this part of the inspection. Ultimately, you want to rule out any centers that have a noncompliance on any aspect of the inspection. There are some less serious violations, however, a well-run program will pass each inspection.
MAKE A LIST, of all the programs that you found and their numbers. This one is pretty simple but very important to keep all your information organized. I suggest writing a little bit about the program or the inspection to help keep the programs separate in your mind and so you can go back and review what you found.
Things you could write:
Are they a home-based program?
Do they provide lunch and snacks?
How far are they away from home or work?
Did they have any issues listed on the inspection?
Any additional costs other than the monthly charge?
Really anything you would like to note.
Take a tour of each center you are interested in. (I know, you’re probably saying DUHH.) But it is important to view multiple centers to figure out which center is right for your family.
I would contact each center and ask about availability and taking a tour. If there isn’t any availability, you should still take a tour and ask about a waiting list. Some centers require an appointment to take a tour. Don’t worry, this isn’t always bad. It might just be because their Director is very busy and wants to make sure they have the appropriate amount of free time to give you a complete tour.
TAKE NOTES!! Bring a little notebook and write down answers to questions for each center you visit. It’s good to also write down any questions that you may have before you go. It will help you remember all the questions you have floating around in your head. Make sure you write down the cost per month.(It will help you make a decision later!)
Last but not least, the most important part! Finally choose the perfect center! Take out those notes and any information you have on each center. Look through it all again and compare costs and your notes. Make a decision and then call the center of your choice to fill out a registration form. (If you did not already receive one)
All of this can take some time so I suggest to start your search as soon as possible. Good childcare centers can be hard to come by. If you follow these steps it will help you easily find a great center!