A PROJECT OF THE County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency


More and more children are spending time each day in some type of child care setting. All children -- especially infants and toddlers -- need a child care setting where they can thrive with caregivers who understand how to promote their healthy growth and development. It is important to remember that child care can be provided in different settings, including: child care centers; family child care providers (in your home or theirs); or the home of a family member. Here are a few simple guidelines for selecting a quality child care provider:

1. Use your resources

Ask your friends, family members and co-workers who they depend on for child care. Also, you can call a child care referral service (listed below).

2. Visit each child care provider and ask questions

Ask a few questions over the phone, but visit each child care provider that you are considering. Make sure the provider has a warm, clean and safe environment with experienced caregivers or teachers. Be sure to find out:

  • If the child care center or family child care home is licensed, which means that it meets basic health and safety standards. Also ask whether it is accredited, which means that it meets quality standards above basic licensing requirements.
  • Are the caregivers trained in CPR, first aid, and early childhood education?
  • Is the environment sanitary and safe?
  • Hours, fees and vacation schedules
  • Discipline methods used
  • Activities and play that contribute to the child’s overall intellectual and physical development
  • Feeding and sleeping schedules
  • The number of children per staff member
  • Rules about sick children at the center or home

Ask for a schedule of weekly or daily activities and a written copy of the child care provider’s rules.

Ask the provider if parents are allowed to visit anytime during the day.

3. Check references

Ask every provider that you are considering for a list of past and present references and call each one. Ask references specific questions such as, “What things do you like about the center?,” and “What are some things that you don’t like about the center?” If they are no longer using the child care provider, ask why.

4. Take your child to the provider for a visit After you have narrowed your decision down to one or two providers, take your child to each provider’s home or center to see how your child reacts to each caregiver and the environment. While your child may be shy at first, your child should show an interest in activities and surroundings. You also want to observe how the providers interact with your child and other children. Do the children seem happy? Are they comforted when needed?

These are just a few ways you can ensure your child receives quality care. By taking the time to ask questions and do your research, you will find a child care provider and environment that best meets your child’s needs.