Sara shares her fantastic research process for finding good-quality daycare for her daughter:
I was a bit thorough about researching childcare for my daughter. Questionaires? Check. Spreadsheets? Check. State licensing & inspection reports? Check. What I learned from the whole process is that you can short-cut a lot of analysis with a short set of criteria (this applies to child care centers more than in home care or nannies):
- Is the center NAEYC accredited? I started my list with these centers. NAEYC looks at things you wouldn't even think of when they are evaluating centers for accreditation.
- How long has the staff been there? The best way to identify a well-run center is to find staff that is happy enough to stick around for a long time. One of my daughter's teachers has been there for 7 years — I'm told that kind of longevity is unheard of in the childcare business.
Those are the 2 most important ones — not because they are important on their own, but rather they are indicators of a whole bunch of other quality issues. If you want my two bonus questions:
- Look at teacher-child ratios on the older classes. Most states have pretty small ratios for infants, but the differences between centers (and their cost) can usually be seen in ratios for the older classes.
- My favorite management question (inspired by Neal Pollack's article on the topic in Salon about the same time I was evaluating all these centers…): What do you do about biting? (It's kind of open ended, and there isn't a clear cut "right" answer, but you'll want to see empathy for both the biter and bitee — after all you don't know which one your kid will be — combined with a strategy for managing it and reporting it.)