How to Assess the Quality of a

Child Care Provider

Selecting the right child care provider for your child is an important decision. Research shows that high-quality early care is critical to children’s learning and development, social skills and more. Fortunately, there are many high-quality child care options in Indiana—if you know where to look.

 

Early Learning Marketplace is a free tool that is modernizing how families find child care. Through the easy-to-use interface, families can search for programs near them, filter based on their needs and claim available seats in real time. No more wasting time searching the internet and making phone calls only to reach a dead end. Families will also be able to leave invaluable reviews to assist other families in their journey.

Understanding the Criteria for Quality Child Care

Licensing and Accreditation

Licensing and accreditation play crucial roles in ensuring the quality and safety of child care providers. While both are important considerations, they serve different purposes.

The majority of child care programs  must be licensed by the state of Indiana to operate legally. Licensing ensures that providers meet minimum health, safety and sanitation standards. This includes fire safety, staff-to-child ratios and basic educational requirements for staff. Licensing agencies conduct regular inspections to ensure compliance with these standards.

Accreditation is not mandatory, but it signifies a higher level of quality than licensing alone. Accredited child care providers typically go above and beyond the minimum requirements in areas like staff qualifications, curriculum and program quality. Accreditation agencies conduct independent evaluations of child care programs to ensure they meet rigorous standards.

You can view licensing and regulatory information about specific programs through the state of Indiana’s Child Care Finder website.

 

Safety and Cleanliness

A safe and clean child care environment is crucial for the well-being of young children.

 

First, it reduces the spread of illness. Young children are particularly susceptible to infectious diseases due to their developing immune systems. A clean environment helps to prevent the spread of germs and keeps children healthy. This means regular cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, toys and equipment, as well as proper hand hygiene practices for both children and staff.

 

Second, it promotes physical safety. Safe environments minimize the risk of accidents and injuries. This includes having age-appropriate toys and equipment, maintaining clear pathways and supervising children closely. Additionally, it’s essential to have proper safety measures in place, such as fire extinguishers and first-aid kits.

 

Third, it supports cognitive development. A stimulating environment with a variety of materials and activities encourages exploration and learning. A clean and organized space also helps children to focus and concentrate, which is essential for their cognitive development.

 

Finally, it fosters positive social-emotional development and reduces stress. Children feel secure and comfortable in a safe and clean environment. This allows them to build healthy relationships with their peers and caregivers and develop a sense of trust and belonging.

 

Here are some tips to assess safety measures and hygiene standards when looking for a child care provider.

 

Before your visit:

 

  • Check the provider’s website and social media pages for information about their safety and hygiene practices. Look for photos of the facilities and read reviews from other parents.
  • Contact the provider and ask specific questions about their safety and hygiene procedures, including:
    • staff-to-child ratios
    • handwashing practices
    • cleaning and disinfecting procedures
    • accident and illness policies
    • emergency preparedness
    • license and accreditation

During your visit:

 

  • Pay close attention to the cleanliness and organization of the facilities. Are the floors, surfaces and toys clean and free of dirt and debris? Are toys and materials stored safely and out of reach of children?
  • Watch how staff interact with the children. Are they attentive and engaged? Do they maintain proper supervision?
  • Observe handwashing and hygiene practices. Are there designated handwashing stations with soap, water and paper towels easily accessible to both staff and children? Do staff and children wash their hands frequently, especially after diapering, using the restroom and before eating?
  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions and clarify any concerns you may have about safety or hygiene. Review the provider’s handbook or policies and procedures, focusing on sections related to safety, health and hygiene.

Staff Qualifications and Training

Qualifications and training of child care staff are another important factor when deciding on a child care provider.

 

Qualified and trained staff are better equipped to provide high-quality care that meets the individual needs of each child. They understand child development and are able to create stimulating and engaging activities that promote children’s learning and well-being.

 

Trained staff are more knowledgeable about safety procedures and can effectively supervise children to prevent accidents and injuries. Additionally, they are skilled at building positive relationships with children and fostering their social and emotional development. They can create a warm and nurturing environment where children feel safe and secure and can learn valuable social skills.

 

What should you look for in child care staff members?

 

First, ask about their education and training. Ideally they have an early childhood education (ECE) degree or certificate, along with training in child development, curriculum and pedagogy. They should also have first aid and CPR certification.

 

Staff should have experience working with children, preferably in a child care setting. They should also possess the following qualities:

 

  • Warmth and patience – be genuinely interested in children and enjoy spending time with them.
  • Patience and understanding – be able to handle challenging behaviors calmly and effectively.
  • Creativity and imagination – create stimulating and engaging activities for children.
  • Strong communication skills – communicate effectively with both children and parents.
  • Organizational skills – be able to manage their time effectively and keep the environment clean and organized.
  • Problem-solving skills – be able to solve problems calmly and effectively.
  • Cultural sensitivity – be respectful of diverse backgrounds and family structures.
  • Positive attitude – have an optimistic outlook and be able to create a happy and supportive environment for children.

Curriculum and Learning Programs

Overall, the role of a child care curriculum is to:

 

  • Provide a framework for promoting children’s holistic development in all areas.
  • Guide educators in planning and implementing effective learning activities.
  • Support communication and collaboration between parents and educators.
  • Create a positive and stimulating environment that fosters children’s curiosity and love of learning.

Here are some suggestions for assessing a child care provider’s educational programs and learning opportunities.

 

  • Look at a provider’s website, social media pages and online reviews. This can give you a general idea of their program philosophy, curriculum and activities.
  • Call or email the provider to inquire about their educational programs and learning opportunities. Ask specific questions about their curriculum and teaching methods.
  • Visit the facility in person to observe the environment, interact with the staff and get a firsthand feel for the program.
  • Ask the provider for samples of their curriculum materials or lesson plans. This can give you a more detailed understanding of the learning objectives and activities offered in the program.
  • Get recommendations from friends, family or other parents who use the facility. Ask them about their experiences and what they like and dislike about the program.

Child-to-Staff Ratios

Another indicator of high-quality child care is a low child-to-staff ratio. This means that for every adult staff member, there is an appropriate number of children.

 

Research consistently shows that lower ratios are associated with better outcomes for children, including more individualized attention, enhanced learning opportunities, improved social and emotional development and reduced stress and anxiety.

 

Additionally, lower ratios have benefits for educators, including improved working conditions, reduced stress and burnout and enhanced professional development.

 

The recommended child-to-staff ratios for child care in Indiana are as follows:

 

Age of the Youngest Child in Group

Maximum Number of Children Supervised by One Caregiver

Maximum Number of Children in One Group

Infant (birth – 15 months)

4

8

Toddler (12 – 36 months)

5

10

2 years

5

10

30 – 36 months

7

14

3 years

10

20

4 years

12

24

5 years

15

30

Using Your Child Care Tool for Assessment

Navigating the Tool for Research

Early Learning Marketplace is a free tool that allows families to easily search for local child care providers. Parents can enter their desired zip code or search on an interactive map. Additional filters include searching by age range, availability, number of days/week, drop-off and pick-up time and program type.

 

Provider Profiles and Information

Early Learning Marketplace makes it easy for child care providers to share information about their programs. Providers can maintain their program profiles on the site and highlight unique offerings, communicate directly with families, schedule tours, begin the enrollment process and more.

 

By clicking on each provider profile, families can access important information, including licensing and accreditation details.

 

User Reviews and Testimonials

User-generated reviews and testimonials are a valuable source of information for families researching child care options. They provide insight into the day-to-day experiences of children and families at a child care provider, including the quality of care, facilities, staff interactions and overall atmosphere. Reviews and testimonials come from parents with different backgrounds, experiences and priorities and can highlight strengths and weaknesses of a child care provider.

 

Parents can use Early Learning Marketplace to read and assess feedback from other families. 

 

Booking and Reserving Child Care Services

Finding an available seat at a child care program can be a frustrating experience. Now, parents can use Early Learning Marketplace to reserve child care services. No more wasting time searching the internet and making phone calls only to reach a dead end.

 

After creating a profile on Early Learning Marketplace, parents can search for programs near them, filter based on their needs, and claim available seats in real time.