Daily, parents are flooded with news articles about how to choose high-quality child care programs. With more women working than ever before, child care has become a top priority for many families. 71.5% of working women have children under the age of 18, which means parents need to find the best child care possible for their children.
Childcare.gov says, “You need a child care program that makes sure your child is safe, healthy, and learning. High-quality care between birth and age 5 can help make sure that your child is ready to start school.”
How to Choose the Right Child Care Program
Parents should choose a childcare program that is not only kind and supportive but also offers safety and security. With emergencies and natural disasters on the rise, it’s more important than ever for parents to research a child care center’s emergency policies, ask the tough questions, and participate in emergency protocols and procedures. Child care programs should have comprehensive emergency preparedness, response, and recovery plans for fires, floods, natural disasters, active threats, and emergencies.
Know what to expect when you send your child off to a child care program; ask your child care provider these 11 questions:
1. What Are Your Qualifications?
- Find out if childcare providers are CPR certified, and able to supply proper emergency medical care.
- Ask about provider and staff backgrounds in early childhood education.
2. Do You Have an Updated Parent Handbook?
- The parent handbook should be updated regularly throughout the school year with written emergency response plans, protocols, and resources.
- Providers should always send out the most updated copy of the handbook to parents, either by email or hardcopy.
3. Do You Have Plans to Communicate with Family Members About Emergencies or Disasters?
- Find out if the program uses a phone tree, Facebook, email, or text messages.
- Make sure the facility keeps an updated communication card for your child. It should include emergency contact information for a friend or relative outside of the area that will be able to receive messages for you.
4. Do You Perform Drills for Disasters that are Likely to Occur in the Area?
- Make sure emergency drills are performed routinely and in an age-appropriate manner.
- Ask how you can reinforce the lessons they are teaching by practicing these drills at home with young children.
5. Can You Calmly Execute Emergency Response Plans?
- Practice makes perfect. Ensure drills are conducted in a serious manner that tests out the emergency plans and increases the critical thinking ability of the staff.
- Make sure all of the child care employees, including substitutes and temporary staff, have practiced and understand your child care program’s emergency response procedures.
- Ask how often plans are tested and updated.
6. Are You In Touch with Local Preparedness Organizations?
- Ask if your child care facility has relationships with local emergency management, public health, law enforcement, and first responders.
- Find out whether phone numbers for these groups are posted throughout the building for all to see.
7. Do You Have a Safe, Designated Evacuation Spot in the Event of a Community Evacuation?
- Find out the exact relocation spot. Check to make sure it’s safe, secure, and easily accessible during an emergency.
- Practice driving there using several different routes if your preferred route is blocked off.
8. Are You prepared with Supplies (Non-Perishable Food, Water, Medical Supplies) for At Least 72 Hours for a Shelter-In-Place Situation?
- Find out if your child care program can keep children for longer than normal school hours.
- Make sure they keep your child’s medical records up to date. If your child requires urgent medicine, keep an extra supply at the child care facility.
9. Do You Have Post-Disaster Plans?
- Find out if the center has access to emergency funds and checklists for assessing the damage.
- Ask whether they have recovery plans to help families find temporary care in the event of a community evacuation.
- Find out if you can help get the program back to capacity by donating supplies or holding a community fundraiser.
10. How Do You Plan to Discuss Emergencies in an Age-Appropriate Manner with Children?
- Find out how providers plan to keep kids calm during an emergency. Will it be a hand-written note from parents, comfort toys and stuffed animals, or both?
- If your child has special needs, find out how providers plan to pay special attention to her during an emergency.
11. What are Your Policies for Closing?
- Find out if providers follow the guidance of the local school system.
- Ask when and who makes important closure decisions.
- Find out whether you will be informed about the program’s re-opening or if you have to reach out for updates.
Choosing high-quality child care can be a daunting task. Parents need to take into account everything from cleanliness, education, safety, child-to-teacher ratios, positive interactions, good health practices, age-appropriate activities, staff accreditation, licensing, and emergency preparedness. When visiting a child care program, print out our helpful flyer and don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. When it comes to caring for your child, you can never be over-prepared.
Download a PDF of Questions You Should Ask Your Child Care Provider About Preparedness and Emergencies flyer. You can also download the Spanish version.
Our staff at the Institute for Childhood Preparedness has decades of experience in early childhood education and emergency preparedness, response, and recovery. We can help bring your childcare facility up to capacity, and provide a customized disaster preparedness plan. Contact us today to find out more information.
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