5 Steps to Choosing
Child Care

To ensure your child care supports your child, your family, and your ability to get to work, it’s important to choose a high-quality child care program.

High-quality care between birth and age 5 can help make sure that your child is ready to start school. In these early years, children learn and develop the skills and attitudes they will need to succeed in school.

Child Care

High-quality child care creates a stimulating, safe and loving environment for your child. A quality caregiver should be loving and responsive to your child's needs. When caregivers are sensitive and responsive to a young child’s signals and needs, they provide an environment rich in serve and return experiences.  Responds to your baby’s smiles and emerging skills and interests. Finding child care can be a difficult task, but these tips can help:

Start early

Start looking as far in advance as you can. No matter what type of care you are considering—a child care center or care in someone else’s home—finding the right child care option can take some time.

Get Informed and Make a Call

Begin your search by learning about different types of child care providers, reviewing basic health and safety requirements, and learning about your state’s specific regulations. Use your state’s child care search which can help you to look for providers near your home or on your way to work. See their inspection and complaint histories and learn more about their quality ratings if they are rated. Just click this link, See Your State's Resources, select your state under “Get Child Care Resources.” You will then see a “Find Child Care Now” button and variety of links to state specific information.

In addition, consider calling local experts—your child care resource and referral (CCR&R) agency. CCR&R agencies can give you the facts about child care in your area and a list of child care options that may meet your needs. Make sure to ask your CCR&R agency the following questions:

  • What are the licensing requirements in my area?

  • How can I get information about complaints and licensing violations?

  • Does my family qualify for any child care financial assistance programs?

  • Is there a quality rating and improvement system for providers in my area?

Visit and ask Questions

Visit the child care programs you are considering, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Selecting a Child Care Program has questions that will help you figure out whether the program is high quality and whether the provider is a good fit. It also has checklists you can print out and bring with you when you visit.

Caregiver-Child Interaction Questions:

  • Are children comforted when needed?

  • Do caregivers and children enjoy being together?

  • Are children warmly greeted when they arrive?

  • Do caregivers talk to children and seem genuinely interested in what the children are doing?

  • Do caregivers get down on children’s level and speak with them?

  • How do caregivers help children solve their own problems?

  • How do caregivers react to children’s behavior?

  • How do caregivers encourage peer interactions?

Program Structure Questions:

  • Is there a daily balance of play time, story time, activity time, and nap time?

  • Do children play for a significant part of their day?

  • Do children get to choose who they want to play with?

  • Do caregivers play with children to help facilitate their learning?

Make a Choice

Think about what you saw at each visit, and make the best choice for your child and family based on your needs and values.

Stay Involved

The work isn’t over when you find good care for your child. Building a strong relationship with your provider will help your child’s learning and development. Look for ways to exchange information about your child and have conversations about care-giving and your child’s learning.

Here are some ways to be involved:

  • Have meetings with your provider regularly, and ask questions.

  • Share information about your child with your provider, including updates on what happens at home.

  • Visit regularly, including surprise visits from time to time.

  • Share suggestions and concerns with your child’s provider or the director or owner of the program.

  • Volunteer when needed. This can include helping out in the program or signing up for a leadership role.

  • Visit your child at child care and read a book aloud.

  • Join in special events, like field trips, career day, Black History Month, and other holidays.

  • Work together with your provider on your child’s learning plan. Look for ways to support learning at home and at child care.

  • Share in the development of activities and events based on your child’s strengths, interests, and abilities.

  • Work with your provider to create activities that reflect your family’s culture and traditions.

  • You may not be able to get time off from work during the day, but drop-off and pick-up times are also good times to talk with your child’s provider. If your child’s provider is not available during these times, ask about other ways you can ask about how things are going and how your child is doing. For example, you can plan a scheduled time for calls or check in with notes, pictures, texts, or emails. Find a time and a way to communicate that works for both you and your child’s provider.

  • Visiting and participating in events at your child’s program sends a strong message. It tells your child and your child’s caregiver that you think what your child is doing and learning is important.