Questions Parents Aren’t Asking When Seeking Child-Care Providers

A consultant for child-care providers in Idaho offers advice to parents on how to pick the right one. Photo Credit: Matt Cardy/GettyImages

Eric Tegethoff
Public News Service

Choosing the right childcare provider can be a daunting task for parents. Questions left unasked while picking the right facility can rear their heads down the road in unwanted ways.

That’s why Susan Robertson, lead quality child-care consultant for IdahoSTARS in Idaho Falls, has some advice for parents looking to get it right for the most precious person in their lives. The list is long and varies depending on parents’ priorities, but Robertson says one of the keys to figuring out more is to take a tour.

“A good idea is to, when they go in, ask for a tour and see how willing they are to give a tour of the program, of the facility,” she says. “Tour the outside area. Ask them if they follow the playground safety recommendations for their playgrounds.”

Robertson says it’s also helpful to ask about their safe-sleep procedures and whether parents are welcome to check in at any point during the day, including going into classrooms and not just at the front desk.

It’s also important to know providers are licensed: providers must be certified to perform life-saving skills such as CPR and have staff that has passed background checks.

Robertson also says parents should understand the facility’s policy on disciplining. She says parents should ask providers how they will help develop their children’s social and emotional skills.

“Are they able to choose areas they want to play in?” she asks. “Are they able to make choices of what they want to do, toys they want to play with, other children they want to play with?”

These areas are important, but so is affordability. It can be more difficult for families living in rural areas where not as many providers are available. Robertson says parents can get help.

Low-income families can apply for child-care assistance through the Idaho Child Care Program. Scholarships also are available to parents.

Overall, Robertson says it’s best to trust your gut when choosing the right provider.

“The provider should be able to answer these questions, and if they’re not answering them to how the parent feels that they should, then that may not be the place for them because not every child will fit in every program,” explains Robertson. “They should be picky.”

She suggests parents call 211 for provider referrals.