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Choose the proper tools to find your child's best school: a parent's guide to selecting child care

Strap on your tool belts and hard hats ladies and gentlemen because the task as hand is hard work! When it comes to building the proper environment for your bundle of joy, choosing the right child care provider can be a challenge.  But when armed with the proper tools this doesn't have to be such a daunting task. 

The first tool you will need in your arsenal is a scale.  Weigh the pros and cons of  choosing a home daycare versus a child care center.  A home daycare allows no more than 6 children per childcare provider.  A childcare or daycare center should have a child to teacher ratio of 1:4, meaning one teacher per every 4 babies under the age of 2 years and 9 months.  After the age of 3 that ratio jumps to 1:10.  For more information on choosing a childcare provider go to www.infoline.org or call 2-1-1.  This is Connecticut's free referral service providing residents with the most current information on child care.  Write down and research ones that sound appealing and check with the  Connecticut Department of Public Health to make sure there are no complaints against them by calling (800) 282-6063.

Next thing to pull from your tool box is a compass to direct you to the schools you have chosen, and a magnifying glass to search for important documents. According to State of Connecticut guidelines, each childcare facility must have posted an emergency exit strategy in each classroom.  A framed legal paper from the State of Connecticut is also necessary when choosing the proper provider because according to state law everyone who cares for children must be licensed.  For the most current list on who is licensed and who is exempt, go to www.ct.gov/dph.

Get out your level-head and list of questions to ask the director when scheduling an appointment.  You want to be sure to maintain a clear mind when touring so as not to be easily enamored by the bright lights and cute toys.  Asking questions about the school's philosophy, discipline policy, safety procedures, and activities offered will help you gain a better understanding for the type of program they run.

Keep your child's needs in focus with your safety goggles and make sure the teachers are properly trained in Infant and Child First Aid and CPR.  Get out those work gloves and scrapers to dig beneath the surface and get down to the nitty gritty items that are so important.  Things to investigate are time-out policies, teacher turnover rates, and cleaning procedures.  In this day and age of H1N1 and other viruses so easily spread in daycares you want to be sure your facility is on track with regular thorough cleaning and disinfecting procedures to limit the spread of germs.

Finally, schedule a day your child can visit with you to ensure they are comfortable with the child care provider. With the proper tools and a well thought out plan you can find a great school that is just right for you and your child.  So break out that tool belt and hard hat.  Ready, set, build! 

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