5 Steps to Selecting a Child Care Provider

Choosing the right child care for your child is important. Increasing evidence has emerged to show that children's learning opportunities in the years before kindergarten have an important effect on their performance in school and ultimately their ability to contribute to society as adults.

The Office of Child Development and Early Learning offers these five steps to assist parents in selecting the right child care for their child. Also, read below for 10 great reasons to select quality child care offered through a Keystone STARS program and to find a helpful checklist when considering child care providers.

Step 1: Contact Your ELRC

Early Learning Resource Centers (ELRC's) are the hub of child care information in your local area. ELRC's provide you and your family with information on quality child care and personalized child care referrals to child care providers based on your specific needs or preferences. ELRCs also administer the Child Care Works subsidized child care program. For all of your child care questions and needs, contact the ELRC for your local area or call the Child Care Works Helpline at 1-877-4-PA-KIDS.

Step 2: Interview Caregivers

Call first and ask

  • Is there an opening for my child?
  • What hours and days are you open and where are you located?
  • How much does care cost? Is financial assistance available?
  • How many children are in your care? What age groups do you serve?
  • Do you provide transportation?
  • Do you provide meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks)?
  • Do you have a certificate of compliance?
  • Other accreditations?
  • Do you participate in Keystone STARS?
  • When can I come to visit?

When you visit

What to look for:

  • Responsive, nurturing, warm interactions between caregiver and children.
  • Children who are happily involved in daily activities and comfortable with their caregiver.
  • A clean, safe, and healthy indoor and outdoor environment, especially napping, eating, and toileting areas.
  • A variety of toys and learning materials, such as books, puzzles, blocks and climbing equipment, that your child will find interesting and that will contribute to your child's growth and development.
  • Children getting individual attention.

What to ask:

  • Can I visit anytime?
  • How do you handle discipline?
  • What do you do if a child is sick?
  • What would you do in case of emergency?
  • Do you have a substitute or back-up caregiver?
  • Where do children nap? How do you ensure that babies sleep on their backs?
  • What education have you (and other staff) had? What ongoing professional development is available?
  • May I see a copy of your state certificate of compliance?
  • May I see a copy of additional accreditations?
  • May I have a list of parents (current and former) who have used your program?
  • What kind of parent involvement do you have?

Step 3: Check References

Ask Other Parents:

  • Did your child learn new things while enrolled in the program?
  • How did the caregiver discipline your child?
  • Did your child enjoy the child care experience?
  • How did the caregiver respond to you as a parent?
  • Do you feel that this program has helped prepare your child for school?
  • Would you recommend the caregiver without reservation?
  • If your child is no longer with the caregiver, why did you leave?

Research a Facility's History Online

Ask the Local Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC) or Certification Office:

  • What regulations should child care providers meet in my area?
  • Is there a record of complaints about the child care provider I am considering and how do I find out about it?

Step 4: Make the Decision for Quality Care

From What You Heard and Aaw, Ask Yourself:

  • Which child care should I choose so that my child will be happy and grow?
  • Which caregiver can meet any special accommodations for my child?
  • Are the caregiver's values compatible with my family's values?
  • Is the child care available and affordable according to my family's needs and resources?
  • Do I feel good about my decision?

Step 5: Stay Involved

Ask Yourself:

  • How can I arrange my schedule so I could…
  • Talk to my caregiver every day?
  • Talk to my child every day about how the day went?
  • Visit and observe my child in care at different times of the day?
  • Be involved in my child's activities?
  • How can I work with my caregiver to resolve issues and concerns that may arise?
  • How do I keep informed about my child's growth and development while in care?
  • How can I promote good working conditions for my child care provider?
  • How can I network with other parents?

Call 1-877-4PA-KIDS or your local Early Learning Resource Center for more information.

10 Reasons for Parents to Choose Quality Child Care

  1. School readiness Children in a quality setting will not only gain intellectual skills, but also social skills that will prepare them for the school environment.
  2. Attention — Lower staff-to-child ratios increase your child's individual attention while in care.
  3. Professional staff — A quality care setting includes staff trained to care for children and their needs.
  4. Good relationships — Quality care promotes a positive relationship between parents and the caregiver. Parent involvement is a priority.
  5. Opportunity — Age-appropriate learning materials and activities give children the opportunity to learn and grow.
  6. Respect — A quality program will be respectful of children's and parent's cultural, ethnic and special accommodations.
  7. Professionalism — A quality program will have business practices and policies in place so parents know what to expect in various situations.
  8. Safety The basic need of a quality child care setting is to ensure that the children in care are in the safest environment possible.
  9. Stability Parents have the assurance that their child is in a safe, positive environment without jumping from provider to provider.
  10. Participation Quality providers participate in accrediting programs (such as Keystone STARS), continuing to strive for providing higher quality early learning experiences.