Having some specific questions ready to ask each child care provider at the site visit can help you in making your final selection. Ask questions that require more than simple “yes” or “no” answers. One long answer might reveal more about a person or program than many short ones. Look for answers that are compatible with your own philosophy and feelings about child-rearing. At a center, talk to staff as well as the director. It helps to take notes so you don’t forget what has been said. Don’t commit yourself immediately after the interview is over. In most cases, you will not have observed or done reference checks yet, and it is better to give yourself time to reflect upon your choice.
Here are some examples of the kinds of questions to ask:
- What do you (your center) do to help a child adjust to his/her first day?
- What do you do when a child cries?
- What experiences have prepared you for working with babies/children? (In centers, ask this of the staff as well as the director.)
- How do you structure your day? How do you accommodate the changing schedules of an infant?
- How do you deal with discipline? How would you react if you saw my child bite another child? How would I find out if you were having problems with my child?
- How do you meet the individual needs of each child, including children with special needs or disabilities?
- How stable will the arrangement be? Ask staff in a center: How long have you worked in this program? Ask family child care providers: How long have you been licensed? Ask any provider in home-based care: How long do you intend to continue to provide child care? What training have you had?
- What is your procedure for handling an emergency? How have you dealt with an emergency in the past?
- How do you involve parents?
- What hours do you provide care?
In your interview, determine the provider’s policy on such topics as:
- Plans for provider vacation, illness
- Fee payment
- Personal items
- Bottle weaning
- Use of playpens, swings, etc.
- Who provides food
- Who supplies diapers
- Field trips
- Care of sick children
- Play & learning activities
- Diet / Nutrition
- Transporting children
Observing the provider and the program is very important.
- How does it “feel” when you walk in?
- How does the caregiver interact with the children?
- Is she respectful, caring and patient?
- Do the children seem genuinely attached to her?
- Do the other children seem relaxed, happy and busy interacting with the environment?
Find out how open and frequent communication is maintained, and how information about your child’s emotional and physical “ special happenings” are reported to you each day. You and your provider should consider yourselves partners who share responsibility for your child’s welfare. Remember that child care is a “people” job. The person caring for your child is the most important ingredient to consider when making child care choices.
The State Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division licenses and monitors child care centers and family child care homes throughout San Mateo County and the State of California. If you have concerns or complaints about child care licensing in San Mateo County call (650) 266-8843 and ask for the Child Care Division.
For referrals to child care programs throughout San Mateo County and information on choosing quality child care contact the Child Care Coordinating Council referral line at (650) 517-1460.