Check out the Daycare center any or all of the ways mentioned below. Pay them a visit any time of the day and see if the activity going on looks like it should. (I once walked all the way through a daycare during naptime without being noticed!) Finally, leave your child there for a couple of hours before signing up. If s/he is returned to you with other children's bottles, etc. or is especially fussy, then it might not be the right place for him/her. Here is advice: * "Begin looking at daycare centers ASAP. Get onto lists early (we submitted as soon as we had a confirmed pregnancy. It varies by country/state/city but if you're on the list early it removes a stress. Funny thing - I was skulking around centres, checking them out, before we even announced we were trying (let alone successful :-)) and we were worried about getting caught by somebody we knew :-). Both of you check out a set and make a shortlist. Revisit the shortlisted ones * "I'd suggest checking your options early. Recommendation: 'What to Expect the First Year' has a section on just this topic, including how the father gets involved. Check it out." * There is a new program that rates the day care centers by stars. Its called the 4 STARS program the more stars that the center has the better. * I'm not sure about all states, but when I lived in NE, we could call our local Social Services office and they would give an 800 number to call in the state capital. When you called, you could give them the name and address of a day care, and they would send what were called "Compliance Request Forms". These were the forms the state inspectors filled out when they visited daycares. These forms would list any exceptions found, complaints lodged, etc. They were very helpful and I would only take my child to a center that got high percentages when inspected. It's not a guarantee of care, but it's great at eliminating those that you shouldn't be considering. You can also ask the center if you can review their copies. A good one will not have any qualms about sharing them with you. One that I used posted their results for the parents. * I have worked in daycare in VA and this is true here also. You are entitled to see past records of inspections. These will show all 216 (or so) regulations they check and whether the center passed or failed. A good daycare will allow you to drop by unannounced whenever you want, to observe whatever you want, will not allow anyone not listed in the file to pick up your child (and then they will need to see photo ID to confirm), will call you when you child is ill ( this also means that they will follow the laws about ill children and will not allow your children to stay or come back the next day if they have had a fever, etc), makes sure the teachers have over 6 months of actual experience in daycare before allowing them alone with children (some things you can't learn from college :), has bleach water for sterilizing that they check to make sure it isn't too weak or too strong, send home notes every day on what your child did, does not allow a child to eat choking hazards (even if you packed them in the lunch), does not allow your child to eat any foods you have not okay'd, and in general follows these guildlines: 1-(most important)-Child is safe all day. 2-(fairly important)-Child is generally happy. Sometimes this means making your child sad (time-out, no cookies until you finish your sandwich) to ensure a larger good though. 3-(semi-important)-Child learns something. You cannot stop a pre-school age child from learning. It is what they learn you have some control over. If your school is not succeeding at teaching your child to use the potty or count to 20, but it is a safe, friendly, cheerful environment where your child has friends, it is a great school anyway. You child will go to school from 5-18, they deserve the chance to learn to be kids. If they learn their ABC's while they are at it even better, but if not, don't worry. They will learn them if you expose them to it at home. * One of the BEST ways is by "Word of mouth"- speak to anyone you know in your area that uses daycae. Base your choice on; convieniencce to your home (so you are not frazzled every day- which affects the child) ; cost- so money does not present a family problem). Keep a pencil and pencil in the car and whenever you pass a daycare, jot down the number; HOWEVER, THE MOST IMPORTANT consideration is the safety and welfare of our young children who are vulnerable After you have a small list, start calling and ask when you might be able to stop by and see the place. Be slightly vague about a time. See how they react. A good daycare should not freak out about "unannounced visits".. Go to your initial visit a little early, and see how they react. Ask them to put you on a waiting list or whatever, explain you haven't decided which one you will go with Visit all on the list in the same manner. Then I would stop by each place one more time, UNANNOUNCED. This might be a slight inconvienience to the daycare, but I'm sorry, s slight inconvienience is nothing compared to the safety of our LITTLE ONES! Ask them if they are licenced with the state and also check the state agency which issues licenses. ALSO the daycare you vist shouldn't be overcrowded, ask how many kids are enrolled there. LAST but not LEAST, trust your GUT instinct.
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