Janice Palmer explains the basic daycare licensing requirements

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Photo Credit: Konstantin Yuganov

If you are a working professional who has children and will eventually look into childcare, you must learn as much as possible about this process early on. That includes everything from simply researching the local providers to reading about your state’s laws on daycare centers. Most importantly, however, is learning what questions you need to ask whenever you visit your local providers and do the initial tours of their facilities.

Out of all the areas that you should analyze, getting to know the licensing that the daycare center in question enforces is crucial. The reason why is the fact that such simple information can give you an important insight into the policies and procedures of the center. Expectedly, this is where additional research will come in. So, what are some good ways to go about choosing the best daycare while prioritizing their licensing requirements?

Basic Licensing Requirements

Before you visit any daycare center and start asking about their procedures, Janice Palmer advises that you get to know your state’s requirements and some general guidelines that most other jurisdictions in the United States abide by. As a representative of the Little People Child Development Center, she strongly suggests that you look into the current contact information and see the legal codes that guide your state’s childcare licensing authorities. The best starting point here would be to visit the website of the National Database of Child Care Licensing Regulation.

This is also the stage of the process where you will start learning about some basic standards that apply to nearly all states. Great examples would be minimum training hours, ongoing education, child-to-adult ratios, and so on. While the actual figures will differ across the region, you will at least be able to get a sense of where most jurisdictions stand. So, if the vast majority of states demand that there be two adults for a group of 8 toddlers, per se, you should probably avoid centers that neglect that ratio.

Common Concerns

As you are going through the initial research, you should also consider getting informed on the licensing that takes place within the local daycare centers. This is the process that employees go through to get clearance under their employer. For instance, if your daycare center has four adult instructors who look over toddlers, you should get to know a bit about the hiring process that led to those individuals working there. The reason why, which will be discussed shortly, is that state-based licensing does not guarantee that you are leaving your loved ones in a good learning environment. So, a couple of questions that you can consider asking are:

  • What is the recruitment and hiring process like?
  • What kind of evaluations and performance reviews do your employees go through?
  • Have any of the employees gone through any disciplinary action?

You should not be surprised if people refuse to answer these types of inquiries, though, as they are often protected by their inter-company confidentiality. Nonetheless, you should still consider asking them on the chance that the facility is transparent enough to provide some valuable insight.

What You Should Ask For

Besides addressing the aforementioned concerns, you should build a strategy that breaks down all the questions that you need to bring up. Doing so beforehand is extremely useful as it will save you a plethora of time once you get to the daycare center’s representative. Based on her experience with the Little People Child Development Center, Janice Palmer suggests that you touch on the following topics:

  • The license providers that the center works with.
  • The number of licensed adults present at all times.
  • Types of activities and individuals involved with those activities.
  • Licensing status of individuals not directly working with the children.

Since each of these areas may require multiple questions to derive the underlying truth, you should not hesitate to make as many follow-ups as necessary. For instance, learning about the licensing status of individuals who are not directly working with the children will first require you to get to know some of the daily activities.

If the daycare center organizes daily trips to the park for preschoolers, hypothetically, there may be a driver involved to facilitate transportation. Well, as irrelevant as it may appear, you should ask about that driver’s licensing status and potential medical training. Doing so will ensure that you are covering all the details that could prove to be extremely significant in times of emergencies.

Things to Avoid

While you must have a good set of questions, you should also be able to spot the most common red flags. As mentioned earlier, merely having the right credentials and state-based licenses does not always translate to exceptional childcare. So, you have to look into things like employees’ background checks and whether they were required to go through them, the current child-to-adult ratios, daily activities, and reviews from other parents.

If you run into centers or providers who do not stress the importance of background checks, have a repeating pattern of average or negative reviews, or carry licensing from online agencies that have no mandatory training, you should stay away. All of these issues point to the potential existence of a very inefficient daycare center that is either violating some state laws, basic principles of ethics, or both.

Never Side Step Face-to-Face Meetings

Ultimately, as you go through the process of finding the right childcare provider, you should never replace face-to-face meetings with phone conversations and online research. Those two are only meant to serve as supplementary support to your decision-making process. Going to the actual daycare center and meeting the individuals who work there, looking at the facilities, analyzing the quality of the classrooms and activities should be your main priority. Besides, being physically present means that you can go as far as asking to see the actual licensing of each of the employees who will be taking care of your child.



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