Finding quality child care: Will my child be safe?

Leaving your child with caregivers can be difficult, and knowing how to find a safe, engaging and quality center-based or home-based program is incredibly important.

Consider these points when evaluating the safety of your childcare options.
Consider these points when evaluating the safety of your childcare options.

Leaving your child to be cared for by someone else is often one of the hardest parts about being a parent. Taking the time to find child care options that are high quality, educational, supportive and safe can make the process a little less daunting.

Ask yourself four questions when investigating a center-based or home-based child care:

  1. Will my child be safe?
  2. Will my child be nurtured and cared for?
  3. Will my child be engaged, happy and learning?
  4. Is the program high quality?

This article will focus on the first question, will my child be safe?

Will my child be safe?

Do staff have current CPR and first aid training? Adults working with children should be prepared to handle any unexpected emergency situation. Make sure there is always at least one adult present who is certified in CPR and first aid. Also, make sure there are first-aid kits readily available in every space children use.

Do staff have training on child abuse prevention and how to report suspected abuse? Adults who are trained in how to recognize and report children abuse are prepared to look out for the safety and security of all children in their care. Make sure adults are trained to spot and report any suspicious activity.

Is the environment clean? Make sure adults wash their hands before and after handling food, changing diapers or coming into contact with bodily fluids or administering first aid. Diaper changing stations, tables and toys should be regularly sanitized, especially after use. The space should be cleaned daily and as needed throughout the day.

Is the environment physically safe? Every space your child has access to needs to be safe for them. Look out for things like broken toys, barriers or cluttered floors. There should always be a clear path through the home or classroom environment, broken toys should be disposed of immediately and any unsafe items should be out of the reach of children (medications, cleaning supplies, choking hazards, etc.)

Do children have required immunizations? Children who are up-to-date on their immunizations have much less risk of passing on diseases that could be harmful to your child. Ask the provider what immunizations they require from students and how they keep track of each child’s immunization record.

What happens when a child is sick or injured? What are the policies and procedures for staff or other adults to follow when children are sick? How and when will you be contacted? Emergency information (emergency contact numbers, doctor information, known medical conditions or allergies, etc.) should be collected for each child and readily available in any emergency.

Is there a disaster plan? Each program or home should have written plans for what to do in disaster or emergency situations. They should have a fire exit plan, tornado plan, etc.

Do staff undergo criminal history checks? Every adult who has contact with children in any child care facility or program should have a fingerprint criminal history check. This includes adult family members if it is a home-based program. Any adults or volunteers who may come into contact with children should be screened and cleared.

Is the outdoor space safe? Swings, climbers or other equipment should be surrounded by mulch, sand or other soft materials. All equipment and outdoor toys should be in working order and should be regularly inspected by adults. Make sure that yards and outdoor play areas are protected from children wandering off or running into the street.

Are medication procedures safe? Adults who are giving children any medications should be trained in safe ways of storing, giving and tracking medication usage. Medications should always be stored out of reach of children, and adults should be prepared to administer the correct dosage and keep good record of when medications were used, how much was given, etc.

For more information about finding quality care for your children, check out the National Association for the Education of Young Children, Great Start to Quality and Childcare Aware websites. Also, see “Is This The Right Place For My Child?” from Childcare Aware, which includes 38 questions to ask any potential child care provider. For more information about Michigan child care rules and regulations, check out the licensing rules for child care centers and family and group homes.

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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