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Before deciding on a daycare call the licensing agency in your state to:

* Confirm that the daycare has a current license.*Remember most in-home daycare (done in the provider's home) do not need to be licensed in many states.*
* Ask if the daycare have had any complaints lodged against them.
* Ask if any disciplinary actions have been meted out to the daycare. State daycare contacts can be found here.

     When visiting a daycare provider don't be afraid to ask questions! Write them down and take them with you so you won't forget. Some questions to ask:

* What type of training/education does the staff have? Does the staff have certification and/or training in early childhood education?
* What has been the staff turnover in the past few years? (High staff turnover can be upsetting to kids).
* What is the daycare worker/child ratio? A common recommendation is one adult for every three infants or toddlers.
* Am I able to drop-in anytime? The provider should have an open-door policy and welcome parents at any time. If this is not the case investigate further.
* What is the daily schedule? Most providers should follow some type of schedule for the children. For instance, snacks/meals, story time, nap time, art time, etc., occur at basically the same time everyday. Most children thrive on routine and knowing what to expect.
* Can the provider supply you with references?
* Are any weapons kept on the premises?
* Will others be present besides the childcare workers? This is especially important for daycare done in another's home. Will the husband be home, friends of teenage children, etc.? You have a right to know who will be in contact with your child.

     When visiting a daycare provider, look closely at your surroundings and how the kids interact. Some suggestions on what to look for:

* Is the facility/in-home daycare clean? Of course, things will get messy with kids around but is it sanitary? Are safety precautions used? For instance, look for outlet protectors in the electrical outlets, gates blocking danger spots, household cleaners/products out of reach, and electrical cords out of reach.
* Is the outside play equipment in good shape? Examine the equipment for sturdiness, rust, protruding objects.
* Do the children seen occupied in their activities? Are they busy, active? If many of the kids are just standing around this could be a sign of boredom.
* Are the toys and materials used age appropriate for infants and toddlers? Does the television seem to be always on? Visit at different times to determine how much the TV is used. If the television seems to always be on this could be a sign that the kids aren't getting much other stimulation.
* Are there separate spaces for infants and toddlers?

     Most importantly - Follow your gut instincts. If something about the daycare makes you feel uncomfortable, listen to yourself and keep shopping around. Your instincts are usually correct.

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