Options for childcare are many, and choosing the right environment for your child can be a large and overwhelming task. There are opportunities from in-home care to centres to family centres, so evaluating each type of care situation and deciding which is suitable for your family probably took quite a bit of time and research. But after much research and discussion, you have decided to enrol your child in an early childhood learning care centre.
Now you must decide, how can I ensure that the early learning centre that I choose has the healthy environment I am looking for? Here are some questions to ask as you interview facilities for your child.
Do You Have National Law Approval?
This is a fundamental question, as providers cannot care for children unless they are approved under National Law in their state or territory. Nonetheless, it is a question worth asking. Requirements under the National Quality Framework include:
Appropriate educator-to-child ratios
Formally approved learning framework that supports each child's development and learning
Also, the National Quality Framework provides an assessment and rating system that informs parents of the quality of the early learning experiences that are being provided. Be sure to ask for this documentation during your visit.
What Are Your Rates?
Confirm that the rates you expect are the rates the centre will charge, specifically around extra fees. More or fewer days, early or late drop-off or pickup, and how and when fees and charges will be assessed are all concerns that a written policy should cover. It is important to understand how you will be charged before you enrol in any centre.
Do You Have Policies About Vacation, Sick Days, Holiday Hours, etc.?
Early learning centres may differ in how they approach illness and vacation. How long your sick child must recuperate before being allowed back at the centre. Be sure to ask if they remain open when schools close, especially if you have to work in those instances. Understanding the days-off policies is crucial to finding a centre to meet your needs.
What Is the Discipline Policy?
Understanding how inevitable behaviour problems will be addressed is paramount for finding the right child centre for you. You will want to ask about time-out policies and restorative discipline initiatives. You will want to watch the educators during your visit to see if they appear to be firm but fair and if they keep their composure during the inevitable tantrum or argument.
How Do You Communicate With Parents?
Some centres are more communicative than others. Imagine how much information you would like to have during the day, or at the end of the day, about your child's experience, and be sure that the centre you are considering can meet that.
Be sure to understand the emergency communication policy as well. What constitutes an emergency in their eyes? How will they attempt to contact you? What is the expectation in an emergency situation? Knowing the answers to these questions is imperative for your peace of mind.
What is Your Childcare Philosophy?
At the end of the day, you will want to be sure that your priorities and the centres are aligned. If your philosophies and theirs do not mesh, your experience will not be positive, even if everything else about the centre is perfect. IF you disagree with their discipline policy, you may be wise to take that centre off your list and concentrate on others you feel more comfortable with, even if they are less convenient in other ways.
Choosing the right child care centre is a huge decision for every family. Be sure to ask questions and get the answer that you need to make an informed decision that is right for your child.