Choosing a Day Care Center

In the 1950’s and 60’s, most mothers stayed home to raise their families while fathers worked. Today, most families need two incomes, and during the work week young children need supervision. Long Island has many options for day care facilities, but finding one that meets a family’s wish list and budget can be daunting. We’ve provided tips for choosing a day care with the help of our readers who provided input based on their experiences.

The best way to start a search is to make appointments to visit different sites. Meet the child’s teachers in advance if possible, and see the different classrooms. Look around. Is the room warm and inviting? How is it decorated? Also know the state laws regarding class size and student to teacher ratio, and check that they are enforced by the day care facility. Check New York student-teacher ratio state requirements here.

Long Island Mamas recommends bringing a list of questions along. An administrator’s answers will help families decide if a facility is right for them.

Questions to Ask
For all day care sites:

  • What is the cost of attendance?
  • What are the site’s hours?
  • What is the staff turnover?
  • What is a typical daytime schedule of activities?
  • Will teachers send home a daily report?
  • What are the security/safety policies?
  • How easy is it to gain access to classrooms? Who will be allowed to pick up a child?
  • What is the procedure in case of fire or other emergency?
  • Is the family responsible to pay for days that they are on vacation or that the child is ill?
  • On what holidays is the facility closed?
  • Can the child attend while presenting symptoms of illness? Which ones? What would prompt a call to the parent?
  • What vaccinations are required?
  • Is there someone on site that can administer medication with a doctor’s note?
  • Who exactly will take care of the child?
  • How/When are toys sanitized?

For infant care:

  • How are breastmilk or formula feedings handled? (Long Island Mama’s tip: it should be a two-person check system to ensure proper distribution).
  • How long do infants stay in their cribs? (Long Island Mama’s tip: it should be only for naps).
  • How often are diapers changed?
  • How many staff shifts will occur while the child is there?
  • Are wipes/diapers available? What happens if the supply of wipes runs out?

For toddler/older children care:

  • What is the discipline policy? How are difficult children handled?
  • What will the site do to help facilitate potty training?
  • Is there a policy on biting? What kinds of notification would both families receive?
  • How are meals handled? Will food be provided on-site? Can families send their own food? Are any foods prohibited?

Click here to view a list of every licensed day care facility in New York State along with any potential violations. Keep in mind that many day care facilities will have been cited for something, but the severity of the citation(s) will vary (a site that gets into trouble for not submitting their menus in a timely fashion poses much less of a problem than a place that leaves hazardous chemicals within easy reach of children). During the day care interview process, families can address any concerns regarding potential citations.

Ultimately, choosing a day care is a like buying a home. Families need to do their homework. They need to decide which factors are requirements versus which are negotiable, and choose a place where they and their child will feel comfortable.

Special thanks to Michelle Lepsis and Marybeth Febus for their assistance with this piece.

By Rachel Minkowsky

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One thought on “Choosing a Day Care Center

  1. Anonymous

    This article is fantastic and really includes all the resources that you need to make a decision. Thank you!

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