Click on the categories below to learn about what you should look for and ask when you visit a School-Age Child Care Program. Want to take a checklist with you on the tour? Click below to download a copy that you can print or fill out on your phone.
- Is the program licensed?
- Does the program provide safe and reliable transportation? If so, are drivers licensed and insured? Are children properly restrained in the appropriate car safety seat that is appropriate for their weight and age?
- Are there clear check-in and check-out procedures?
Health and Nutrition Questions
- Does the program have records proving that the other children enrolled are up-to-date on all of the required immunizations?
- Is handwashing a regular part of the program’s practices for both staff and children, especially before eating and after using the bathroom?
- If the program serves food, does it meet nutritional standards?
- How does the program handle if a child has food allergies or dietary restrictions?
*Eco-healthy tip: If the school-age program is housed in an older building, it may still have lead pipes or solder. Warm water is more likely to leach lead out of old pipes and puts children at higher risk for lead poisoning. Ask if the program uses only cold water for drinking and cooking.
Supervision and Safety Questions
Adult to Child Ratio and Group Size
- How many children are cared for in the program?
- How many staff are in the setting?
- Does the school-age program follow best practices regarding ratio and group size? Or, does the program follow the state licensing standards for ratio and group size?
- Best practice recommendations:
- 5-year-olds: 8-10 children per caregiver, max group size of 20 children
- 6- to 8-year-olds: 10 children per caregiver, max group size of 20 children
- 9- to 12-year-olds: 12 children per caregiver, max group size of 24 children
- Best practice recommendations:
Supervision of Children
- Are children supervised at all times, both indoors and outdoors?
- Can staff be seen by others at all times so that a child is never alone with one staff member?
- Have all staff members undergone comprehensive background checks?
- Have the staff members been trained on how to prevent, recognize, and report signs of child abuse?
- Are indoor and outdoor environments clear of broken equipment, chipped or peeling paint and tripping hazards?
- Have the building and property been inspected for radon, lead and asbestos? If these hazards are present, how does the program minimize children’s risk of exposure?
- Are cleaning supplies and other chemicals locked away and out of reach of children?
- Is smoking prohibited indoors and outdoors, including vaping, during work hours? If the program allows providers to take smoke breaks during the day, what measures do they take to prevent second- and third-hand smoke exposure?
Emergency Plans and Drills
- Does the program have a plan in place in case of a disaster, like a fire, tornado, flood, blizzard, earthquake or active shooter?
- Does the program practice drills once every month?
- Does the program have an emergency plan in case a child is injured, sick, or lost?
- Does the program have information about who to contact in an emergency?
First Aid and Medication
- Have staff been trained on CPR and First Aid and are those certifications current?
- Does the program have first aid kits?
- Are medications kept out of the reach of children?
- Are staff trained in medication administration, and are medications labeled to make sure the right child receives the right amount of medication?
Indoor Environment Questions
- Is there enough room in the environment for children and staff to move around?
- Is there a place where children can quietly complete their homework?
- Are there different and enough activities offered to children?
- Is the atmosphere pleasant?
- Is the environment clean? What measures have been taken to keep outside contaminants from coming into the areas where care is provided?
- Does the program use TV, computers, or other types of technology with the children? If so, how often are these materials used?
*Eco-healthy tip: Does the program use fragrance-free, non-aerosol cleaning products? Aerosol sprays can trigger allergies and asthma attacks. Some fragrances that are added to detergents and all-purpose cleaners can be harmful.
Outdoor Environment Questions
- Is there a space for outdoor play?
- Is the outdoor play area fenced in?
- Is the outdoor play area regularly inspected?
- Is the outdoor area clean?
- Is the equipment the right size and type for the age of children who use it?
- Are children taken outside on a regular basis?
- Do staff actively supervise (play with) children outdoors?
*Eco-healthy tip: Does the program encourage families to turn off their vehicles in the parking lot? Exhaust from idling vehicles can cause poor outdoor and indoor air quality that makes breathing difficult for kids and adults with asthma or other chronic breathing problems.
*Eco-healthy tip: Is the building located near any busy roads, gas stations or factories? If so, what is the program doing to minimize children’s exposure to air and water pollution? Chemicals from farms, roads and other businesses can pollute the air and water of nearby properties.
Caregiver-Child Interaction Questions
- Are children comforted when needed?
- Do staff and children enjoy being together?
- Are children warmly greeted when they arrive?
- Do staff talk to children and seem genuinely interested in what the children are doing?
- Do staff get down on children’s level and speak with them?
- How do staff help children solve their own problems?
- How do staff react to children’s behavior?
- How do staff encourage peer interactions?
Program Structure Questions
- Is there a daily balance of play time and homework time?
- Do children get to choose who they want to play with?
- Do staff play with children to help facilitate their learning?
Parent Partnership Questions
- Do staff members share and talk to parents about their child’s daily activities, either at drop-off or pick-up?
- Does the program incorporate technology as a communication tool? If so, is information shared with parents on how to access it and how the information is kept secured?
- Are parents encouraged to visit at any time?
- Are there ways for parents to be involved in the program? How are parent ideas incorporated into the program?
- Are there regular opportunities (at least twice per year) where parents can meet with the staff and share their child’s strengths and hear how their child is developing skills?
- How often do staff share observations and ongoing assessment information with parents?
- How do staff work with parents to incorporate the family’s culture and values into the program?
Staff Qualifications Questions
- Do staff have a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field?
- Do the staff have experience working with school-age children?
- Do staff seemed experienced and knowledgeable about school-age issues?
- Are the staff and director involved in ongoing training or continuing education programs?
Child Care Policies and Procedures
- Does the program provide a written contract before you enroll your child?
- Does the program provide a copy of the parent handbook prior to enrollment?
- Does the program clearly outline the cost of care, field trip or special program fees, and any other fees?
- Does the program have a policy regarding drop-off and pick-up times, including who can pick up your child? Are there fees for late pick-up?
- Does the program have a policy for times when it may close, such as for certain holidays, inclement weather, or in case of emergencies?
- Does the program have a policy regarding when your child and other children should stay home because of illness?
- Does the program have a policy regarding termination of your child care agreement?
- Does the program have a written policy for when the provider is allowed to give medications?
- Does the program have a written supervision policy or plan that ensures children are supervised at all times?
- Does the program provide a written guidance and discipline policy?