For many people, a private daycare center is the only childcare option for their baby or young child. When you can’t afford an in-home caregiver—or don’t have a willing grandparent nearby—you may decide that a large daycare center is the best option. However, just because it is a popular choice for your neighbors, does not mean it is safe for your child. We offer some tips for choosing the best daycare center to keep your young child safe while you work.
Qualities to Look for in a Daycare Center
The first thing you will likely consider when looking for a daycare center will be the cost. You may have budgeted a certain amount for daycare and will have to stay within those limits. Your goal after that should be to identify the best possible facility in your price range. To make sure your child will be safe there, some factors you should consider include:
- Child to caregiver ratio. While Texas law sets minimum standards for caregiver ratios, more teachers are always better. For example, the state mandates a ratio of one teacher for every four babies under a year old, however, can you imagine caring for four babies at once by yourself? Probably not. The state also allows for one person to supervise up to 26 children over the age of 5, but one person cannot possibly be attentive to 26 children on a playground. While these ratios do not break the law, you will want to try to find a center that provides more supervision than what is required by law.
- Condition of building and equipment. To retain a state license to operate a daycare center, the owner or director will have to ensure that the building and grounds meet certain requirements. However, inspections and repairs of violations do not always occur as they should. Take a complete tour of any daycare center you are considering to look for unsafe conditions—particularly on the playground. If it doesn’t look safe to you, it probably isn’t.
- Qualifications of caregivers. While daycare directors have to meet certain educational standards, the actual childcare providers only have to be 18 years old, have a high school diploma, and complete eight hours of site-specific training. Better quality daycare centers set higher standards for their employees. Ask about the education and experience of the people who will be caring for your child. If they don’t sound good enough, move on.
- Curriculum. A daycare center that presents learning goals and an age-appropriate curriculum may strike you as over the top, but it is a good sign that the children’s attention will be directed towards engaging activities rather than too much “free time,” which can lead to roughhousing and injuries. Ask what your child will be doing all day. If the daycare center can’t tell you, it’s likely they are not prepared to keep your child safe.
Often, your best source for a good daycare center will be a friend or neighbor who has had a good experience with a particular place. However, even the best (and most expensive) daycare centers can make mistakes and injure your child. Do not let a daycare center’s good reputation keep you from taking action if your child is injured as a result of negligence. Call the Button Law Firm to find out what your first step should be.