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How To Find The Right Child Care

As a parent, you want to choose the kind of care that will help your child learn and grow. You want to your child to be safe and happy.

Here are four steps to help you find the type of care that is best for your child.

1. Think about what type of care you and your child need.

  • How many hours each day, and days each week, will you need child care?
  • Does your child have any special needs that the child care has to meet?
  • Do you need to find a child care program near your home, work or school?

 

2. Find at least three places to interview.

To start, try these sources:

  • the Yellow Pages of the telephone book under Child Care or Day Care
  • newspaper ads
  • Internet
  • bulletin boards in local stores
  • community information centres, child care resource centres, Ontario Early Years Centres, libraries, churches
  • friends, neighbours, relatives or co-workers
  • regional offices of the Ministry of Children and Youth Services
  • your local municipality

Some Ontario Early Years Centres or child care resource centres may have a list of child care providers for their area. Just remember: Neither the Ontario Early Years Centres, the family resource centres nor the Ministry of Children and Youth Services have approved this list. As a parent, it’s up to you to research, choose and monitor your own child care arrangements.


 

3. Make the first contact.

Call each of the child care places you are considering. Speak to the person in charge (such as the supervisor or a home visitor at a home care agency. If they are not available, ask when would be a good time to call again.

When you call, have a list of questions ready to ask the child care provider. The answers to these questions can help you choose the places you want to visit.


 

4. Set up a visit to the child care program.

When you’ve decided what child care programs you want to visit, find out as much as you can about what happens there day to day. Take notes. When you have finished your visits, you can look over your notes. Then you can make your decision.

Some questions to ask

When you start your search for child care, it’s a good idea to call the child care providers you are considering and ask them a few questions.

The answers to these questions can help you choose the places you want to visit.

What to ask a home child care agency

  • How does the agency choose providers?
  • What happens when providers are sick?
  • Do providers have special training?
  • What is the agency’s philosophy or approach when working with providers?
  • Do providers encourage parents to drop in?
  • What hours of care are available? Are they flexible?
  • How many children do providers accept?
  • How old are the children?
  • How soon is care available?
  • What is the cost of care? Are there any additional charges? Is there a charge when children are sick or away on holiday? Is there an application fee?
  • Is fee subsidy available?

What to ask a child care centre

  • What are your hours?
  • How old are the children you care for?
  • How many children are in a group?
  • How many staff members care for each group?
  • What training do the staff have?
  • Can the centre accommodate the special needs of children?
  • Are parents encouraged to drop in?
  • What is the cost? Are there any additional charges? Is there a charge when children are sick or away on holiday? Is there an application fee?
  • Is fee subsidy available?
  • Do you have a waiting list?
  • Are meals and snacks nutritious?

What to ask a school-age care program

  • What are the hours?
  • How many children are in a group?
  • How many staff members care for each group?
  • What training and experience do staff have?
  • Are parents encouraged to drop in?
  • Can children choose to do homework?
  • What is the relationship between the program and the school?
  • Can children participate in after-school activities and still be monitored by the child care program?
  • Is transportation provided if children have to travel a distance to and from school?
  • What happens when a child does not arrive at the centre at the expected time?
  • What is the cost? Are there any additional costs? Is there a charge when children are sick or away on holiday? Is there an application fee?
  • Is there a waiting list?

What to Look For

You’ve made the calls. You’ve narrowed down your search. Now you’re ready to visit the programs you’re considering.

It’s very important to visit the home or child care centre before you enroll your child. If you are considering a home care program, you may want to schedule your visit during the day when you can see the children in action.

Whether you’re visiting child care centres or home care programs, you’ll want to:

  • talk with the caregivers
  • watch the children and staff and how they interact
  • assess the physical setting

Here are some points to look for.

First impressions

  • Is the location clean and safe?
  • Do the children seem happy and interested in what they’re doing?
  • Are the adults warm, friendly and responsive to the children?
  • If you are considering a child care centre, is the licence clearly posted?
  • Is there enough space for the number of children?
  • Are there adequate napping and toilet facilities?
  • Is there outdoor space for children’s activities?
  • Is the equipment and furniture in good condition?

The daily program

  • What type of activities are there?
  • What are the policies regarding nap time and toilet training?
  • When do the children play outdoors?
  • Are there structured and unstructured activities? Individual, small group and large group activities? Active and quiet times?
  • Is there a variety of toys and books that are suited to the ages and interests of the children?
  • If you are looking at home child care, does the provider take the children to activities outside of the home (for example, to an Ontario Early Years Centre)? If so, how do they get there?
  • What happens when a child misbehaves or has a temper tantrum?

Health, nutrition and safety

  • Are providers and staff trained in emergency first aid and CPR for the age of the children?
  • What are the procedures for distributing medication?
  • What happens when a child get sick?
  • What are the procedures for disposing of diapers?
  • What procedures are followed in the case of emergency, illness, accident or fire.
  • Are snacks and meals supplied? Are they healthy and nutritious?
  • Are there policies in place for managing food allergies?
  • How is food stored, prepared and served?
  • Do the playpens and cribs meet current safety standards?
  • Are cleaning materials and medications stored out-of-reach of the children?

Staff training and staff-to-child ratios

  • How long have the director and staff members worked there?
  • What educational training have they had?
  • How many children does one person look after at any time during the day?

Administrative policy

  • What are the hours of operation?
  • When are fees to be paid? In cash or by cheque?
  • What is the policy about paying for days when your child is sick, absent or on holidays?
  • Are there any other costs?
  • How much notice do you have to give if you are withdrawing from the program, or if you child will be absent for holidays?