How to Find Quality Care
1. Start Early
Start looking as far in advance as you can. No matter what type of care you are considering—a child care center, care in someone’s home, or a school-based program—finding the right child care option can take some time.
2. Make a call
Begin your search by calling your local experts—your Child Care Resource & Referral agency (CCR&R). CCR&Rs can give you the facts about child care and a list of child care options in your area that meet your needs. If you are looking for child care in Southeast Louisiana, Agenda for Children is your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency. Call us at 1-800-486-1712 to receive a referral or use our online search option.
Make sure to ask the referral specialist these questions:
- What should I look for in a good early learning center or family child care home?
- What are the licensing requirements in my area?
- How can I get information about complaints and licensing violations?
The Department of Education provides information about early learning centers’ licensing compliance, including licensing violations on its web site.
- Does my family qualify for any financial assistance?
3. Visit and Ask Questions
When you visit child care centers or family child care homes, consider these key indicators of quality:
Adult to Child Ratio
Ask how many children there are for each adult. The fewer the children for each adult, the better for your child. You want your child to get plenty of attention. The younger your child, the more important this is. The experts at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) recommend that babies need an adult to child ratio of no more than 1 adult for 3 or 4 infants, while most 4-year-olds can do well with a ratio of one adult for 8-10 children. In general, Louisiana law allows centers to have higher child:staff ratios than what is recommended by NAEYC.
If you choose a licensed child care center, the center must have child to staff ratios of no more than:
|Ages of Children||Type II and III Ratio||Class I Ratios*|
|Infants under 12 months||5:1||6:1|
|One year old||7:1||8:1|
|Two year old||11:1||12:1|
|Three year old||13:1||14:1|
|Four year old||15:1||16:1|
|Five year old||19:1||20:1|
|Six year old and up||23:1||25:1|
*Note that the minimum ratios reported here apply to Class B centers serving 11 or more children.
If you choose a family child care home, the child to adult ratio should be no more than six children to one adult. Many programs choose to keep lower child to staff ratios than are required by law, so be sure to ask about it.
Find out how many children are in the group. The smaller the group, the better for your child. NAEYC recommends that babies need a group size of no more than 6-8 in a room. Four-year-olds should be in a group of no more than 16-20 children. Louisiana does not currently regulate group size in child care centers.
Find out if the child care provider has been accredited by a national organization. Accredited programs have voluntarily met standards for child care that are higher than state licensing requirements. The National Association for the Education of Young Children and the National Association for Family Child Care are two prominent organizations that provide accreditation.
If the program is a licensed child care center, find out if it is participating in Quality Start. Quality Start is Louisiana’s voluntary star rating system for child care. Centers may earn up to five stars based on program quality, staff credentials, and teacher to child ratios. Visit the Quality Start site for more information. As a parent, you may even be eligible to receive an enhanced tax credit on your Louisiana state income tax if you choose a center with two or more stars.
Check how long the child care providers have been at the center or providing care in their homes. It is best if children stay with the same child care provider for at least a year. It is hard for children if their child care providers change frequently.
Child Care Provider Qualifications
Ask about the child care providers’ training and education. Child care providers with special training in working with children are better able to help your child learn.
- Have the childcare providers received training to work with children, such as a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential or an AA or BA degree in early childhood education or a related field?
- Are the childcare providers involved in ongoing professional activities to improve their skills related to caring for children?
- Is there always someone present who is certified in CPR and first-aid training?
- Have the adults been trained on child abuse prevention and how to report suspected cases?
- Have the adults who work at the program received background checks with fingerprint?
4. Make a Choice
After visiting programs, think about what you saw at each visit and make the best choice for your child and family. Our partners at Child Care Aware have developed a checklist of things to look for as you make this decision. Child Care Aware also offers information and a checklist of considerations for parents of children with special needs.
5. Stay Involved
The work is not over when you find good care for your child. You and your child care provider are partners now. Here are some ways to be involved:
- Meet regularly with your childcare provider and ask questions.
- Volunteer time when needed, like participating in clean up days or fixing broken toys.
- Visit your child at the program and read a book aloud.
- Join in special events, such as field trips, Career Day, Black History Month or Family Night.
Even if you cannot get time off from work during the day, you can still check in at drop-off and pick-up times. Ask your child care provider how things are going and how your child is doing.
Visiting and participating in events at your child’s program when possible sends a strong message. It tells your child and your child care provider that you think what your child is doing and learning is important.
These Five Steps to Choosing Quality Care were based upon publications developed by our partners at Child Care Aware.