11 Tough Questions to Ask Your Prospective Childcare Provider: From a Family Childcare Educator
When looking for childcare, you may call Studio One and ask the basic questions such as: Do you have space for my child or children at their ages? How much is the weekly tuition rate? What are your hours? If you manage to get to a third question and still have more, you are winning and we can go ahead and set up the tour. Make sure to mark your calendar and gather your questions!
During the tour, questions most popularly asked are: How long have you been doing childcare? How many children will be in my child’s classroom or in your care at once? How long is nap time? These are excellent questions to ask and should definitely be asked, but do not always give the amount of detail or information you need to make a sound decision on where or to who you send your child for quality learning and care.
Among providers, I hear how things went off-kilter after enrollment because of a lack of clarity, and ultimately the most common reason for this is that no one discussed their practices or their expectations long enough before enrolling the child. For this reason, I provide a Parent Handbook and discuss it during the initial meeting and every meeting thereafter. As a Family Childcare Educator, I have a list of my own interview questions for parents that I ask to gain better insight into the type of care the family is expecting me to provide, and to get to know the family better as a whole. These questions are very open-ended and there is no right or wrong answer. I am really just learning the expectations to see if I can provide the type of care they desire. Asking these eleven insightful questions to your prospective childcare provider will bring both clarity and important information about the provider and/or center that you are looking into, allowing you to make an informed selection.
Do you allow for children to have pacifiers, security blankets, or other forms of comfort objects? If so, at what age or event do you stop allowing for them to bring the comfort object to the facility?
Do you assist in potty training? If so, are only pull-ups allowed during the process? When should we know that underwear can be worn?
What is your discipline policy regarding hitting, biting, spitting, etc? Can you give me an example of this policy in action?
What is your policy on immunization? If you allow for unimmunized children, will you inform parents of the presence of unimmunized children?
How often are you personally away from the childcare program?
How long has your current assistant been working at the program? What is the childcare assistant turnover rate?
What type of meals do you provide? Can you provide a menu for me? Do you still offer meals for children with dietary restrictions?
What is your sick policy?
What are your closed, holiday, or vacations days, and is payment still required for these days?
What is one of your strengths as a childcare provider? What is one of your challenges?
What behavior do you deem “not a right fit” for your program?
I consider all eleven of these questions to be especially tough, but I find Question #11 to be especially important because “not a right fit” or “unfit” is popular terminology used in the formal termination of care. Understanding what a provider deems “unfit”, and also understanding how the behaviors of your child measure up, will save you and your child from the emotional fallout in accidentally selecting a childcare facility that your child might not fit in or that might not be right for them. This will also offer a frame of reference when determining if a termination was rightful or not on the terms of your childcare facility, and perhaps your own.
You may be met with some responses that you don’t entirely agree with, and within reason, that is okay. The important thing is that you are informed of the culture and values of your potential provider or facility, and do have the proper information to make a good selection. Mostly consider the authenticity and the special gifts of the provider that they are providing to your child’s early education and care during this process.
There are many other resources that can help you come up with a list of important questions to ask on your tour of the childcare program. A Parent’s Guide to Childcare Licensing gives an overview of what childcare providers must accomplish to become licensed, and an overview of the licensing process. This is a very detailed guide and it really helps parents to understand the licensing rules and what childcare providers must accomplish to become licensed. A licensed childcare facility, whether it is a group home or a center, must display its license in a conspicuous place. Ask to see the license if it is not immediately visible to you. If you do not see a license before the tour is over, please run away from that facility as fast as you can, because you’ve just made contact with what we call a “childcare imposter”.
Another great resource is the Statewide Search for Child Care Centers and Homes. This is a search engine that allows for you to search for any licensed provider and look up any information regarding their license, which includes information on whether or not they have had special investigations in the past. And if you still haven't found the right licensed childcare provider you can try Find a Licensed Provider on the Great Start to Quality website.
Asking the tough, insightful questions are in the territory of parenting, and should definitely be asked of your future childcare provider.
I hope sharing theses questions helps you, and I wish you luck and success in your journey towards finding quality childcare for your child!