BBB Tips: Consider needs when choosing child care provider

One of the hardest and most important choices working parents can make is deciding who will care for their children while they're at work. Parents should take plenty of time to find safe, reliable child care that suits their children and schedules.

Working parents need to know that their children are safe and secure so they can give their full attention to their jobs. Finding good day care can be time-consuming, but BBB has tips that can make the job a little easier.

Parents need to determine first what kind of care they need: Full- or part-time, in-home or facility-based. Consider the location in relation to your home and work, the hours, cost and educational opportunities for the children.

Recommendations from family or friends can be helpful, and government agencies or industry organizations also can be a source of information. Child Care Aware of Missouri provides information on child care resources throughout Missouri. However, it is up to parents to find care that is appropriate for their children.

BBB offers Business Profiles on a variety of child care facilities. These profiles include a rating from A+ to F, Customer Reviews, and complaints against the facility.

Parents need to take time to visit facilities, ask about the staff's training and experience, and find out how the center handles medical emergencies. Children may be spending a large part of their waking hours in a day care setting, so it's important to find out what kinds of education or stimulation may be offered to help your child develop.

The BBB has the following tips for parents seeking quality child care:

Visit several facilities or caregivers, and find out how staff are selected and what their credentials are. What is the staff-to-child ratio? How are children grouped, such as by age or stage of development?

Ask whether the facility is licensed by the state or local community and whether it carries appropriate liability insurance.

Ask about safety procedures and how an accident might be handled. What will happen if your child is hurt or becomes ill while at the center? Will you be called or notified before you arrive to pick up your child?

Ask about fees and payment deadlines. Is a deposit required, and is it refundable? Are fees charged if a parent is late picking up a child? Are there extra charges for any activities? Are meals and transportation offered? Is financial assistance available?

Ask about the balance between structured and unstructured activities. What happens during naptime? How are babies put down for naps, and how often are they checked when sleeping? What if your child can't go to sleep?

Make sure the center or day care home is clean, with enough space for children to play and adequate safety equipment.

Call at least three parents whose children are enrolled in the program to discuss their experiences.

Ask if your child can spend part of the day in the day care center or home before you enroll. Discuss the experience with the caregiver or center personnel.

Be alert to your child's reaction and behavior. Allow plenty of time for adjustment, especially in the first day or first week at the center. Call or visit the facility once your child is enrolled to find out how the child is doing and to establish rapport with the staff.

Michelle Gleba is the Mid-Missouri regional director for Better Business Bureau.