Evaluating Child Care Services
How can you decide if a child care provider will be good for your child? The most important tip is to trust your own judgment. No matter what you learn about a child care situation, your own judgment and feelings about it will be your best guide. You know your child best, so trust yourself. The following are some evaluation guidelines that parents and child care experts recommend:
- Visit a center or a home during the work day. Drop in unannounced. Spend as much time there as you can. Look carefully at the facilities. Observe teacher-child interactions and the relationships among the children. If you do not feel welcome to visit and observe, cross the place off your list.
- Ask administrators and teachers all the questions you have. No concern is too trivial or unimportant to ask about. Do you want to know about teachers’ credentials, or teachers’ philosophies of child care? Do you want to know what a teacher would do if a child cries a lot, or if a child begins wetting her pants? Do you want to know if the teacher would make time to talk to you each week? If teachers aren’t willing to talk about their class activities or your concerns, don’t go back.
- Ask yourself if the quality of activities, the values that are shared, and the “feeling” of the situation suit your child’s and your own needs. Is the pace of activities too slow? Do children seem bored? Do children seem intrigued enough by what’s going on to participate eagerly? Are the learning activities too exacting? Do the children seem anxious and weepy? Is there enough affection between children and teachers? Is there enough discipline for your standards? Is there enough quiet for your particular child’s needs? Do you see evidence of values that reflect your own? For example, do you see images of active, working mommies, of different kinds of families, of varieties of ethnic cultures?
- Trust your gut feelings about a place or a teacher. If you feel uneasy, you’ll want to investigate further; but don’t ignore your instincts.
Keep visiting a place once your child is enrolled. Make sure you feel welcomed and satisfied. Your confidence will help to ease the guilt many parents feel about child care. If you know your child is receiving loving care, perhaps learning more that she or he could at home, it will be easier to reassure yourself and your child. Children often fuss about leaving their parents for child care. Many do so each morning, even when they love their day care experiences. The best way to handle these separation anxieties is to be firm and matter-of-fact about your need to work or study and the inevitability of these daily separations, and to show your confidence in the goodness of their care givers. The transition back to college will directly impact your children. Discussing with them the changes and ways they can be involved is helpful.