Questions You Should Always Ask Potential Childcare Providers
If you find a childcare program that is well situated in relation to your home, is open at times that are very favourable to your schedule and offers rates that fall in line with the budget you set, you might think that the only thing left to do is to contact the director of the centre to enrol your child. Not so fast! Remember how it’s absolutely critical that you make the right decision with regards to the provider that you choose? It’s a decision that deserves more than a few minutes of consideration and once you find a childcare provider that appears to meet your needs, you need to dig a little deeper and see if that is the reality. The best way to get the information you need is to contact the childcare provider directly and ask them a series of questions, some of which we’ve listed for you below.
Don’t Say “Yes” Before Asking a Childcare Provider these Questions
If you’ve never been through the process before, it can be difficult to know what to ask. As childcare experts ourselves, serving the communities of Thornhill, Maple, Vaughan and Mississauga, we’ve been “interviewed” by hundreds of parents to date and are familiar with the questions that you should be asking. These include:
Do You Have a Valid Licence?
The Day Nurseries Act that governs childcare in Ontario states that any daycare centre that cares for more than five children under the age of 10 must have a valid license to operate legally. Many times a professional childcare program will display this information prominently on their website and at the centre itself, but if you don’t see any evidence that they have the required license, always ask!
What’s the Staff-Child Ratio?
This is key to determining whether a centre will be able to provide a high level of childcare, since if there are too many children in comparison to staff members, the staff won’t be able to give each child a sufficient amount of attention. For children that are 2 to 3 years old, there should be at least 1 staff member to every 5 children. For children aged between 3 and 4, one member of staff to every 7 children is acceptable and for 5 year olds this rises to a ratio of 1:12. However, these are the minimum ratios you should look for; the better the ratio, the more attention and personalized level of care your child will receive.
What is Your Staff Turnover Rate?
At nearly all daycare centres the staff turnover rates are much higher than in other types of workplace, with rates up to 40 percent considered to be relatively normal. However, that might not be the case at the childcare centre that you are interested in and it’s always wise to ask. Young children like continuity, so the lower the turnover rate, the better.
What’s Your Sick Policy?
There are a number of questions you need to ask about this particular topic. First of all, does the centre allow children to attend even when they are ill? If so, are they kept separate from the rest of the children? Will you have to pay for the days that they stay home while they get better? Many childcare programs won’t allow sick children to attend as they could potentially pass on their infection to the other children. If a centre does allow sick children to attend, make sure they keep them separate from the rest of the group; this can actually be a favourable policy since you will still have access to childcare should your child fall ill.
Do I need to Continue Paying While We’re Away on Vacation?
If you typically take several vacations each year, you need to know whether you will have to pay your childcare provider during that period. Don’t be surprised to hear a “yes” in response to this question, since places at a childcare centre are typically limited and they will not be able to enrol a new child for just a week or two to fill your place, while at the same time the centre’s costs don’t stop.
What if I arrive Late to Collect My Child?
Don’t just assume a caregiver will be “fine” should this happen. Some centres are more lenient under these circumstances, while others will charge you a set fee for every minute that you are late. If so, you need to know how much. The thing you have to remember is that the staff at a childcare facility have their own life and won’t be too thrilled if you are continually late.
What Curriculum Do You Follow?
Childcare is vital to your child’s development and it’s important to ask about the kinds of activities that they will participate in during their time at the centre. Ideally, the program should be varied, featuring physical, group and academic activities to ensure your child’s development is well rounded. Additional things to ask about include whether there are set times for meals and naps each day.
Can You tell Me About Your Policy for Discipline?
This is an extremely sensitive issue for many parents but something that needs to be asked. You shouldn’t enrol your child in a centre unless you are in agreement with the approach to discipline that they have in place. Make sure you are aware of what kind of behaviour will be punished and if you are unsure about anything with regards to this policy, ask either the centre’s director or another member of staff.
There are many more questions that you could potentially ask a childcare provider, but this list provides a good starting point and the information acquired after asking these questions is sure to help you decide which program to choose. If you have any doubts, would like any advice or wish to speak to a member of our team about the childcare program we offer, call either 905-764-9555 (Thornhill) or 905-270-4555 (Mississauga).