Tips for choosing the right day care

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — As a parent, it’s likely one of the most important decisions you make: deciding which day care your child should attend.

So how do you make sure it’s truly the right fit? And how do you make sure the day care is doing it right?

Charity Holland is the owner of a registered ministry in Fishers called HOME: Helping Others Mature Every Day.

Holland recently consolidated her smaller home child care providers into a larger ministry child care.

She says she started her business seven years ago, after she realized she had a passion for child care, and wasn’t happy with the provider her son was going to.

Holland took 24-Hour News 8 through her child care location to show us what she recommends parents should look for.

She showed us everything from the kitchen, to the certain types of cribs you are required to have, to staff-to-child ratios, to the indoor playground soft-landing floor mats.

“You should tour, especially as a mom. Get that gut feeling of the people who are there: the director for sure. Really find out if it’s going to be a good fit for your family,” said Holland. “I really would encourage (parents) to go see the facilities you’re looking at. Check them out while children are there. Look at the childrens’ faces. Do they look happy? Do they look clean? Does the facility look clean? Are they friendly? Does it look like a safe environment for children? Are there rounded edges to the tables? Are things high in the air that could be knocked down where a child could be hurt? Are there are enough toys?”

“You really want to make an environment that children want to go to, they can thrive in, and want to be a part of,” said Holland.

Melanie Brizzi, Indiana’s Director of the Office of Early Childhood and Out of School Learning, also encouraged parents to research their options.

“Selecting a childcare is one of the most difficult choices that parents have to make. It does take a little research. There are tools out there that help parents make that choice,” said Brizzi.

Brizzi says the state does what it can to regulate day cares and check up on them, but it’s imperative that parents do their own research as well. She recommends starting with the state’s child care search website, finding a provider that matches what you’re looking for: whether that’s center-based, home-based or faith-based provider.

You can also do a radial search to find someone who is close to you. You can also see what level they are on the state’s voluntary quality rating system, Paths to Quality.

Brizzi explained, there are many different provider types to consider.

“We have licensed and registered and certified. It can be very confusing, and you don’t always know what you are choosing when you choose a provider. It’s not necessarily look for license, or registered, or certified. Look for a Paths to Quality provider. Paths to Quality is a one to four level system,” Brizzi said.

“(Level) one is entry level, where really critical health and safety standards are met. Criminal history checks, drug screens, staff to child ratios,” she added.

Click here to see what each level means within the Paths to Quality system.

You can also look up complaint and inspection data for childcare programs in the state by clicking here.

After you narrow down your search, Brizzi recommends visiting several day cares.

“”Find a place where you’re comfortable, where the children are happy, engaged, and learning, and then ask a lot of questions of both the director or the owner and the teacher,” said Brizzi.

In Indiana, a ministry child care like what Holland owns isn’t required to be licensed, but they are required to be registered.

New regulations have recently gone into effect in the state that affect unlicensed day care programs that accept Child Care and Development Fund vouchers. That includes registered ministries, exempt home programs and exempt centers.

A home child care provider in Indiana isn’t required to be licensed if they care for five or fewer children.

“If you select an unlicensed or unregistered provider, you have to be very careful to ask more questions, because there’s no oversight from an outside entity with those providers,” said Brizzi. “First of all, you want to make sure your provider is operating legally. Are they required to get licensed and they’re not for some reason? This most frequently occurs in a home setting.”

“If you’re selecting a home provider and there are more children in the home than that, it’s time to ask more questions. Should they be licensed and they’re not? Folks can always call my office and we can get some more background information,” said Brizzi.

Indiana Family and Social Services Administration spokesperson Marni Lemons explained licensed providers are required to display their licenses. If they can’t produce a license, they could be operating illegally. In that case, you can file a complaint at 877-511-1144. You can also check their license and complaint data

When checking inspection or complaint data on the state’s website, Brizzi recommends looking for violations like not completing criminal history checks, supervision policy, inappropriate discipline, and things that directly impact the safety of your child.

You can also contact Childcare Answers. It’s an agency that works to help families find child care and also works with providers to improve the quality.

“We can talk you through, what to look for, as far as quality indicators. Ratio sizes. When a family walks into a child care site, use your five senses: What does it look like, what are you hearing, what does it smell like? If you have an opportunity, taste their lunches, or their snacks, so you know what your children would be eating. We definitely recommend you tour multiple sites, to make sure it’s the best fit for your family,” said Mindy Bennett, Director of Programs for Childcare Answers.

Bennett says to make sure the teachers are engaged when you see them.

“There are licensed child care homes that are wonderful in central Indiana. There are centers and there are ministries that are wonderful. It’s the relationship between teachers and children that are in their care that is really important,” said Bennett. “I would want to know who my child’s teachers are going to be. I would want to know how long have they been with the child care program? How long have they been in child care? I would also want to know what their education level is.”

She also recommended asking to see the curriculum and lesson plans that are posted. Check for toys that are in good repair. Make sure there are enough toys. She said to look for teachers on the ground level, talking with your children. See if you could bring your child in for an hour or so to play in that classroom. She also recommended asking about staff turnover.

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