Finding the right childcare center can be a daunting task. While childcare centers attempt to accomplish similar things, it’s important to remember that NOT all childcare centers are alike nor are all programs licensed by the State of Georgia. Different centers have varying curricula, staff requirements and styles of management. It’s up to you to determine if the childcare centers on your list fit your expectations and the needs of your child.
To help with sorting everything out are a few questions you should ask when touring prospective centers. Make a list of questions you would like answered at each center or program that you visit. Write down the answers so you can refer to them after you’ve completed your tours. This will help guide you in selecting the center you feel will provide your child the best care and education.
- Is the center or program licensed by the state of Georgia? The licensing agency for Georgia is Bright From the Start (BFTS). You will want a program that is licensed by the state to care for your child because BFTS ensures that your child is in a safe, healthy, and nurturing environment as well as making sure the program offers quality learning experiences that support healthy growth and development in early learners. Be careful of exempt programs. These programs are not licensed with BFTS and do not follow all the rules and regulations of the state. To find more information on childcare centers in Georgia or exempt programs go to decal.ga.gov
- Is the center or State or Nationally accredited? Georgia’s accreditation process is Quality Rated. Quality Rated’s system is used to determine, improve, and communicate the quality of programs that provide child care. Similar to rating systems for restaurants and hotels, Quality Rated assigns one, two or three stars to early education and school-age care programs that meet or exceed the minimum state requirements. By participating in Georgia’s voluntary Quality Rated program, programs make a commitment to work continuously to improve the quality of care they provide to children and families. More information can be found at QualityRated.org. There are several national accreditations for childcare. The National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is the highest gold standard of accreditation for the early childcare industry. Programs who have this accreditation have proven the highest standards at the national level. (www.naeyc.org)
- What are the safety and security policies? What has the center or program done to make sure that your child is safe? What policies are in place? Are there fire drills and tornado drills conducted? What security measures are in place? Can anyone just walk into the front door? Have all staff members passed their Criminal Background Fingerprint Check?
- What credentials are required of staff members? Remember that it’s the staff members who will be instructing your children. Is the teacher’s focus on babysitting or more of creating learning opportunities? Do staff members have post-secondary education in early care and learning? Georgia requires 10 additional professional development hours from staff members. Are the program’s staff members meeting those requirements or exceeding them? Are 100% of the staff members trained in CPR, First Aid, and Fire Safety? Can they recognize signs of child abuse and communicable diseases?
- What are the payment policies? Make sure that you are very clear about what the payment policies are. Is there a deposit that must be made? Are refunds available? What happens if my child is out for sickness or vacation? Do you still pay? When is tuition due? Can you pay weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly? Is there an enrollment fee? Do you have childcare subsidies?
- Is there a sick child policy at the center or program? Are parents called right away when their child is sick? Are sick children allowed to remain in the classroom? When can a child who was sick return to the program? Are parents communicated with about communicable illnesses in the program?
- What is the curriculum used at the center or program? Childcare centers who have lesson plans and utilize curriculum shows the center’s dedication to education and child development. Georgia has the Georgia Early Learning and Developmental Standards (GELDS) that are used to support infants through age 5. GELDS promote quality learning experiences for children and address the question, “What should children from birth to age five know and be able to do?” They are a set of appropriate, attainable standards that are flexible enough to support children’s individual rates of development, approaches to learning, and cultural context. GELDS information can be found at gelds.decal.ga.gov.
- Does the center or program have a mission statement and/or philosophy that they follow? Good organizations take time to write out their vision/mission statements and philosophies. If the center you are touring doesn’t have one, it might be a clue to you about that organization.
- Are meals included in the tuition? Are the meals healthy? Does the kitchen staff follow food service guidelines? Does the kitchen staff have their ServeSafe certification? Is the food prepared onsite? Ask to see a copy of the menu? What exactly are the children eating each day?
- Is part-time and/or full-time care available? Is the program able to be flexible?
- Is there an open door policy? Are parents/grandparents able to visit at any time? Are their guidelines to visiting? Is there a contract that needs to be signed? What is the commitment on your part?
- What are the staff to child ratios? How many teachers are in a classroom compared to the total number of children enrolled? Georgia has required staff:child ratios that can be found at decal.ga.gov.
- Is there a charge for late pick up? What happens if you are late picking up your child? Are there additional charges? What is the protocol for notify the program you will be late?
Since the childcare center or program will be taking care of your MOST PRIZED POSSESSION it is imperative that you pick a location that suites the needs of your family. It is very important to make an informed decision about quality care for your little one. Quality care costs and pricing should not be your only determining factor in choosing a childcare program!
Michelle Smith Lank, Owner/Director of Kid’s World Learning Center
3-Star Quality Rated and NAEYC Accredited Program
Past President of Georgia Child Care Association