I was four weeks into my second maternity leave when I was faced with a change in childcare that I was not prepared for. I quickly formulated my Top 10 Questions to Qualify a Childcare Provider in order to sustain the peace of mind I needed as a working mom.
A little back story, when my husband and I decided to start a family one of the first things we talked about was childcare. We both knew I would return to work, so it was essential to both of us that we find a quality childcare provider that we could trust and felt comfortable leaving our baby with. I knew I would need some solid peace of mind to successfully return to the office.
Thankfully, my sister’s sitter had an opening when I had my daughter. It was the perfect set up. She had my sisters stamp of approval, was convenient for our commute and was very affordable. For three years she was a daily constant in our Girl’s life. And then she wasn’t. It was time for her to retire. I quickly reached out to friends and family, even some online groups, hoping I would land a referral to similar childcare. But no such luck. I quickly realized that this time around, I was going to have to do all the leg work on my own. No referral. No stamp of approval. I had to get to work and quick, but it was overwhelming, and I thought ‘I don’t know how to find quality childcare.’ I had my sister’s seal of approval as a qualifier the last time I had to do this. This time around I would need to find a new childcare provider for both of my kiddos in a very short amount of time.
Once I pulled myself together and dried my tears (there were lots of post-partum tears) I put together a list of questions I needed to cover with any potential provider.
- What licensing and accreditation’s, did the provider hold?
- Licensed with the State was a must for us (this site is a great resource https://www.in.gov/fssa/childcarefinder/ )
- What credentials and certifications do teachers hold?
- We wanted teachers to have some educational background and the proper first aid training and background screening.
- What safety measures are in place to keep children in and unauthorized persons out?
- It was important to ensure our kiddos could not walk out or leave with unauthorized adults.
- What curriculum is taught and how are days structured?
- We wanted our kiddos to be in a structured, enriching, and educational environment.
- What are the meal plan and snack schedule?
- This seems a bit generic, but not all meal plans/snacks are created equal, and we wanted to know what type of food our kids would be consuming.
- What is the discipline philosophy?
- We needed to be comfortable with how our kiddos were going to be treated when they did not behave.
- What form of communication is used between parents and teachers?
- We were used to an ‘all access’ communication style with our previous provider, complete with pictures, diaper and potty details only parents can appreciate and a daily activity log, so we wanted something similar.
- How much is tuition and what is and isn’t included in?
- This was a big stress for us initially, but once we realized that the care we were looking for at the cost we were used to did not exist in our time frame, we quickly moved past this….and tightened our belts!
- Some tuition included diapers, wipes, formula, and food, while some only covered a few or none of those. Additionally, most providers required some sort of application and registration fee.
- What is the sick policy and medication policy?
- We needed to understand how illnesses would be treated and how medication would be kept secure and administered.
- What is the holiday/weather closing schedule?
- As two working parents, we needed to understand this up front to figure out if we would need alternative childcare options throughout the year.
Full transparency, I was surprised at the various answers I received from providers I interviewed and facilities I toured. Especially when they said, ‘I’ve never been asked that question’!!! All questions were asked in line with a complete facility tour, which included additional questions, of course, and a full review of the classrooms, toys, facilities, etc. Thankfully, there was a clear standout that worked within our timeline.
After about nine months, there was a change in management, which unfortunately left us feeling less comfortable leaving our kiddos there, so, back to the search we went. Thankfully I was equipped with my list of questions and didn’t feel nearly as overwhelmed this time. We were fortunate to get into a great daycare/school this second (third) time around, and we are so thankful we made the switch. At the end of the day, no matter how many questions you ask, never discount intuition and always go with your gut.