Choosing a Childcare Provider

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I am a middle teacher by education, but due to my current employment I have become quite the source of information in early childhood parenting. I get daily contacts on breastfeeding, daycares, pediatricians, potty training and a host of other things. Today’s post is written for someone I went to high school with and she had asked for questions you could ask when interviewing a childcare provider. Now this isn’t something I take lightly and some people might be offended by some of the questions, but you’d be surprised by the people I have met on this path that lead me to where I am.

The responses are based on an in-home center, but could be used for other daycare centers for the most part. In the state of Virginia there are daycare centers, preschools and childcare centers all hosted by some sort of organization. Then there are private in home centers. Legally, in the state of Virginia you can have a licensed in home center, a voluntarily registered center, or a one with a regular business license. In a licensed center this means that you can more than five children in the center and hire assistants, offer meal programs and have your house subjected to state inspections. A voluntarily registered center means that you can have the meal programs – things like the state assists with childcare expenses and you get paid via the government if you want. Then there is the kind I have where you register and pay for a business license with your city/county… you can not have more than five children, you can not employ anyone outside of the home and you have to, in my city, register every single item in your home that is daycare used. This makes my eyes cross- every bowl, spoon, bib and toy. This is hard to be accurate about since my kids live here too!

Here was the answer for my friend considering an in-home daycare facility.

Questions you need to ask.

1.What’s the daily routine? – What you want them to answer is up to you, but it is better to be aware. Some people want structure for their kids, some want them reading by four, and some just want kids to be kids and playing.

2. Do you have any pets? -You may have an allergy to cats, a fear of snakes, or not really care, but you just want to know what’s going on in the house. It’s amazing what someone will not think is important until after the fact. We have very large yellow labrador retrievers and I don’t even let someone come for an interview without telling them that first.

3. Do you feel comfortable and have experience with breastmilk? Do you know how to warm it and have space for frozen milk?– I met one woman that I was interviewing once that thought it was gross so she wouldn’t even humor it… again you would be surprised.

4. Where do the children sleep? -Don’t forget that this is their home! If they are licensed all the babies have to be in legitimate cribs and all sleep in the same room. My house they sleep all over the place in pack-n-plays or on sleeping mats. I used every single inch of my home for the daycare. One person wouldn’t let us see where they kids slept because it was her home and she wanted things private for herself.

5. Who all lives in the home?– Yes ask that question…

6. What are your hours of operation?

7. Do you take many days off… if so do you have an assistant that covers? – We met one woman who took an entire month off from work in her contract paid by the parents throughout the year. That wasn’t something my husband and I were not comfortable with at all.

8. Do you take the children out of the home? – Here we go on walks a lot- parks, strolls and out to eat. I have 4 strollers.. yes 4. It’s ridiculous. One woman was caring for five daycare kids and five of her own children and had a fifteen passenger van and went out twice a day. One woman and yes that’s legal, but that doesn’t mean you have to be comfortable with it.

9. Do you expect paid vacation and holiday time? -I take all major holidays off. We met one person that had their birthday and their kids off… and it wasn’t deducted from her pay. Some things you may find reasonable… some you may not.

10. What are your rates by age group?

11. How many children do you keep? (If they have their own children they don’t legally count in the numbers, but all the other kids can’t be more than five for places like mine… yes people break this rule)

12. What ages and sex are the children you currently keep?

13. Do you have formal training in this field? Legally, this is not required. What you want to hear is up to you.

14. Are you part of a daycare providers social network or group?

15. Do you have children of your own?

16. How long have you been doing this?

17. What is your normal protocol for ill children?

18. Do you have CPR and first aid training including infants and children?

19. Do you take pay weekly monthly cash check etc?- Some people want to get paid under the table and that may be fine with you until you go to do your taxes and can’t claim the childcare expense…

20. Do you claim taxes and are willing to provide my daycare expenses with your ssn or tax id at the end of the year? Some people want a receipt for the year some want one every week. Right after the first of the year all of my clients get a printed out sheet of all of their payments for their tax records.

21. Do you have emergency contact forms to be filled out?

22. Do you allow the children to watch tv?

23. Do you know the list of prevention for SIDS?

24. Who provides food and what are regular meals like? What time?– I have times I feed children, but some people are such sticklers they literally will not feed your child if they are late in the morning.

25. What kinds of items should I bring with me to get started? Sleep items?

26. How do you deal with misbehaviors? 

27. Have you ever had anyone seriously injured while in your care? – It happens. Accidents happen- one of my girls ran into a wall/gate and sliced her head open. She had to have staples. She didn’t slip or trip on anything other than thin air, but it was handled well and all was fine.

28. Do you own a gun? If so, is it locked away properly? – Awkward question, but good to know. Once we went to visit a friend that lives in the country. They knew we were coming, but my son walked into a room to get to the restroom and that husband shot up out of his chair and ran. He had a loaded gun just laying there. Yep. It’s worth asking.

29. Do you have a home phone and cell phone?

30. Do you have an emergency action plan? – We’ve had several tornado warnings in the last few years and yes here in Virginia I still have a flipping plan with water, diapers, wipes, a flashlight, etc just incase.

31. Do you or anyone else smoke inside the home? – I had one lady tell me over the phone that she only left the kids alone during her smoke breaks… classy.

After having a really scary babysitter situation for our children, this may seem paranoid. Most clients are friends or friends of friends. I have met several people that found me on craigslist and I have found wonderful clients on craigslist, Maybe I’m crazy but I have taken the persons e-mail and searched their social network pages and associations. I’ve looked up their GIS information, sexual offenders registries and local criminal and civil court records. After my mix up with the babysitter, who took my kids out without carseats, I looked her up and realized she had a bunch of speeding tickets and a sketchy financial history and it was all available on the local public record website. You can think me paranoid or just thorough.

I hope you find this list useful! Copy, paste and take it with you folks. 

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