Choosing a child care center is one of the most important decisions that a working parent will make to help ensure the health, safety, and overall well being of their child while they must be away from them. Thousands of children are treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained at child care centers or childcare homes each year in addition to those instances of abuse or neglect. Sadly, some of those children will lose their lives.

Some precautions can be taken t help ensure that a child will be properly cared for while a parent is at work.

The first question a parent should ask is whether the childcare center or childcare home has an open door policy. If the answer is no, that provider should not be selected. Next, a parent should ask the potential provider whether they have been licensed by the state's childcare licensing department to operate a childcare center or home and whether the certification is current.

Check to see that staff has been trained on bloodborne pathogens. With diseases like AIDS, Hepatitis B, etc., and anti-biotic resistant strains of various infections, make sure childcare staff always wear plastic gloves when changing diapers and administering first aid, and that gloves and diapers are disposed of in a separate trash container labeled bodily fluids'. All trash cans should have plastic bags inside and locking lids. All trash should be taken out at the end of every day.

Parents should not be afraid to ask to see the license and most recent inspection date.

Find out how many infants, toddlers, and older children they are licensed for and how many children are currently being cared for. Make sure the staff has had a background check by the local police department and the state investigative agency. Health and Human Service agencies and local police departments will usually submit a request for a background check on a parent's behalf for a nominal fee.

To ensure their child's safety parents should make sure that tables are wiped down with warm soapy water after meals and that other cleaning material that may be more toxic are only used to wipe down tables, cupboards, and bathrooms after the child care center or home is closed for the day and is followed up with a secondary wipe down with just hot water. Also, look around and make sure electrical outlets that have safety covers in place to keep children from sticking things into the sockets and getting shocked.

Outdoor play areas should contain equipment that is of a proper height for younger children to minimize the danger of getting injured by a fall.

Check to see that there is ample room between pieces of equipment, that the play area is completely enclosed with a locking gate, and that there are no splinters, jagged wires, etc. children could get hurt on.

Find out if the staff goes outside with the children to supervise and oversee their safety and wellbeing. If possible outdoor play areas should have a thick covering of wood chips or soft rubber matting under equipment to soften a fall. (The wood chips or rubber matting is helpful but not required as they can be an expensive purchase, especially for a private childcare home). Large childcare centers should keep playground equipment and things like trikes that are used by older children separated from equipment for children under five.

A fire and evacuation contingency plan, a floor plan, and emergency contact numbers should be posted on a wall or a bulletin board where they can be easily seen if needed.

Depending on the area of the country a parent lives in, providers should have a plan for tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. Ask staff if children are talked to about what to do if there is a fire on-site and if fire drills are scheduled regularly.

How a childcare provider stores medication is also important for the health of all children. Parents need to ask the provider how they store medication that has to be kept cold, if there is a first aid kit that includes ipecac, and if medication is kept in a locked cabinet or box and stored out of the reach of children. Ask to see the dates on first aid supplies and where the medication is stored.

Related links