In today’s two-income family households, finding childcare is more of a necessity than a “what if” situation. During the time when childcare was not the norm allowed parents more time to scope out circumstances. However, for today’s working parents – married or single, the time to find a great childcare home or center is an immediate need. For this reason alone, parents need to know how to quickly identify if the environment that the child will be placed meets – or hopefully – exceed their expectations. Below is a guideline for finding this type of quality care:

1. Don’t jump at the first place you look. As exhausting of a process, it can be to look for fitting childcare, quick decisions may leave you looking quickly for a better solution. If you feel forced to quickly decide, this should set off a “red flag” that perhaps that place is not right for you and definitely not for a child. Advice from friends and relatives about places might not help either – only you really know what childcare is right for your child. A state-licensed provider or facility should always top your list.

2. Reputable providers are often on the non-profit organization’s list since these providers know how to prioritize your child’s best welfare. Other sources for daycare centers are in the phone book and online. Take the time to talk to each provider and also visit in person to get the best feeling about the surroundings. Don’t hesitate to ask as many crucial questions as you can.

A crucial quality indicator for daycare is the ratio of adult staff to children. You want to ensure that your child receives proper attention for health and development. For infants, the recommended ratio is 1 adult for 4 babies. The ratio for youngsters under the age of 5 is one adult for 10 children. However, it is also important that children socialize in smaller groups. Thirty children and three adults in one large room could be a chaotic environment for a 3-year-old child.

It is important to know the caregiver’s background in child care. Many technical schools offer certificates in child care and development. States also have licensing programs. Similar to training, ask if the daycare center has been accredited by any state or national organization. This means that the center meets the quality criteria of that organization and voluntarily opens its doors to inspection.

3. A large staff turnover rate is another big red flag. This is a sign that something about the daycare is not working for the employees. If a daycare center skirts around this information, this also is another bad sign. A child who is exposed to new teachers after a new teacher in a short amount of time will not feel as secure or have the ability to bond well with others as a child who has a happy staff member or provider.

Your experience with a childcare provider and childcare center should feel like a comfortable fit for you and your child. The safest way to find this fit is not to jump into the first place you look into. If you give yourself a few days to mull over your selection and carefully review any contracts, you will end up with a much better success story that will keep your child happily going to this new daycare for years and years down the road.