Establish Your Priorities

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Every family has different child care needs. Correspondingly, every child care program offers a varying assortment of program options to consider. Your goal is to enroll your child in the program that most closely matches your highest priorities. Needless to say, physical and emotional safety are paramount in every parent's mind. However, beyond safety, there are a myriad of other options, choices, preferences and possibilities to consider.

To simplify the process, begin by determining what your highest priorities are. These priorities are the deal-breakers. The items on your list that are the top 3 or 4 things that a provider must offer. When you are absolutely clear on your highest priorities, it is easier, more time-efficient and less frustrating to narrow your choices of providers.

To help determine what is of utmost importance to you, here is a list of many of the most important options to consider.


Location is almost always one of the top considerations. It is wise to put careful thought into where your child's provider is located in relationship to your home, workplace or business or an older sibling's school and so on. Some may think the obvious choice is a facility closest to mom or dad's work. However, the real question is, which parent has the most regular schedule and stays in the same location for the most time. read more...


Location and tuition commonly run neck and neck for the top spot of most significant considerations. Each provider has their own tuition fee schedule based on their program expenses.

Your tuition will depend on your child's age. Infants and toddlers have a much lower provider to child ratio, and consequently, higher tuition fees. After age 2 the tuition fee begin to become more affordable as the provider to child ratios goes up.

Beyond the actual "tuition", be sure to ask if there are any additional fees while conducting your interviews. Additional fees can include; annual registration fees, required monthly Scrip Fundraising purchases, supply fees charged at regular intervals, field trips, Internet viewing charges, various late fees and so on. Extra-curricular activities will mean an additional financial commitment as well.

Tuition - plus - any additional fees add up to the real cost of your child care obligation.


Most child care programs operate from somewhere between 6:00am and 7:00am in the morning to 6:00pm in the evening. Full time tuition usually covers all the hours a provider is in operation. For part time enrollment, each provider will have their own hours offered within their full time hours of operation and tuition fee schedules to accommodate part time enrollment.


Will the facility provide meals or will you bring a sack lunch & snacks for your child each day? If your child is an infant, who will provide baby food/formula? Are there any food restrictions to consider? read more...

Provider to Child Ratio:

Your state licensing regulations will dictate provider to child ratio in your state. However, the National Association for the Education of Young Children recommendation is:

Age of Child Staff-Child Ratio
Birth to 15 months 1:3 to 1:4
12 to 28 months 1:3 to 1:4
21 to 26 months 1:4 to 1:6
2 to 3 years 1:6 to 1:9
4 years 1:8 to 1:10
5 years 1:8 to 1:10

To learn your state's licensing requirement on provider to child ratio, please visit our State Child Care Licensing Agency page. There you can obtain the website address and additional contact information for your specifics state's Child Care Licensing Agency.

Staff Turnover:

In a center situation, a stable, well-qualified and experienced staff is the mark of a quality program and best for the children. Programs operate at their finest when the staff is well established and are knowledgeable about the routine, philosophy and expectations of the program. Your child's experience will be optimum if their caregivers are firmly planted in the program and remain a constant in their experience. read more...

Provider Education and Qualifications:

Most states have minimum education and experience qualification requirements for child care providers. However, also in most states, Family Child Care Home Providers have no educational requirements imposed by state licensing.

Child care centers, on the other hand, are required to employ staff members who have completed college level courses in Early Childhood Education. Owners, Directors and other administrators have additional requirements beyond the caregiver requirements. Personnel holding administrations positions are also required to have completed Early Childhood Education courses as well additional administration courses. Each state has its' own minimum requirements.

Most states also require all providers to be CPR and first aid certified with annual re-certifications required. Our Telephone Interview Questionnaire reminds you to ask about these certifications while conducting your telephone interview.

All child care providers must also be fingerprinted by the state before they are able to work with children. The fingerprinting process enables the state to run a perspective caregiver through the national Dept. of Justice database.

To learn more about your state's educational and qualification requirements please visit our State Child Care Licensing Agencies page. There you can obtain the website address and additional contact information for your specific state's Child Care Licensing Agency.

Program Types:

There are a variety of program types and educational philosophies to consider. Here is a brief overview of many of the program styles and philosophies you will encounter while interviewing perspective providers:read more...

Educational Philosophies:

As you conduct your phone interviews you may have the occasion to talk with a director of a program with a specific educational philosophy. Those educational philosophies will likely fall under one of 4 philosophies. read more...

Extra-Curricular Activities:

Does the provider offer swimming lesson in the summer? How about computer, language or gymnastics/tumbling classes on site? Supplying optional extra-curricular activities and classes to children in child care programs is a cottage industry that affords many added opportunities that may be beyond the scope of the providers on staff.

Mostly extra-curricular activities are an added bonus but are not required to participate in. And while having private vendors offering extra-curricular activities can offer a convenience, there is an extra expense involved so you want to understand your obligation, if any, prior to enrollment.

Parent Involvement:

Usually there will be some type of parent involvement requested. Depending on the provider and their program, this can range from completely optional program events all the way up to significant involvement in the case of a parent cooperative.

This is an important question to ask up front. Parent involvement requirements can impact on your choice of provider contingent upon your availability during the day.


A child care provider who is accredited has applied for and received an accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. While accreditation is certainly a measured degree of quality in a child care program, only about 10% of programs are accredited nationwide. Consequently, there are many, many wonderful child care providers, whom are not accredited, that will serve your child very well.