ECA Blog

Selecting Quality Child Care

What do I look for in child care? Is a home or center the best option? How do I evaluate the environment and the caregiver? Who can help me find what I need?

Finding quality child care can be a difficult task, especially for new parents. All parents want to make the best decision, the best choice for their children. And choosing child care is important because it can have a significant, long-lasting impact in a child’s life. There are many options, not only for young children, but also school agers. So the search process can be both time-consuming and confusing when it comes to meeting a family’s needs.

As one of nine Child Care Resource and Referral agencies in Indiana, Early Childhood Alliance (ECA) provides assistance for parents looking for child care by providing a list of child care options, free of charge. Families and child care providers in Allen, DeKalb, Elkhart, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Marshall, Noble, St. Joseph, Steuben and Whitley Counties can contact us by phone or visit our website for child search and child care information.

In addition to a list of child care providers, we also offer tools to help with that search process, such as important questions to ask and things to watch for when interviewing a potential provider to be sure health and safety standards are met. ECA also provides additional assistance with referrals for infants and toddlers, and children with special needs. We also suggest questions about other aspects of child care: adult to child ratios, safe sleeping arrangements, and a learning curriculum that helps prepare children for school.

Look for Quality Indicators to help find the best child care for your child.  The following information will help parents decide on their own what level of quality a child care program is providing for your child.


Adult to Child Ratio

  • Infants – 1 staff to 4 infants
  • Toddlers/2 years – 1 staff to 5 toddlers
  • 3-4 years – 1 staff to 10 children


Group Size

  • Are your child’s needs being met?


Caregivers’ Qualifications

  • Do they have the credentials/experience with working with children?
  • Do they/staff receive annual training?
  • Does the program participate in Paths to QUALITY™?


Learning Environment

  • Do they have age appropriate activities for the age range that they serve?
  • How are they preparing the children for school?
  • Do they encourage parent involvement?


Safe and Healthy Environment

  • Is there always someone present with current CPR and first aid training?
  • Is the environment clean and safe?
  • Do they provide a safe sleep environment for infants?

For a complete list of additional quality indicators, please review the publication from Child Care Aware – Is This The Right Place For My Child? 

ECA also covers information on Paths to QUALITY, an important tool that can help parents during a child care search. Paths to QUALITY is a voluntary rating and improvement tool, used throughout the state, to help families looking for child care. Programs that participate in Paths to QUALITY are rated, based on their quality of care. The system identifies four levels of quality, and each level builds on the previous one. At each level key aspects of quality are added as part of the standards being rated. To help identify participating programs, parents should look for information on ECA’s provider list as well as window decals and certificates at each Paths to QUALITY site.

Paths To QUALITY is an amazing tool to help you quickly assess Child Care Providers, Find Out More!   Parents may also visit  for more Paths To QUALITY information.


Additional Resources to Select a Quality Child Care Program:

  • Give Your Child Something That Will Last a Lifetime – Is child care something you need? Then this brochure can help. Especially if you’re looking for the one thing that matters most in child care – QUALITY. This brochure provides parents with five helpful steps to choosing quality child care. It also includes a checklist to use when choosing a child care home or center. 
  • Selecting a High-Quality School-Aged Program for Your Child – Concerned about after school care for your child? This brochure will help you in selecting a quality after-school program. It includes questions to ask yourself along the way as well as a checklist to refer to when looking at a specific program.



Quality Child Care and School Readiness

Resources to help you and your child care provider prepare your child for success in school:


Why Won’t She Follow Directions?

Do you ever get frustrated that your child doesn’t seem to follow directions?  Maybe the problem isn’t your child, but the way you’re asking.

In a recent email from ExchangeEveryDay, the following caught my attention:  “As adults we often forget when we are talking to children, that they think more concretely and process information at a slower pace than we do.   When we adapt our instructions to children’s levels of understanding, we are not talking down to them.”  This observation comes from David Elkind in his new book, Parenting On the Go.  Elkind offers tips to go along with this observation, such as…

  • Be specific.  Instructions should be short and clear…  One guideline is to use one word per age of child.
  • Because children process information more slowly than we do, it’s a good idea to give only one instruction at a time.
  • Accentuate the positive.  You will have much more success and much less frustration if you tell children what you want them to do rather than what not to do.
  • Phrase your instructions so as to tell the child what you want, not ask him or her to make the decision.

Along with his advice, another good tip is to let your child know that he/she did a good job after following your directions. Praise your child. The more you praise your child, the better the chances are that he/she will follow directions in the future.

I know this is advice that most of us know, but in the midst of parenting, we sometimes forget.  The most important thing to remember is – How You Ask Matters!




Have a Great Week!