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
- Are your child’s needs being met?
- Do they have the credentials/experience with working with children?
- Do they/staff receive annual training?
- Does the program participate in Paths to QUALITY™?
- 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?
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.
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:
- Making the Transition from Child Care to Kindergarten: Working Together for Kindergarten Success – Parents and caregivers play an important role in children’s early learning experiences. By partnering together, you can make sure that your child is involved in activities that will prepare them for their next big step – Kindergarten! This brochure offers guidance for a smooth transition.
- Learning to Read & Write Begins at Birth: A Guide to Early Literacy in Child Care – This brochure will give you a good start to knowing how you and your child’s caregiver can best build your child’s early reading and writing skills. Find out simple ways for your child to have fun with literacy both in child care and at home. This brochure also provides an Early Literacy Child Care Checklist to help you evaluate the early literacy materials your child’s caregiver offers.