Regulations vary from state to state and from center to home-based care. Providers and parents need to understand child care regulations and how they apply to their individual situation. Providers and parents need to use the system to improve the quality of child care for children and the working conditions for the child care providers. Each state has it's own regulatory agency which sets the rules for child care centers and homes in that state.
In most states child care centers and homes are required to meet "minimum standards" These minimum requirements are designed to insure that a child will survive in child care. Compliance with minimum standards does not insure quality childcare. It is left to parents and providers to go beyond minimum standards, work together, and offer quality childcare.
The best way to find out about state regulations is to call your state child care regulatory agency. Simply ask at a local daycare center for the phone number of the child care regulatory office. Your state may have its own child-care regulation department, but it is probably a part of The Department of Human Services, The Health Department, or Social Services. Ask the licensing department for a copy of regulations for the type of child care you prefer (center or home based). Ask if there is a licensing representative in your area. Talk to parents and providers, ask questions, take notes, and write down names and attitudes of people involved in the field. Deal with the same officials whenever possible. Let people get to know you are a concerned parent or provider.
Read and understand your state regulations. If you have any questions or need clarification on any point, call your licensing representative.
Child care centers have the option to become accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and home child care providers have the option to become accredited through the National Association For Family Child Care (NAFCC). To become accredited by either of these associations is a long process through which homes and centers meet national standards of quality as set forth by the relative association.
Whether a child care is accredited or not; parents must insist on quality care for their children. Parents must inspect the physical location for safety and livability. That is, how would you like to spend 8 to 10 hours a day there? Parents must put themselves in their child's position and judge how the world would look to their child after weeks or months of this child care situation.
Parents must also check the centers references. The center will offer to give you names of satisfied customers. Check them out; but don't stop there. There are several types of official checks that you can request of your child care provider or child care center.
Once you have located the regulatory agency which allows the child care to operate as a business, you can check the violation history of any particular child care. The value of a violation check will depend on your states regulations and funding. In some states, the child care centers may be well monitored by the regulatory agency. In others states, the agency may not have the funds to visit each child care on a regular basis. Parents must make the effort to become educated about implications of regulations in their state.
Your state regulatory agency should have on record all alleged violations committed by any specific child care you wish to check. Be aware, the number and type of violations will depend on how your state monitors the child care. If your state pays regular unannounced visits to child cares and combs through their paper work, you can count on even the best child care having a violation on their record. If child cares are left to police themselves, most child cares will have a clean record unless there were complaints filed.
Suspected violations are often considered confidential and may not be available to the public.Another type of check is the criminal history check. There are several levels of criminal checks, state and federal. It may be anything from a state check for crimes against the family to a complete state and federal criminal history check. If your provider has a criminal history check, examine the paper work to determine the type of check that was performed. In some states, all childcare providers are required to have some type of criminal history check processed.
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