At some point or another the majority of parents make the decision to put their child into a daycare facility. However exceedingly difficult, this hard choice comes out of pure necessity for each different circumstance. Daycares come in many forms. Some people run their child care business out of their home, other facilities are part of a larger chain of businesses. Location between home and work are important when picking the right facility. But it is trust that becomes surpassingly vital. Parents must trust that their child will be cared for emotionally, and physically.
It is not easy to talk about child abuse. And neglect out of laziness can be just as damaging. But it is the sad and unfortunate reality that it does happen, even to very young nonverbal children. However, there are signs to help parents make the right decision and avoid danger for their own, and hopefully protect other innocent children. Stay aware, stay informed, and trust your gut instincts.
15 Word Of Mouth
One of the first things anyone does before making a big decision is talk about their options. New parents can talk to friends and family, coworkers and acquaintances about the daycare facilities close by to work and home. It is natural for parents to collaborate about these things, people are usually happy to share their knowledge and experiences with other parents. This is one the best ways to narrow down a daycare search.
If a coworker talks about a daycare experience, ask for the whole story and listen carefully. Good, bad, and in between information is important to finding the right fit for a bustling family. One of the largest sources for childcare suggestions is social media. Mommy groups on Facebook, wall postings, and tweeting has changed the way we review many businesses in our area. Daycares are no different. Ask questions, leave comments, and take in what other parents are saying about the daycares in your area.
14 Double Check Licensing
Every accredited daycare should have an updated license. These licenses are in place to protect children from calamitous situations. So, if someone were to start a daycare out of their home, they would still need to meet the rules and regulations any larger daycare would need to meet. State officials check up on these facilities periodically to make sure every requirement is being met. Reports and license numbers can usually be found in a quick online search.
Licensing requirements typically warrant things like fire safety, food and nutrition standards, education, child-teacher ratio, cleanliness, and even parent involvement. No license, an expired, or a revoked license could spell unwanted trouble. Still, a license is not always a sure thing to a good daycare.
13 Take A Tour
Take a tour of all prospective daycares. It should never be a requirement to schedule a visit with any daycare. Show up and knock. The director of the center is the person that typically leads the tour. This is the person who has all the answers. Questions should be welcome. Don’t be shy.
During the tour take a chance to look at how clean they keep their daycare. Obviously, with children messes happen but within a timely manner, they should always be addressed. Observe how many children you see per teacher. Can you read their body language? Do the children seem stressed? What kind of signals are the teachers sending off? Ask the director about teacher credentials, daily routine, food, and how they handle scuffles between the children.
12 Assess The Cleanliness
In a daycare environment, it is so important for the children to be in a clean environment. When a parent takes that initial tour, they should pay attention to things like if the children are washing their hands. Ask what the routine cleaning looks like for that daycare.
This is a little more than just worries about tidiness. Concerns of E.coli are usually centered around children who visit daycare. Negligence in cleaning can lead to children getting the bacteria. In extreme cases, E.coli can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can lead to death. That kind of carelessness is not worth risking a child’s life.
11 Quality Of Food
Proper nutrition is one of the key building blocks to a child’s development. With so many different food allergies most child care centers have a limited menu. Though limited does not mean unbalanced or unsafe.
What to watch for are mostly food handling and food selections. All food should be stored properly and hands should be washed before and after preparing food. Just as the children should be washing their hands before and after eating. Food should be appropriate textures and sizes. Children with little teeth and children with all their teeth should have no trouble eating their meals. As a bonus parents, ask what they do if a child says they are hungry. That answer could be a swaying point.
10 Child To Teacher Ratio
Like many workplace settings and any normal classroom, daycares are usually at their limit when it comes to classroom sizes. One of the things stated over and over again in daycare child abuse cases is they were overworked and severely underpaid. Nothing will excuse bad behavior of an adult to a child. However, take a look and consider how well the teacher is handling the classroom. Are there children being unsupervised while the teacher aids another child? Is the teacher maxed out and checked out?
Many daycares not only have a strict teacher to student ratio, but they also have square footage guidelines to follow. All of these things should be taken into consideration before children are signed up for any daycare. And never be shy to ask questions. Open and clear communication from any room teacher is ideal.
9 Staff Credentials
Daycare is a great environment for many mothers returning to the workforce who have nurturing skills and a willingness to care for other people’s children. Life experience counts when applying to most jobs. But while on the tour, one should ask what kind of credentials the staff have behind each individual. Is there anyone at that daycare that has any formal training in early childhood education? How many teachers know CPR and feel comfortable with basic first aid? Does the facility offer classes and opportunities to have continuing education? What kind of values do they stand behind?
Some states require there be a ratio of staff that do have formal education. By no means does this mean that a person without papers behind their experience is an abuser. But one thing it does help create is an open dialog between parents and teachers.
8 Talk With The Staff
As the tour progresses the daycare director will show parents the potential room their child will be residing in and the room teacher will be introduced. Take this time to ask about experience and how long that individual has been working at that daycare or how long they have been in the field of childcare. Reading body language is a useful skill when interviewing anyone. When touring a daycare, parents essentially interview the staff to see if that will be a good place to take their children and invest their time and money.
A parent should look for open body language from the prospective teachers. The teacher’s arms should not be crossed tightly to the chest. Shoulders should be relaxed but not slumped, torso squared showing engagement and interest, if the connection is a good one gestures may mimic each other’s movements. Do the teachers seem suitably groomed for their role as a child care provider? Either dressed up too much or completely frazzled and dressed down can be indicators. Be aware.
7 Observe The Children In The Room
Another way to screen for any kind of neglect or abuse at a daycare center is to observe the child and teacher interaction while on tour. Do the children seem unruly or too behaved for their age? Do they show hesitation when approaching any of the teachers? Listen for laughter, look for smiles, watch for open body language that exhibits their feeling relaxed and safe.
Children can become completely unruly or draw within themselves when they feel stressed. It can be hard to observe much, especially from children that are you are not familiar with. Overall, parents will know when they see a happy environment.
6 Kids Being Under Stimulated
Children need stimulation to grow mentally, physically, and academically. Playtime is so important for a child’s social and emotional development. Daycare is a place children can spread their wings for the first time. They will learn how to solve problems on the playground and follow instruction during craft time.
If the daycare does not offer many activates for children it may be a sign of concern. Children become bored easily, without proper stimulation and structure they can become difficult and unmanageable. Also, between age appropriate activities a smooth transition from one to the next is important in helping children ease into each designated activity. Too quick of a transition can make children anxious.
5 Age Appropriate Structure
Some daycare facilities go the other end with structure and stimulation. Instead of not enough they give too much. Make sure the activities available are age appropriate and they are not setting children up for failure and emotional strain. Ridged environments can cause stress and mental trauma.
Listen for harsh words or displays of dominance coming from any of the staff member toward the children. Parents should compare their own child’s progress to that of the children in the class. It could be tempting to look at a strong focus on academia at a very early age as positive. But every child is different and making high demands too young and too quickly is not necessary if those structures do not fit that child.
4 Visitors' Rights
Just like showing up for a tour, parents should be allowed to show up and see their child at any time during the day. Some parents like to spend lunch together, some will show up on special occasions like birthdays, or a fun surprise. Many facilities have a code locked entrance and only parents and people on their child’s sign out list know the code. For less advanced daycares there is usually a person checking ID.
If the daycare does not allow visitors during the day this is a red flag that they are hiding something that may not in the best interest of the children placed in their care. In turn, allowing anyone to come off the street without the proper papers filled out with their name on it, and without proof of ID is negligent, too.
3 Physical Signs
No matter how investigative parents are, sometimes abuse will actually happen to children they know and love. Abuse can show itself physically. It will leave a story with bruises, welts, and cuts. Bruises on a child’s upper arm, thigh, and butt are signs of discipline going much too far. Staff should never lay a finger on any child in their care. Urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and sexually transmitted diseases are cause for immediate action. Soreness and itching around genitals are also signs of sexual abuse.
At any time a child returns home after a day at daycare and they have any kind of physical marking, it is the parent’s job to ask questions and expect a good answer. Never be afraid to ask tough questions. Never be simply pacified if questions and answers don’t match up. Never be afraid to get authorities involved. And seek medical attention for the child immediately.
2 Change In Baby's Behavior
In some cases children withdraw into themselves and parents must rely on non-verbal behavior to tell them if something is wrong. Young children with limited to no verbal skills are particularly hard to read but that is where gut instinct takes over. In older children, regression can start to happen. Signs such as thumb sucking, bed wetting, and night terrors are cues that something could be amiss, and at the very least the child is feeling a lot of stress. Some children will start to mimic sexual gestures either with themselves or during playtime with their toys, this is a red flag of sexual abuse.
Children who do not have the ability to communicate with their words can be much trickier to understand when something is wrong. If they begin to show fear or anxiety toward the daycare or even a particular staff member, it is cause for concern. If they become abnormally quiet or abnormally unsettled, that is cause of concern, too.
1 Kids' Stories
4 year old children love to chit chat. Family dinner can be hard to come by on busy days. But it is important to give children an opportunity at the end of the day to share their day with the people who love and protect them. Giving them a safe space to talk about the details of their day generates trust.
If a child starts talking about something that seems too heavy for their age that should be a cue to dig a little deeper and ask questions. Children are extremely observant and will pick up on many details throughout their day. If a child voices concern about going back to daycare or being under the care of a particular care taker, listen. If the child divulges that they are being harmed or touched in any way these words should be taken very seriously. Children often do not lie. A child’s mind may skew people and places using imaginary characters that they feel more comfortable explaining uncomfortable feelings or experiences. In some cases, a child phycologist may be needed to intervene.
Sources: ChildCareAware.org, MayoClinic.org, DayCareAbuse.com, TheFamilyDinnerProject.org, ChildDevelopmentInfo.com