How to Pick the Safest Child Care Provider

One of the most important decisions parents will ever make is choosing a child care provider. After all, if your kids can’t be with you, you owe it to them – and to yourself – to choose a safe, secure, loving, engaging and encouraging environment.

Note that “safe” and “secure” come first in our list of criteria – and they should in yours, too. But all too often, parents focus on other factors such as location, convenience, hours and costs. While these are important factors, parents are not asking enough questions when it comes to safety and security.

Don’t know where to start? These eight questions should help you as you begin to select the safest child care provider:

  • How do you access the center? This is the most basic of questions – and one of the most telling. The best methods involve some sort of individual code or biometric, such as a fingerprint. While some centers do have a coded entry, parents don’t realize that everyone has the same code – even parents who have not had a child attending for years.
  • What is the emergency plan? May I see it? You want to make sure the center has taken some steps to actually do some preparation. Most centers do have an emergency plan, but many times they can’t even find it. Even the step of asking for it allows you to see what their level of preparation is like.
  • How secure are the classrooms? When you are touring, pay attention to the classroom doors. Do they lock? If not, are they able to be barricaded? Many child cares don’t have the ability to lock or barricade classroom doors, which puts children and the teachers at risk if an intruder comes in.
  • What are your emergency supplies? Where are they located? A first aid kit is the beginning – but it’s not enough. SEC kits include food, water, face masks in the event of a chemical attack, air horns, whistles, traffic-crossing vests, evacuation ropes with handholds, a portable toilet, pediatric tourniquet and more.
  • What kind of training do you provide? How often? By whom? A lot of child cares tout security, but what they are really touting is security cameras that no one is watching. Instead, make sure to ask about CPR, first aid and fire training, as well as training for other emergencies. Be sure to ask who does the training – and make sure it is someone with the right experience.
  • Have you had any violations? All child care centers must be licensed by the state where they operate. Checking the state’s licensing records to see if the center has had any violations – and, if so, how many violations and for what types of incidents?
  • Do you have an AED? While automatic external defibrillators are increasingly common at elementary and high schools, not many child cares have invested in them. A center should have an adult version of the AED, which will automatically adjust the voltage based on the weight.
  • Why isn’t the center full? You might think it’s your lucky day to find a center with immediately open spots. But you should ask probing questions if a center is not full. You will be better off on a waiting list at a qualified center than in a troubled center that has immediate openings.

Safety is not something you should ever compromise on. You would not take your child to a quack just because you couldn’t get a quick appointment with your pediatrician. A child care provider not focused on safety is a ticking time bomb. Don’t rush to make an unsafe choice.