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Child Care - Day Care Options

Tips On Choosing A Licensed Child Care Service

A licensed group child care service allows children to learn and play in a healthy, secure, and friendly environment. Some of the questions a parent should ask when looking for a licensed group child care service are:

  • • Is group child care what I really want for my child?
  • • Do I want it to be close to home or work?
  • • Do the hours fit my schedule?
  • • Would I feel comfortable leaving my child there?
  • • Can I afford it?

A parent or care giver will answer these questions differently according to the situation and needs of the child. However, there are some basics things that all parents and caregivers should look for in a group child care service. . The following document, prepared by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Bureau of Child Care, tells you what some of those things are and suggests how you can find them.

Start your search early:
  • • If possible, give yourself at least three months to find a good program.
  • • Call the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Bureau of Child Care for names of licensed services.
  • • Call the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) Vacancy Information number to find out if you are eligible for publicly funded child care services.
  • • Talk to relatives, friends, and neighbors. They may be able to recommend child care services or tell you which to avoid, based on their own experiences.
Compare your choices:
  • • Always visit a service before enrolling your child, no matter how highly the service was recommended.
  • • Visit more than one service so that you can compare the types and quality of services provided.
  • • Visit each service before enrollment.
  • • Talk to the director, look at the service, and visit all classes, especially the ones your child will be in.
 Yes   No  Questions to ask during your visit:
Is the service licensed? All out of home child care services for seven or more children under 6 years of age must be licensed by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Bureau of Child Care.
Can you drop in to see your child without calling first? According to New York City and State laws, parents must be able to see their children or take them out of the service at anytime.
Do the director and group teachers have experience and training in child care? In order to best help the children learn and grow, the director and teaching staff of licensed services must have special training and degrees in teaching young children.
Is there enough staff to give the children the attention they need? There should be at least one teacher and one assistant for each group of 10 two year olds, 15 three year olds, 20 four year olds, and 25 five year olds.
Is the staff available for parental conferences? The staff should keep parents informed about their children's progress and problems. Parents should have a chance to discuss the policies and operations of the service.
Is there a variety of activities to help the children develop and learn? Children should be involved in different learning activities during the day, such as: playing with blocks, painting, cutting and pasting, drawing, coloring, molding with dough, storytelling dramatic play, music, outdoor play, etc.
Does the service provide meals? All services should provide time for a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. Some services also serve breakfast and lunch. If lunch and snack are not served, parents must provide home-packed lunches and snacks and the service must have a refrigerator for storing them.
Do the children get a rest period during the day? Children attending full-child programs must have quiet, relaxed period of about one hour a child. The service must provide separate cots, cribs or mats for each child to rest.
Are special health exams required for the children and staff? According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the service must require that children be up to date with their immunization and have regular health exams. The staff must have yearly health exams and TB test (PPD).
Are sick children properly cared for? The service must give parents specific instructions about when a sick child must be kept at home. The service must have a plan for separating sick children from the other children until the parents can pick them up.

 Yes   No  Things to look for during your visit:
Is the current license posted where you can see it easily? Look for the date and the number and ages of the children the service is authorized to care for.
Do the children seem to be enjoying the activities they are involved in?
Is the staff warm and friendly to the children?
Does the staff talk to the children with respect and listen to them with interest?
Are the children permitted to express their feelings?
Does the staff discipline the children in an appropriate way? If the staff "puts children down" in front of others, ridicules, spanks, or doesn't give meals as a way of disciplining, mark NO. And avoid the service!!
Are there toys and equipment such as blocks, puzzles, books, clay, or musical instruments, that allow the children to learn and use their imagination?
Do the classroom materials, books, and pictures include examples of the different ethnic and racial groups in the community?
Is there an opportunity for the children to choose their own activities at some time during the day?
Does the staff eat with the children? Do they encourage relaxed conversation during mealtime.
Are weekly menus posted in the services that serve meals? Are fruit and vegetables, bread, milk, and meat, fish, chicken, or cheese served daily?
Are the toys and other play equipment clean, in good repair, and within easy reach of the children?
Is there enough space indoors and outdoors for the children to move freely and safely?
Are the children supervised at all times both indoors and outdoors?
Do the windows have window guards on them?
Are emergency numbers of the following agencies posted near the telephone: Fire Department, local police precinct, Poison Control, local hospital, Child Abuse Registry, and Health Department?
Does the service have good air circulation and is it at a comfortable temperature for the children?
Are all child care areas at the service free of cigarette smoke?
Is the service clean and uncluttered? Check the classrooms, toilets, kitchen, backyard, etc.
Are the walls, furniture, and equipment free of peeling paint and other safety hazards?
Is there at least one toilet and one sink for every fifteen children?
Are there separate toilet facilities for adults?
Make a decision:
  • • After your visit, go home and think about what you saw.
  • • Visit other services and compare what you saw at each of them.
  • • Think about your feelings when you visited each service.
  • • Call the service director or the Bureau of Child Care again if you have further questions.
  • • Be sure that the service you choose has a current license and meets your needs for location, hours, and cost.
  • • Go over the checklist for each service you visited before making the choice.
  • • Ask yourself: Would I feel comfortable leaving my child at the service.

For more information, call 311.