Finding Quality Childcare

Parents in Humboldt County have a variety of child care options, although not all options may be available in all areas of the county.  There are child care centers, family child care homes, in-home care providers, exempt providers and parent co-ops.

Quality child care may be found in any of these settings.  Many people confuse being licensed with quality.  Being licensed only indicates that a program has met minimum standards.  Quality goes far beyond the issue of licensing.

The Local Child Care Planning Council of Humboldt County has put together a short list of indicators of quality in a child care program.  This is not meant to be a complete description of quality child care, but is a tool to assist parents in finding quality child care.

The most important indicator of quality is the caregiver; this person can make the difference between your child having a positive or negative child care experience.

It is a good idea to interview the caregiver when he/she is not with children and ask about policies and philosophies.  It is also a good idea to observe the caregiver interacting with the children.  During the interview it is appropriate to ask, “What type of child development training do you have and what are your plans for training in the future?”

Does the caregiver take advantage of the opportunities for training and consultation offered by local agencies or educational institutions? Research confirms that quality of programs is directly related to the caregiver’s level of training in the child care and development field.

The following positive/negative indicators are some of the basics to look for in quality programs and are divided into 4 areas:


General

Positive:
Adults interact with children taking time to talk with them, both listening and responding. Children feel welcome and caregivers are willing to spend time on children’s level.

Negative:
Children are ignored, or only addressed when behavior is negative. Caregiver does not spend time at children’s level.

Positive:
Caregivers talk/communicate with parents daily about the children.

Negative:
Drop off and pick up time is rushed with little or no communication and no other time or form of communication is provided.

Positive:
Materials are eye catching and readily accessible by the child for a range of developmental needs.

Negative:
Materials are uninteresting, require an adult to retrieve them or provide no variation for children at different ability and interest levels.

Positive:
Whether licensed or not, program should meet health and safety standards.

Negative:
There are health or safety hazards for children; for example, children and staff do not wash hands regularly.

Positive:
Children of all ages should have opportunities for language development, including books, puppets, flannel boards, being read to, and having conversations with adults and peers.

Negative:
Language materials are not available to children, caregiver does not make an effort to talk to children or read to them.

Infant and Toddler

Positive:
Infant and toddler groups should not include more  than 12 children.  Each caregiver works with a small group of children.  A 1 to 3 ratio is ideal for infants and 1 to 4 for young toddlers. Children, including infants, need time to be held and time to be independent.

Negative:
Caregiver has too many children to give any individual attention.

Positive:
Caregiver pays attention to child’s individual cues about hunger, toileting and sleep.

Negative:
Schedules for napping, eating, and toileting are set and do not allow for flexibility and individual patterns.

Positive:
Caregiver only puts infants to sleep on their backs and cribs are ONLY used for sleeping.

Negative:
Infants are put to sleep on their stomachs, put in cribs that are unsafe, or left in cribs while awake.

Positive:
Caregiver talks warmly to children including them in conversation, letting them know what is coming next.  For diaper changes caregiver approaches from the front and continues to let child know what is happening.

Negative:
Caregiver does not talk to child.  When changing a child, may scoop them up and change them without a word to the child.

Preschool

Positive:
Caregivers set clear limits about what is acceptable behavior while keeping in mind that 3- and 4-year-olds get easily frustrated and need help using words to express their feelings.

Negative:
Caregivers who yell at children or punish for breaking rules or caregivers who do not set clear, consistent limits.

Positive:
Children are encouraged to do things for themselves, such as pouring juice from a small container and wiping up spills.

Negative:
Caregiver does everything for children because it is faster and less messy.

Positive:
Activities are meaningful and challenging to children  and can be successfully completed so that  children feel proud of their accomplishments.

Negative:
Children are given tasks that are too easy such as gluing precut shapes onto paper, or tasks that are too hard such as expecting a three year old to legibly write her name.

Positive:
Children interact with adults and other children and/or are absorbed in using materials.

Negative:
Children wander around not really becoming engaged in activities.

Positive:
Activities and projects grow out of the experiences and interests of the children in the program.

Negative:
Activities and projects are scheduled with no consideration of children’s interests and experiences.

School Age

Positive:
Children are allowed to have time to relax and be with friends as well as time to work on individual projects or interests.

Negative:
Children’s whole day is a rigidly structured extension of the school day or there is no structure and children wander around with no guidance from adults.

Positive:
Children learn through problem solving.  Staff maintains awareness of situations and steps in when needed as a mediator or when conflict seems like it will escalate without adult intervention.

Negative:
Staff steps in too soon or not at all during a conflict not allowing children to work through their disagreements and learn from them.

Positive:
There is a range of activities for different ability and interest levels.

Negative:
Activities are untinteresting or are not varied enough to serve a multi-age group

Positive:
Program is set up to encourage children to make choices to foster their growing sense of responsibility.

Negative:
Children’s growing need for independence is not recognized and few or no choices are available to them.

Final Words

Ultimately you, as parents, are the ones who must choose a child care provider that yo are comfortable with, can easily talk to, who will respect your family’s values, and support your parenting style. Your child is counting on you.