Finding child care can be a difficult task, whether you are a new parent, recently moved to a new area, or wondering what options are available to you and your family. The COVID-19 pandemic has made finding child care even more difficult, with program closures and changing requirements.
The good news is that there are number of resources to help you find and choose a child care program. Click below to learn about steps you should take during your child care search.
Get a Child Care List
Your local Child Care and Resource Referral agency, or CCR&R, can help you find the right child care for you and your family. They will talk to you about the different types of child care providers in your area, ask you questions about you and your child, and create a list of child care providers for you to contact based on your child care needs.
Get started by searching for your local Child Care and Resource Referral (CCR&R) agency, and contact them to request a list.
When talking to your local CCR&R agency, ask the following questions:What are the child care licensing requirements in my area?How can I find a copy of the health and safety inspection reports?Is there a quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) in my area, and which providers have joined? What do the different levels on QRIS mean?What does it mean when a provider is nationally accredited? Which providers in my area meet this standard?What kinds of questions should I ask providers when I call or take a tour?How can I find out if my family might qualify for any child care financial assistance programs?
Pandemic Consideration: Child care availability may be reduced at this time, due to program closures, smaller group size requirements, availability of necessary supplies, etc. Ask your CCR&R agency if they have a list of child care programs that are open, and ask what kinds of enhanced health and safety measures are recommended for programs to keep children safe.
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Do Your HomeworkCheck out the provider before you call or visit. Look for or ask about the following information to see what standards a child care provider is following.
Pandemic Consideration: Many states now have temporary licensing requirements for child care programs to protect the children and the staff. It is important to know what new health and safety precautions are being taken. Visit our State by State Resource Map and click on your state for information about child care and COVID-19.
Licensing Report and Health and Safety InspectionsBefore you visit, check out the health and safety inspection reports (visit our State by State by State Resource Map and click on your state to find out how to access child care inspections where you live). These reports will tell you when the child care provider was visited by a state licensing agent, what types of health and safety violations the program was cited for, and how those violations were addressed. Your local CCR&R agency can also help you understand these health and safety reports.
Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) RatingQRIS ratings are another tool for you to use in selecting a child care provider. An initial rating is earned when a program meet certain quality standards. Programs then earn higher ratings as they meet more quality standards. In some states, QRIS is mandatory for licensed child care providers or for programs that receive state subsidies. In other states, participation in QRIS is voluntary. Learn more about your state's QRIS by clicking your state on the State by State Resource Map.
National Accreditation InformationSome child care programs reach higher quality standards by becoming accredited by a national accrediting body. Achieving accreditation is a voluntary process for child care providers. Programs that choose to become accredited have to show that they meet requirements above and beyond state licensing requirements. You can ask your local CCR&R agency if any programs in your area have reached this level.
Call the providers you wish to visit and make an appointment. Ask pre-screening questions before you visit to make sure you are visiting providers that meet your needs.
Why is this important? You want to make sure the provider you choose is affordable and accessible to your family. Asking straight-forward, specific questions will help you determine whether or not to consider this provider. There are programs available to help pay for child care if your family qualifies.Pandemic Consideration: Because there may be fewer options for child care due to the COVID-19 pandemic, consider expanding your search radius. You may have to go further out of your way to find a program that is open and that meets your needs.
- Does the provider have space for my child?
- What are the provider’s hours of operation?
- Is the provider location convenient for me?
- What are the program costs?
- Are there any discounts or scholarships available?
- Does the provider participate in a child care assistance program?
Additionally, many states are discouraging providers from giving in-person tours in order to limit the number of people coming and going from the building. You may need to gather most of the information about each child care program online and over the phone. During your call, ask the provider if they are giving virtual tours. Will they set up a time for a video call to show you the space and answer your questions? Do they have photos or videos of the space that they can show you? Is there a way for you to speak with the caregiver who would be working with your child? How will you be able to evaluate interactions between the adults and children before you make your decision?
Take the Tour
Write down questions you want to ask and use a checklist to help you make the right choice for your family. Ask the child care provider for references and ask questions about the other families’ experiences with the program.
When touring the child care provider, use your five senses:SIGHT: Do you see providers engaged with children? Do you see children actively playing with each other and the provider? Do you see any health and safety concerns? Do you see that there are enough materials for the children to play with?SOUND: Do you hear a “buzz” in the child care setting, where teachers are talking in warm, positive tones to the children? Do you hear providers using respectful language?TASTE: How does the food that is served to the children look in appearance and how does it taste?TOUCH: Do you see physical affection between teachers and children, such as hugging, pats on the head, children sitting on provider’s laps, or any other types of positive touch?SMELL: Is there a pleasant smell in the child care setting? Can you smell perfume, smoke, or any other odor that might be unpleasant for your child?
Pandemic Consideration: Many programs will not be able to offer in-person tours during the pandemic due to health and safety concerns. You can ask about other options that may be available, such as taking a live video tour or viewing recent pictures and videos of the program. Before the video tour you should list the areas you would like to see. Include classrooms, common areas, bathrooms, eating areas, drop-off/pick-up locations, and outdoor play areas. Also ask to see health and safety measures you would look for during an in-person tour. These may include a posted license, a safe sleep area, age-appropriate toys and books that can be sanitized, and more. Have this list and your regular list of questions available during the tour.
This Information for Families on Health and Safety Measures that Child Care Providers May Take During the COVID-19 Pandemic may be helpful as you evaluate child care during this time. Use it as a guide as you determine if it looks like a safe space for your child along with your knowledge about any additional risk factors that your child or family may have.