Choosing a daycare/ child care/early learning program and services
Let’s face it… trying to find child care is not a leisurely experience. You usually need to find a program or services now that you can afford and is close to home or work. But it is definitely worth the extra time to find right program for your child. It will save you time in the long run and have a huge impact on your child. You want to be comfortable knowing that the people caring for your child with treat him/her as you do. Also, your child will learn a lot from those that care for him/her when you aren’t around, so you want to be comfortable with how they will help your child learn.
When you choose a quality child care/early learning or afterschool program and services:
- Your child is safe and secure while you are at school or work.
- Your child’s teachers support and challenge your child to explore and learn new things.
- Your child learns important academic skills like language and numbers, as well as how to play well with others and follow directions.
- You and your child feel supported.
- Your child is more likely to be ready for kindergarten, do well in school, graduate high school and go to college.
So where do you start?
- First of all, start early. Many good programs have waiting lists, so you may want to start looking before he/she is even born! The best time to sign up for pre-kindergarten or kindergarten is in the spring (March – May) before the school year you want them to start.
- The Early Learning GPS includes questions and resources to help you think about what you want in a child care/ early learning program. Create a free family account and map for your child and check out the “When your child is not with you” section in the GPS quiz. You can also compare child care programs in the “Program Checklist” tab in your child’s map.
- Think about what kind of atmosphere you want – would you like someone coming to your home – called home visiting programs – to work with you and your child or enroll your child in a program? Regulated child care programs can be in someone’s home – called family child care programs – in centers, schools, or other buildings.
- Have you heard about Keystone STARS? You may want to start your search with Keystone STARS programs in your area. Child care programs with a Keystone STARS rating of one to four Stars, (four Stars having the highest quality) have to meet state regulations for health and safety and have no serious violations. Keystone STARS measures the things that you care about for your child (qualified teachers, curriculum and activities that support your child’s active learning, and ways to support families.)
- Understand how child care/early learning programs and services are regulated in Pennsylvania.
- Find out what makes up a quality child care/early learning program.
- Make a list of what is most important to you in a child care/early learning program and services.
- If you want to talk with someone to help decide what services are best for you and what programs and services may be the best fit, contact your county Child Care Information Services (CCIS) office. You can talk to a parent counselor over the phone or meet in person. They can help you understand all of the options and programs and services available in your area.
- Find out if you are eligible to receive financial assistance for child care from Child Care Works.
- Find out what child care/early learning programs are offered in your community such as Keystone STARS, PA Pre-K Counts, Head Start, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Parent-Child Home Program.
- Research the programs you are interested in
- Find out about any violations or complaints by visiting the COMPASS website or calling your Regional Office of Child Development and Early Learning.
- Find out if they participate in Keystone STARS
- Ask friends what they know about the programs
- Plan to visit at least two programs and take your child with you when you go. You can get a feel for the atmosphere and if your child is comfortable there.
- Once you’ve picked a program, continue to visit at different times and make time to speak with your child’s teacher.
Download A Parent’s Guide to Choosing Quality Child Care for more ideas.