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Choosing the Right Child Care

Updated August 28, 2019

Audrey Rider

SDSU Extension Early Childhood Field Specialist

Finding a place/provider that will help be a “second parent” and have a major impact on raising your child can be frustrating and challenging at times. I want to give you a few steps to use when starting the search and offer resources to help find quality childcare for your child.

Step 1: Get started by checking all available resources.

  • Determine the different types of child care available in your area (family daycares, child care centers, school based programs, etc.),
  • Check with the Division of Child Care Services in your area for inspections reports for registered or licensed providers,
  • Ask your friends and co-workers, and
  • Check with school, community organizations, and churches.

Step 2: Call the provider to schedule a phone interview.

Some key questions to ask include:

  • Do they currently have an opening? If not, do they foresee an opening soon?
  • Are they registered or licensed?
  • How many children do they care for everyday? Does the teacher/child ratio meet the state recommended requirements?
  • What formal training/education and experience does each provide have currently?
  • What are the fees, hours of operation, holiday or other closure dates?
  • Can parents come and observe before placing a child in your care? What is the parental visitation policy?
  • Can you provide references?

Step 3: Call References.

Some questions to ask include:

  • Were you satisfied with the quality of care provided?
  • Were you satisfied with meals and activities?
  • What do you feel are strengths and weaknesses of this program?

Step 4: Set an appointment to visit the program site.

Staff to child ration and group size are very important to check. For mixed age groups the number of staff required should be based on the youngest child in the group.

Age Range: Ratios for Center Based Care in South Dakota State

  • Infants: (1:5)
  • Toddlers (up to 3 years): (1:5)
  • Preschool (3 - 6 years): (1:10)
  • School-age: (1:15)
  • Mixed age group: According to number in each group

Age Range: Ratios for Family Child Care in South Dakota State

  • All ages: (1:12) with no more than 4 children under the age of 2 years and no more than 2 of those 4 can be under the age of 1; provider's children under the age of 6 must be counted.

Above all else the environment should be safe!

Check for things such as:

  • Developmentally appropriate toys,
  • Developmentally appropriate activities,
  • Nutritious meals that meet the recommended guidelines,
  • Cleanliness,
  • A variety of indoor and outdoor activities, and
  • Amount and type of interactions between the caregiver and the children

For more information regarding child care options and to get a decisions and choices booklet with a detailed checklist contact Department of Social Services.

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