What What Questions to Ask

When You First Contact a Child Care Provider

Having lots of choices for child care can be overwhelming. But just like the other choices you make for your family, choosing child care is about what fits your parenting style and needs best. It’s important to ask the right questions when contacting a potential child care provider.

 

Early Learning Marketplace is here to help parents find and connect with providers. Through the easy-to-use interface, families can search for programs near them, filter based on their needs and send messages to providers.

Preparation and Research Before Contact

Identifying Potential Providers

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-uptime, program type and Paths to QUALITY rating.

 

It’s important to create a shortlist of potential providers. By focusing on a smaller group of well-researched providers, you increase the chances of finding a child care environment that aligns with your child’s personality and needs.

 

Instead of contacting every provider in your area, you can focus on a smaller group that meets your initial criteria. Additionally, having a shortlist allows you to compare different providers side-by-side based on specific criteria. This helps you see the strengths and weaknesses of each option and make an informed decision.

 

Provider Profiles and Information

On the Early Learning Marketplace, child care providers create profiles with detailed information about their teachers, hours, program values, teaching style, tuition rates, availability and more.

 

Families can search by location or filter by any number of criteria. Clicking on a provider’s profile will allow families to access all pertinent information, including their credentials and ratings.

 

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. 

 

Most child care providers must be licensed by the state 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.
 

Questions to Ask When Contacting a Provider

When contacting a potential child care provider, it’s important to ask questions that help you understand their philosophy, practices and environment to determine if it’s a good fit for your child and family.

Availability and Openings

One of the first questions you will want to ask the provider is about their current availability.

 

  • “Do you currently have any openings for children of [child’s age]?”
  • “When would the next available spot be for my child?”

If the provider doesn’t have any immediate openings, you can ask about their waitlist. This will give you an idea of how long it may take to get your child into their care.

 

  • “Do you have a waitlist for children of [child’s age]?”
  • “How long is the waitlist typically?”
  • “Can I be added to the waitlist?”

Some providers may be able to offer flexible scheduling, such as part-time care or extended hours. This can be helpful if you have a non-traditional work schedule.

 

  • “Are you able to accommodate a part-time schedule?”
  • “Do you offer early drop-off or late pick-up?”
  • “Are you open on weekends or evenings?”

Child-to-Staff Ratios and Group Sizes

One 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. Here are some sample questions to ask about the provider’s staffing and group structure:

 

  • How many staff members do you have?
  • What is the ratio of staff to children in each age group?
  • Do all staff members have CPR and first-aid certification?
  • What is the staff turnover rate?
  • What are the qualifications of your staff?
  • Do you have any staff members who are trained in specific areas, such as special education or early childhood development?
  • How do you handle staff absences?
  • How are children grouped by age?
  • What is the maximum number of children in each group?
  • How do you ensure that each child receives individual attention?

Curriculum and Learning Programs

Another area to discuss is the provider’s curriculum and educational programs. Here are some sample questions to learn more:

 

  • What is your overall curriculum philosophy? (e.g., play-based, Montessori, Reggio Emilia)
  • What are your learning objectives for each age group?
  • How do you assess children’s development and progress?
  • How do you differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all children?
  • How do you incorporate cultural diversity into your curriculum?
  • How do you address technology in your curriculum?
  • What types of educational programs do you offer? (e.g., language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, music, art)
  • What types of activities do you offer for each age group? (e.g., indoor and outdoor play, arts and crafts, sensory play, field trips)
  • How do you ensure that children have opportunities for physical activity each day?
  • How do you support children’s social and emotional development?
  • How do you prepare children for kindergarten?

Safety Measures and Emergency Procedures

You will want to discuss safety measures and emergency procedures with any potential childcare provider. Ensuring a secure and prepared child care environment is crucial for several reasons, as it:

 

  • Reduces the risks of accidents and injuries by minimizing potential hazards like choking hazards, falls or exposure to toxic materials.
  • Prevents unauthorized access by using secure entrances, exits and supervision protocols to protect children’s safety and well-being.
  • Prepares for emergencies like fires, natural disasters or medical incidents to ensure a swift and effective response.

Questions to ask a child care provider include:

 

  • What steps do you take to ensure the health and safety of the children? This includes questions about hygiene, food safety and emergency procedures.
  • How do you handle sick children?
  • What security measures do you have in place? This could include fences, security cameras and access control.

Daily Activities and Meals

Asking questions about the provider’s daily routines and meals can help you decide if the program is a good fit for your child and your family’s needs. It’s important to know what your child will be doing and eating! Here are some sample questions to ask:

 

  • What is a typical daily schedule for children in [child’s age group]?
  • How much time is spent on structured activities, free play and outdoor play each day?
  • How do you handle transitions between activities?
  • What is the nap schedule for different age groups?
  • How do you ensure each child gets individual attention?
  • What is your approach to discipline?
  • How do you handle potty training?
  • Do you provide all meals and snacks, or do parents need to send them?
  • Are there specific meal plans or dietary guidelines you follow?
  • What types of foods are typically served?
  • How are allergies and dietary restrictions accommodated?
  • Do children have opportunities to help prepare meals or snacks?
  • How do you encourage children to try new foods?
  • How do you handle picky eaters?
  • How do you ensure children are eating enough to meet their nutritional needs?

Communication and Updates

Open and consistent communication fosters trust and understanding between providers and parents. Effective communication supports child development, addresses concerns as they arise, promotes continuity of care and builds a supportive environment for everyone involved.

 

Here are questions to find out how and when providers share updates and information:

 

  • How do you typically communicate with parents?
  • What information do you share with parents on a regular basis?
  • How often do you share updates with parents?
  • What methods do you use to communicate with parents? (e.g., phone calls, emails, text messages, apps, parent portal)
  • Do you have a preferred method of communication?
  • What is your policy on responding to parent inquiries and concerns?
  • Do you offer any opportunities for parents to connect with you outside of drop-off and pick-up times? (e.g., parent-teacher conferences, open houses, social events)
  • How do you communicate daily updates about my child’s day? (e.g., meals eaten, naps taken, diapering changes, activities participated in, mood and behavior)
  • How do you communicate any concerns or issues about my child’s health, behavior or development?
  • Do you provide detailed progress reports on my child’s learning and development?
  • How do you share information about upcoming events, changes to the schedule or important announcements?
  • Do you use a parent portal or app to share updates and information? If so, what features does the portal or app offer? How do I access and use the portal or app?
  • What are your policies regarding confidentiality and privacy?

Using Early Learning Marketplace for Contact

Contacting Providers Through Early Learning Marketplace

Early Learning Marketplace is an easy and convenient way to contact child care providers. By clicking on a provider’s profile, you are able to message the provider directly.