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For working parents, finding reliable care for their children can be a tall order. Better Business Bureau advises parents to take plenty of time interviewing caregivers and visiting child care centers before settling on one.

Parents need to determine first what kind of care they need — full or part time, in-home or facility-based. Consider the location of a care center 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. However, it is up to parents to conduct thorough research and find care that is appropriate for their children.

Parents should ask about the staff’s training and experience, check play areas for appropriate child-proofing, and find out how the center handles medical emergencies. The quantity and age range of children in the center’s care may also be of interest.

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.

BBB tips for finding safe, trustworthy care include:

• Visit several facilities or caregiver and find out how staff are selected and what credentials they hold. 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 a day in a day care center or home before you enroll.

• 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.

Check a child care center’s BBB Business Profile by calling 573-886-8965 or visiting

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

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