The staff is the foundation of a quality child care program. Quality child care providers have backgrounds in early care and education or child development that help them understand children’s needs and how they can help them grow and develop. When you pursue child care options, look for staff who enjoy caring for young children and respect the child’s development and learning.
This includes staff that:
- Nurture, talk, and listen to the child
- Use a respectful tone of voice and sit or kneel down on the child’s level to interact
- Celebrate the children’s new skills
- Talk to you on a regular basis about your child’s development and learning
A quality child care environment is inviting and warm, as well as safe, organized, and clean. The learning environment should offer your child the opportunity to play in many different ways to help them learn to solve problems, make decisions, and practice new skills. Both the physical and emotional environment supports a child’s play if it is a quality learning environment.
- A quality physical environment provides fun, hands-on activities, including:
- A play area with age-appropriate toys, books, blocks, and art supplies
- Opportunities to play outside
- Musical activities where children sing, play instruments, dance, or listen to music
- Activities that encourage children to use their five senses: touch, feel, smell, see, and listen
- A quality emotional environment is welcoming and the children’s behavior is guided in a positive way, including:
- Staff that praise the children when they share, help one another, and work together
- Staff that explain the rules in a simple, positive way
- Staff that comfort children and help them express their feelings when they’re upset
- No physical punishment is allowed
3) HEALTH & SAFETY
A quality child care program has standards and policies in place to keep the children and staff healthy and safe. In Alabama, licensed child care programs are inspected annually to ensure they meet the state’s minimum standards for the health and safety of children in child care. If your child care program is not licensed, find out if it meets the following health and safety standards.
- Fire & Health Inspections: Licensed child care programs must submit an inspection report by the fire department and the health department to the Alabama Department of Human Resources. If a child care program is not licensed, you can request proof to ensure the facility has received a fire and health inspection with no violations.
- First Aid & CPR Training: Licensed child care programs must have written documentation of a current First Aid certificate and a current infant-child, pediatric CPR certificate for at least one staff present at the center during hours of operation.
- Emergency Procedures: Licensed child care programs are required to establish evacuation plans in case of a fire, tornado, serious accident or injury, or power failure and post the plan in a conspicuous place in the center.
- Staff-to-child ratios: Research shows when the group is smaller, it decreases the chance of injuries and illnesses and it increases the positive interaction between staff and children. Licensed child care programs must meet the state’s staff-to-child ratios, which is the maximum number of children one caregiver can be responsible for at a time. Alabama’s current staff-to-child ratios are:
0–18 months = 1 staff to 5 children
18 months – 24 months = 1 staff to 7 children
24 months – 36 months = 1 staff to 8 children
2 ½ months – 4 years = 1 staff to 11 children
4 years – school age = 1 staff to 18 children
4) PARENT INVOLVEMENT
Developing a good relationship with your child care provider will create a good support system to promote your child’s development and learning. Quality child care programs will have staff members who keep you informed about your child’s day, but you can also make sure they maintain quality care for your child.
- Keep talking with your child care provider. Discuss your concerns and make sure you’re happy with their answers.
- Keep talking to your children. Ask them how their day went, what they did, who they saw, or if anything special happened. If your child doesn’t want to go back, try to find out why and follow up with their caregiver.
- Report your concerns. If you see anything that may affect a child’s health or safety, contact the Alabama Department of Human Resources:
- Report a complaint against a child care provider by contacting the Child Care Services Division at (334) 242-1425 or 1-866-528-1694 and request to speak to Child Care Intake. Complaints that are violations of the Minimum Standards for Day Care Centers and Nighttime Centers will be investigated by the Department.
- Report child abuse or neglect by calling (334) 242-9500 or visiting DHR’s website for county contact information.