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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.

2014PPM-wk4Download and share our infographic for more tips

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.
  • 2015-GPS-logosmThe 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 STARSPA Pre-K CountsHead StartNurse-Family Partnership, and Parent-Child Home Program.
  • Research the programs you are interested in
  • 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.

  • Jack Palmer says:

    It’s helpful to remember that, “…it is definitely worth the extra time to find the right program for your child.” My wife is expecting and we are extremely excited! However, we still need to figure out what to do after maternity leave. We would love to find a place, once our child is old enough, that we could trust that he/she would learn and be safe. Thanks for the advice!

  • This is some really good information about choosing a daycare. I like what you said about making a list of qualities you want the program to have. It might also be smart to see if they have the hours you need available.

  • Thanks for the advice on choosing child care services! I wasn’t aware that there were waiting lists, so I’ll be sure to get on the list early! I’ll use this guide as I make my choice. How long would you recommend leaving my child in day care per day?

    • Mary P. Hall says:

      Eliza, how long a child is in child care depends on different factors, like how long you will be working, the time it takes to reach a child care provider, etc. You could talk with your child care provider and pediatrician to determine what is best for you and your child.

  • Jason Strong says:

    My brother in law and sister are looking for a good day care for my niece. They want a day care that won’t only watch after her, but teach her as well. I’ll have to show them this and see if it can help them out at all.

  • Finding the right daycare is very important. Both you and your child have to feel good about the decision. Any parent is welcome to visit Children of America to see if it’s the right place for their child. To find a location near you visit – http://www.childrenofamerica.com/locations.cfm

  • Mia Boyd says:

    Thanks for the information. I’ve been thinking about taking my children to daycare, seeing as I’m working too much to drop them off at my mother’s home all of the time. I’m going to make sure I follow your tips about looking for the signs of a good daycare. I’ll especially be aware of the low teacher/child ratio. I’m sure that does a lot to ensure that the place is well staffed. Do you have any other tips?

  • sean says:

    I like your point to start early. I know that I would probably not consider childcare, until my child was at that age. However, I know, especially in cities, and especially in sought after centers, there can be a long waiting list and a demanding admissions process. I am glad I have done some reading on the subject, so I know to start doing my research and preparing.

  • Ted Smith says:

    Thank you for the tips on how to choose a quality day care for my son. I really like the tip to think about what atmosphere I want my son to be in. This is really important because you want an environment that your child will thrive in. That way they will be able to learn and grow as they should.

  • Simon Adair says:

    With my wife and I expecting our first, this is definitely something that we have been considering quite heavily. Because I am still going to school, this means that I am going to be Mr. Mom for a couple of years. Having a good child care facility is going to be really important while I am going to school.

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