Parents spend a lot of time and energy to confirm their choice of childcare. There are so many factors to consider; location, setting, type, price, environment, teachers, and that “good feeling” that parents seek out. You might find yourself looking in the windows/doorways as you tour a school, searching for the qualifications to help you make your decision.
Here are some tips and guidelines to help you make a decision you feel confident in and give you peace of mind that your child is in the best environment for them.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services- Minimum Standards
All licensed child care centers must comply and meet all minimum standards set forth by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS). Look for centers that don’t just meet these minimum standards, but have operational policies and procedures that exceed them.
All licensed child care centers have registered with the TDFPS and everyone can look up information about the center online here
Standards are weighted based on risk to children. The weights are: high, medium-high, medium, medium-low, and low. All centers are inspected to assure compliance with standards.
You have the full right and responsibility to check out all child care centers you are considering. Take a look at any deficiencies that you may notice. What are they weighted? Is this something that the center took action to either correct or prevent in the future? Does this show a pattern of issues?
Before you tour a school, make sure that you have checked out the link above and ask the center about any issues that you might have with any deficiencies. Take note on how they react and how clear they are in both answering your questions and what actions they took to resolve those issues.
A high quality school will be happy to share how they meet and exceed the minimum standards and answer any questions about their policies and procedures.
While walking up to the school, take a moment to listen and look. Is the area secure? Is there secure fencing? Lights outside for security? Do you hear children outside?
Look for staff to greet you and ready to help you answer any questions. Notice the atmosphere and security measures in place. All licensed child care centers are required to post information about their school including their license, letter from the most recent inspection, menu, list of current employees, and more.
As you are walking around the school with your tour guide, look for the furnishings and equipment. Is it age appropriate? Is there enough room for free movement? Are the classrooms bright and clean?
Keeping Children Safe
Safety should be one of the top priorities for high quality child care. There are many aspects to both safety and security that you should consider when you look at your child care options.
This encompasses the care and wellbeing for children, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
The program should be aware of the natural rhythmic needs of all children enrolled. Is the school flexible enough to meet everyone's needs? Does it meet your family's goals? When you are touring, pay attention to how both the teachers and staff are interacting with each other and the children. If you happen to tour right before the children's lunch and naptime, you might see tired and cranky kids... that's normal, but how are the caregivers reacting? Are they singing songs, talking, and guiding the children to the table to eat? Is the leadership supporting them?
When you walk around the building, observe how the teachers move children from place to another. Do they do face to name checks? Are they observant and properly observing all children?
While there can be no plan that can cover all emergencies, every center is required to have an emergency plan. This includes lock downs, exits, and evacuations. Every center should have a policy of keeping track of who is entering and leaving the facility as well as measures to keep those who are unauthorized from entering the building.
All schools should have protocols and procedures in place to keep the children enrolled safe and secure. You should have a secure sign in and out procedures, health checks, medication logs, communication with your child's teachers, sign accident/incident reports, emergency contacts, and annual check in with records and information.
You should ask what intentional safety your school implements during the day. How often do they do ratio checks? How does the leadership manage teacher observations? What training does the staff receive? Is everyone up to date with trainings/first aid?
It’s a new experience to put your child into child care for the first time. It’s important that while you are thinking of all the right questions to ask, to take a moment to slow down and get a good feeling from the atmosphere of the school. Is there a peaceful and tranquil energy present? Are the teachers happy? Are the children enrolled happy and engaged in the environment? Does the administration show care and understanding?
As eager and excited as you are to enroll your child into a school that is a great fit, make sure that everyone takes time to do their due diligence. A high quality child care center will have operational policies and procedures that including, but is not limited to filling out enrollment forms, signing parent handbooks, requiring a note from a health care provider, possible vaccine records, allergy plans if needed, name and address of another responsible individual to be contacted in case of an emergency, as well as ask for adequate time to place the child into the correct developmental classroom. You should have access to all forms and handbooks before your child’s first day.
Make sure that you read through the handbook carefully and ask any clarifying questions to make sure that there is no misunderstanding for any policies in place.
Child care is an extension of the family. When both caregivers and parents communicate effectively, share with each other goals and developmental milestones, as well as have respect for each other's role, the children benefit the most. Make sure that the child care center you choose has opportunities for gatherings, communication standards, and you are allowed in the building without having to secure prior permission.
Once you find your center, relax! We are early childhood educators and teaching children is our passion. Together, we can create a wonderful world for your whole family.