Daycare Doubts: Questions to Ask When Choosing Childcare

It’s one of the toughest decisions you will make as a parent. Choosing a babysitter or childcare provider can come with lots of questions, concerns and doubts. Let’s be honest, if you need a a babysitter, nanny or childcare provider than your child will most likely spend more time in their hands than in yours. You want those hands to be loving, caring and most of all safe and capable.

My 9-year-old started daycare at age three. To say I was nervous is an understatement. As a parent, you try to do all of the research and you try to ask all the right questions. There were days where the daycare seemed understaffed and many new faces would start working onsite, but I tried to not let it bother me.  It didn’t take long to figure out our choice was not a fit.

My son came home with an occasional bite mark and I would get a note or phone call from the daycare provider explaining the situation. It was the day he came home with three bite marks –  on his arm, shoulder and stomach – that I knew something wasn’t right. No note. No phone call. Her excuse was that she didn’t know how it happened and didn’t see it happen. That was his last day at that daycare. I should have went with my gut.

Recently, a local TV station produced an investigation on in-home daycares and the results were pretty scary to this mom. It found deaths at licensed daycares in the state of Kansas happen almost exclusively at in-home providers. A majority of those deaths were a result of strangulation, blunt force injuries or drowning.  

Rynekah Barbour, a child care facilities surveyor with the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment and she is a part of a team that reviews and inspects all county in-home facilities on an annual basis. The department performs an environmental inspection, reviews regulations, reviews all records, and provides education during visits with providers. 

Barbour recommends that parents should always go with their gut when choosing a daycare. 

“One of the best things to do is to check the online survey results through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment  (KDHE). Parents or the public can call our office if they are not sure what something might mean on the survey . . . go with your instinct or gut feeling. Even if a provider has a good compliance history on surveys, parents often tell us that they felt that something was not right if we are investigating a complaint or allegation later on.”

Barbour says the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment and KDHE provide many online resources to help parents, including a Guide for Parents, important questions to ask and things to look for, as well as resources for knowing the difference between a licensed daycare home and group daycare home – the state regulation for the number of children in each is different. 

Even if reviews and inspections are clear with any daycare you choose, accidents can happen – even in your own home. Jessica Earnshaw, Executive Director with Charlie’s House, recommends that parents ask if all furniture is strapped to the walls. 

Charlie’s House is a non-profit organization focused on safety in the home. It was started in honor of Charlie Horn, a 2-year-old Kansas City boy, who was killed when he attempted to climb a dresser in his home. Earnshaw wants parents to go into any home or daycare with eyes open – including your own home. Some things to look for are:

  • Are there animals? If so, make sure the pet food and water bowl isn’t sitting out at all times. This can be a choking and drowning hazard.
  • Do the kids have access to the kitchen area? They shouldn’t. If the do, it should be when no one is cooking and all lower cabinets and drawers should have locks on them. Including ovens and refrigerators.
  • Can the kids access the laundry facilities?  If so, make sure all laundry detergents, especially pods, are stored up and away at all times.
  • Is the day care provider CPR certified?
  • Are the toys age appropriate?
  • Are hazards removed from sleeping areas? Make sure there are not picture frames or any wall art above cribs or beds where kids will nap.

Even if you have heard all of this before, it’s a gentle reminder to always go with your gut when choosing who you leave your child with – whether it’s a babysitter, nanny, daycare provider or even a family member. mom’s intuition matters and it could save a life.

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