Finding Quality Daycare Providers

What you Need to Know

Excellent sources of information on quality daycare providers are the recommendations of family, friends, and neighbors. Lists of licensed daycare providers may also be available from the local department of social services, daycare licensing offices, local schools, and community resource centers. While the large majority of daycare centers are safe, your children may still be at risk of sexual and physical abuse or exploitation regardless of whether the daycare center is small or large, high-priced or inexpensive, public or private, in the inner city or out in the country.

Visit prospective daycare centers, take a tour, and interview the daycare staff personally, observing their interaction with your children and the other children. Look for mature and responsible people who listen and respond well to your children and appear relaxed and happy with them. Also arrange to meet with other individuals who may have contact with your child, such as bus drivers, janitors, and relatives of the daycare personnel. When you have a list of possible daycare centers, check their references carefully. Contact the local police department and department of social services to determine if any reports have been made on the daycare provider.

While not a guarantee against daycare abuse, if you choose a larger center, it is a good idea to select a daycare facility that is licensed and that makes criminal history background checks on its employees. When you have chosen a daycare provider, the best way to get to know the staff and observe their behaviour first-hand is to involve yourself in some way in the activities of the center by volunteering to assist on field trips or special events.

The following is a list of specific recommendations that will help you choose a safe and secure daycare center and help reduce the risk of sexual and physical abuse and exploitation of children in daycare.

  1. Make sure that the daycare center is designed so that parents are fully free to come and go, with no requirements to call first and no areas off limits to parents. Daycare abuse and exploitation are far more likely to occur in facilities that have limited parental access.
  2. Make sure that the bathrooms do not contain areas where children can be isolated. Find out who takes the children to the bathroom, for what purposes, and at what times. Two thirds of all daycare sexual abuse and exploitation occurs during toileting.
  3. Make sure that there is proper supervision of the children during naps. Children may be more at risk of sexual abuse and exploitation during naptime because other children are sleeping and staff may be out of the room.
  4. Ask about the extent of education and training of all daycare personnel interacting with your children, and determine if they were screened for any criminal history in sexual or physical assault against children, emotional instability, or substance abuse. Be aware that volunteers or teacher's aides are not likely to have been carefully screened.
  5. Find out who will be interacting with your children in addition to the daycare provider and staff. Much of the sexual and physical abuse and exploitation associated with daycare centers occurs at the hands of individuals not directly involved in the teaching or child-care responsibilities: bus drivers, janitors, and relatives of daycare center providers. In 36 per cent of the cases examined by a nationwide study (USA) of daycare abuse, children were sexually molested by family members related to the daycare provider - mainly husbands or sons. Make sure that your child's contact with such persons is limited, and question your child closely about them.
  6. Discuss in depth with the daycare provider how the discipline of children is handled - who administers it, under what circumstances it is used, and what form it takes. Make sure to talk to your children each day about what happens at the daycare center, paying close attention to what punishments were used under what circumstances and any other incidents that make the child uncomfortable.