- Your child safe and secure while you are at school or work.
- Your child’s teachers to support and challenge your child to explore and learn new things.
- Your child to learn skills needed for kindergarten.
- You and your child to feel supported.
Where to start your search.
Some things are a matter of preference, like choosing between a family child care program and a center. But others affect your child’s safety and what your child will learn while there.
- Start your search with Keystone STARS! Keystone STARS rates child care programs from one to four STARS on things you care about, like meeting state regulations for safety, and offering a kid-friendly atmosphere with good teachers that partner with you to help your child learn. This helps you find the program that is right for your family. Get more information on Keystone STARS.
- Search for a program that meets your needs. Location, cost, and transportation are some items you may want to consider when looking for a child care provider. You may also want to check the Inspection Report, or history, of a child care provider. The Department of Human Services performs announced and unannounced inspections for every provider for them to remain certified. You can see Inspection Reports online. You can also see information like hours of operation, ages of children served, cost, and other important details. Visit www.findchildcare.pa.gov to search for a child care provider.
- Make visits and compare programs.
Visit a child care provider or early learning program before you decide and take your child with you. You can get a feel for the atmosphere and if your child is comfortable there. Child Care Aware has a checklist you can print and use when you visit the child care provider or early learning program. See the checklist.
What to Look For When You Visit
Your child is safe and secure. When you trust your child to someone else, you want to be sure that both you and your child feel safe. Child care programs must meet state health and safety regulations. Head Start programs are regulated by the federal government; preschool or pre-kindergarten programs can be regulated by either the Department of Human Services, registered with the Department of Education, or regulated by the organization that runs them.
• Department of Human Services child care certificate posted.
• Check inspection and violation history of child care programs before you visit at www.findchildcare.pa.gov.
- How the program is regulated and if it has any complaints or violations.
There are good teachers and specialists that support you and your child. Because young children develop so many new skills so quickly in the first five years, teaching young children is special. It’s about nurturing, learning what a child can do, and helping the child build new skills on their own path. It’s important that your child’s teacher has some education in child development or early childhood education, like a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential or college degree. If you are looking for an afterschool program, teachers may have a Pennsylvania School-Age Professional credential.
• You and your child get along well with the teacher.
• Teachers encourage children to safely explore new things. Children are comfortable, happy, and involved in the classroom. If there is a conflict or a child needs to be disciplined, the teacher handles this in a positive way.
• Staff education and experience with young children.
• How long the teachers have been at the program. (Longer is better.)
The atmosphere is kid-friendly with learning areas and activities that are right for your child’s age and development. Young children learn by exploring and using many skills at once. Classrooms need to fit children with activities that work best for them.
• Everything at kid level, with learning stations, books and activities that are not too easy or too hard for the children in the class. This is called developmentally appropriate.
• The class sizes are small enough that teachers have time to work one-on-one with your child throughout the day.
• How the teacher uses the Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards in curriculum and learning activities.
Find programs that meet your needs.
If you want to talk with someone to help decide what services are best for you, contact your county’s Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC). You can talk to someone over the phone or meet in person. They can help you understand all the options available in your area. You can find your ELRC contact information at www.raiseyourstar.org.
You can also search for programs by the age of your child, location, additional services and more at www.findchildcare.pa.gov.