MADISON (WKOW/ANGIE'S LIST) -- Choosing a child care provider is a big decision. You want your kids to be safe and secure when you're not around, but it can be a tough, sometimes overwhelming choice.
"We have started searching for daycare options and it is quite stressful," said Ashley Wiley, a mother-to-be.
Wiley's baby girl is due in October.
"I've looked at in-home daycares. I've looked at church facilities. I've looked at daycare facilities. Not really knowing yet what we are going to do," added Ashley. "I've gotten quotes from all three, so we are still trying to make a decision."
One key is to start looking early.
"About the time that you're telling all your family members that you are expecting is really when you should start looking for child care because there's likely going to be a wait list," suggested Angie Hicks, the founder of Angie's List.
Before you start calling around, Hicks says you should create a list of qualifications - sort of like a job description. Decide what qualities are important, the skills you want the caregivers to have, their level of education and how many years of experience they have. Once you start the interview process, have your children there to see how the applicant interacts with them and watch how your children react, too.
A recent Angie's List poll shows not all parents are asking the questions they should, 20 percent of parents didn't check whether their child care provider was licensed or if they had the proper credentials.
Here are a few more tips from Angie's List:
All good child care programs should offer reliable supervision by trustworthy adults in a clean, caring and safe environment. Beyond that, however, the definition of "quality" depends on what parents want. Ask yourself what is most important to you: Does your child need personal attention? Is play time paramount? What about naps and learning opportunities?
One of the best ways to determine provider quality is to visit a facility with a list of questions.
What to look for when touring a facility:
Some questions to ask:
Finding a day care provider is one part of the job. It's important to stay aware and informed. Follow these ideas for making sure your child is getting quality care on an ongoing basis:
Make surprise visits: Parents should always have the right to stop in unannounced to check on their children. This is an effective way to see what happens when parents usually aren't around. Hopefully, there won't be anything that raises a concern, but if there is, it's better to know.
Pay attention to your child: Signs that a child may not be thriving in a particular facility or with a certain caregiver may include mood changes, anxiety or withdrawal. For children who can talk, it's a good idea to occasionally ask if he or she likes day care.
Communicate: Communication is key to establishing a good relationship with care providers. If a parent has a concern, he or she should speak up in a mature and professional manner.
Be persistent: Trust your instincts. Be sure to address any issue or concern you have with the caregiver and/or managers. Be ready to remove your child from any situation you deem suspicious or unsafe, and contact appropriate authorities.
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