Choosing a quality early care and education program is one of the most important decisions you will make as a parent or guardian. High-quality programs foster social emotional development, school readiness and achievement, which contribute to overall success in life.
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1. Know your options — There are three basic types of child care and each has qualities that will appeal to different needs. Family child care homes offer a home-like environment for a smaller group of children often from multiple age groups. Centers offer a more school-like environment with children separated into age groups that are staffed by one or more adults. License exempt providers care for one family’s children at a time in their home or in the child’s home.
2. Make a phone call — Use the phone to narrow your search. Ask questions to determine if this is a place you might want to visit. Ask about openings, hours, cost, number of children in the program, provider’s education and experience, play and learning activities, and guidance and discipline.
3. Schedule a visit — Plan to spend an hour or longer so you can see the child care environment, observe and ask questions about the daily routine, and observe the interactions between adults and children. A checklist is available at Choices for Children to help guide your observations. It is recommended that you visit several programs so you can make comparisons.
4. Call references — Ask the provider for several references. Call them and ask questions about what they liked most or least and if they would choose the program again.
5. Contact Community Care Licensing at 916-263-5744 — Community Care Licensing is the state agency that licenses child care programs and investigates complaints. Licensing information is public record so you can call and request information about a program’s licensing history. Listen carefully to the history as not all violations or complaints are equal. Look for a pattern or history of repeated violations. If you are using a license exempt provider you can request that the provider complete a background check through TrustLine at 1-800-822-8490.
When you follow these five steps, you will be more likely to find a quality program that you can trust to take loving care of your child in a healthy and safe environment, and who will offer educational experiences that promote social emotional development and school readiness. For more information on selecting quality care contact Choices for Children at 530-676-0707 or visit the Website at choices4children-eldorado.org.