As more and more parents are expected to return to work quickly after having a child, the need for good quality daycare services is increasing. In fact, almost 30% of all children under the age of five are now in daycare programs, while their parents work full or part time. Daycare can be an excellent childcare option for your child, helping to encourage intellectual, emotional, and social development. But choosing the right daycare isn't always an easy task. Here are some tips on how to be sure that you choose quality child care that is right for you and your child.

Determine Your Needs
Before you can go about choosing a daycare, you need to determine exactly what your needs are. You may need to consider finding a daycare facility that is close to work or home or one that is open during specific hours. You may also need to find a daycare facility that has special expertise to care for your child if she has special needs. Most importantly, you will need to determine the type of daycare that you are interested in having your child attend. The most common types of daycare facilities include:

  • Home Daycare: Home daycare is run out the of the home of your daycare provider. These daycare facilities can look after a maximum of twelve children and do not need to be licensed by the state. Home daycare is often an inexpensive daycare alternative and can provide your child with a lot of one-on-one care.
  • Facility Daycare Centers: Facility daycare centers look after larger groups of children (generally more than 12). These centers need to be licensed by the state in order to operate. They typically employ trained staff and have a more structured environment.
  • Corporate Daycare: Corporate daycare centers are those centers that run out of your place of employment. These centers provide quality daycare for children of employees.

Know Where to Look
Once you have determined what you and your child need out of a daycare program, you can begin your search. When looking for a quality daycare provider, be sure to:

  • ask family and friends
  • check online or in the telephone book
  • check with national childcare associations, like the National Association of Family Childcare (these organizations have a listing of all licensed and accredited daycare programs).

Know What To Look For

It is important to be aware of all the features that you should be looking for in a quality daycare. Also, take the time to interview all of the staff at each daycare facility, as well as to go for a visit with your child. Here are some of the important factors to consider when choosing a good quality daycare.

All child care centers that have 12 or more children need to be licensed by the state. This ensures that the daycare program has met all minimum health and safety standards. Every daycare should have their license posted, or be willing to show the license to you, on demand. But licensing isn't necessarily a sign of good quality daycare. To ensure that your child is getting the best care and stimulation possible, look for an accredited daycare facility. Accreditation is awarded by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Accreditation involves several stringent examinations of the child care facility, its workers, and its curriculum.

Qualified and Caring Staff
It is important that your child's daycare facility has a qualified staff that truly cares about the emotional and physical wellbeing of the children whom they care for. Check that all child care providers have had a criminal record check. Also, ask what kind of training each staff member has. Some states require that daycare providers have at least two years of college training in early childhood development. However, this is not required in all states. Additionally, ask if every staff member is knowledgeable in CPR and first aid.

Clean and Safe Environment
The environment of your daycare facility is of the utmost importance. Daycare facilities should be clean and tidy, and must meet all safety standards. Check to see that there is enough room for the children to move around and interact. Also look for an outdoor play area where your child can get some exercise. Check that there are enough toys to go around and make sure that all equipment is in good condition. Don't forget to ask about meals and sleep arrangements, too.

Discipline Policy
Be sure to ask the daycare director what the discipline policy is. Look for a center that has a discipline policy that is similar to your own. Policies vary, but may include positive reinforcement and guided redirection.

Happy Children
Above all, make sure that the children in the daycare center look happy and occupied. Look and see if any children are left out or have nothing to do. Do any kids seem bored or sick? If so, than this may not be the right place for your child. Also be sure to watch how the staff interacts with the children. Are there enough staff members to go around? Be sure to bring your son or daughter to the daycare for a trial run once you have checked it out.

Before You Sign Up
Before you sign your child up for any daycare facility, there are a few other things that you may want to enquire about:

  • Hours of Operation: Consider when the daycare facility is open. Ask whether or not it will cost you extra if you are late when picking up your child. Most daycares aren't open during the holidays, so consider this if you need to work through holiday periods.
  • Drop Off / Pick Up Policy: Be sure to find out what the daycare's policy is on drop offs and pick ups. Centers should also ask for photo ID when a child is being picked up and should only release a child to a legal guardian or authorized adult.
  • Prices: Day care costs can vary greatly from city to city, and state to state. Be sure to find out how much your daycare charges for a year's care. Costs can range from $3,000 to $15,000 per year. Some states offer financial aid for those parents who qualify.