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How To Choose A Safe Child Care Program

Mar 9, 2008
Jay was a whiz at research. He had a Ph.D. in chemistry, and he prided himself in the thoroughness of his technical reports. He had no tolerance for sloppy documentation.

All of which heightened his shock when he turned on the evening news and saw that his daughter's day care center had been closed down for a long list of safety violations.

How could that be? Why hadn't he seen those problems himself? He was the master of research. Or at least he would be the master of research the next time he checked out a day care center for little Sarah.

Current studies show that more than half of America's children under the age of six attend an out-of-home child care program. To find a good program for your child:

Basic Research

* Begin by visiting the best center in your community, even if your child can't get in. It will give you a model of good-quality child care.

* The staff should be certified, and the center should be licensed.

* Child/staff ratios are an important factor in quality day care. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following child/staff ratios: birth to 12 months (3:1); 13 to 30 months (4:1); 31-35 months (5:1); 3-year-olds (7:1); 4 and 5-year-olds (8:1).

* Each separate group of children should be no larger than twice the number of children per caregiver. For example, for kids 13 to 30 months, the group size should not exceed eight children.

* Look for a child-care facility where you see a great deal of positive interaction between caregivers and children, and among children.

* Don't rely on first impressions. Visit at stressful times, such as when kids are dropped off or picked up.

* Read the caregiver's parent handbook carefully.

* Review the procedures used to check the backgrounds of employees. A well-run center will make careful checks of references, background and previous employment.

* Talk with other parents who use the facility.

* Trust your intuition and observations.

Ask The Right Questions

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Some important ones are:

* What type of training and education do the caregivers have?

* How many staff members have left in the last three years? High turnover is disruptive to children.

* How long has the caregiver or center been operating?

* Is the facility accredited? Accredited homes and centers voluntarily follow much stricter standards.

* How often does the state inspect? Ask for documentation.

* Do the caregivers know how to maintain control?

* Are the staff members trained in first aid and CPR? Do they receive periodic retraining?

* Is there a basic exit plan? Have it explained to you. Are evacuation drills conducted regularly?

* Do they sanitize and disinfect changing tables after a child is changed?

* Do caregivers and children frequently wash their hands?

* Is bedding assigned for use by only one child and washed weekly?

* How do they clean the toys that go in a baby's mouth?

* Do they use a no-choke device to test baby toys?

* Are appropriate first aid supplies easily available, inside and outside?

* Is there a plan to get a badly injured child to an emergency room that is equipped to handle children?

Look For The Right Things

* Are toys, games, play equipment, furniture, books, etc., in good shape, with no sharp edges? This indicates the facility has the children's best interest in mind.

* Do stairs have safety gates?

* Are fire exits clearly marked and accessible?

* Are smoke detectors and fire extinguishers located in appropriate areas? Are they regularly tested?

* Are hot water heaters and heat sources guarded to prevent burns?

* Is the kitchen clean? How about the eating area?

* Are windows screened and protected to prevent falls?

* Are sliding glass doors marked at both child and adult eye levels?

* Are matches, cleaning supplies, and poisonous or hazardous materials stored in child-resistant, locked containers, out of reach of children?

* Is there enough room for movement and play without danger or injury to the children?

* Are the electrical outlets not in use covered?

* Are outdoor toys such as swing sets in good working order?

* Are indoor and outdoor surfaces appropriately carpeted or cushioned? Rubber mats, sand or wood chips absorb the impact of children's frequent falls.

* Is there a fenced-in outdoor play area with a variety of safe equipment?

* Is the area free of hazards such as culverts, drainage ditches, and open sewers? Is it clean, with no broken glass or trash?

* Is the play area visible and accessible to supervising adults?
About the Author
John Myre is the author of the award-winning book, Live Safely in a Dangerous World, and the publisher of the Safety Times Reproducible Articles..
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