The Day Care Guide: Interviewing for Day Care

How to interview and evaluate a day care facility

Finding one or two day care centers or family day care providers that you feel comfortable with is the first step. It's then critically important to observe and investigate the day care yourself (or have a trusted family member do it for you). It's one thing to ask a neighbor or friend for their recommendation and quite another to see for yourself.

In most cases, a well-run facility, large or small, should provide you with the information listed below, usually in the form of an information packet that you can keep. They should include copies of their licenses or accreditations and/or post them for easy viewing at the facility. Make an appointment to meet with the director or the person who manages incoming and prospective students to ensure that you have adequate time and attention to have your questions answered.

Ask the director

  • Are you licensed?
  • What is your child care background? (Education, certifications, training, etc.)
  • How many children do you care for?
  • Does anyone else assist you, and what are their qualifications?
  • What is your policy if you are ill?
  • What is your policy for children attending who are ill?
  • Will the children watch television at your center?
  • Do you have pets? (for home day care)
  • Do you smoke? (for home day care)
  • Do you receive personal, non-care related visitors during the day?
  • What do you like about your job?
  • How long have you been caring for children?
  • Are there slots open at your day care? Is there a wait-list?
  • What are your rates?
  • Do you have part-time openings?

Ask about the facility

  • Are children watched at all times whether they are playing, resting, eating, or sleeping?
  • How are children disciplined at your center (home)? What techniques do you use?
  • Do you keep track of changing child care licensing agreements in our city/town/state?
  • What kind of toys, games, activities, and programming do you do with the kids during the day? Is it developmentally appropriate?
  • What kind of foods do you serve for lunch/snacks? Does it cover the nutritional guidelines set out by your state? Can you accommodate my child's allergies (if any)?
  • Are diaper stations cleaned and disinfected after each use? Do you help older children with toilet training?
  • What is your policy on giving the children required medication during the day? Do you require a note from parents or doctors?
  • What is your First Aid training?
  • Have you run background checks on all your caregivers and assistants? Have they also been fingerprinted?
  • Do the children play outdoors every day? What kind of play equipment do you have outside? Is it checked regularly for safety?
  • Can I drop by at any time to check on my child? Is parents' input welcomed?

If you find that any of the above items are not easily or readily given at a day care of interest to you, that's a red flag -- you don't want your child to go there.

For help finding a day care center near you, use the Day Care Directory -- search by your ZIP code to find local day cares.


Lisa Tabachnick Hotta writes about parenting and other issues for A freelance writer, editor and researcher, she has two young children.

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