Quality childcare programs are in high demand these days. And because the demand is so high, the childcare industry has become big business. So big that its annual revenue is close to $20 billion, and there are about 21,000 childcare centers nationally that are run by nonprofit organizations with combined annual revenue around $13 billion. Oftentimes, when there is a lot of money to be made, corners tend to get cut and quality products and service suffers because of it. Let’s look at what makes a quality childcare program and the importance of keeping our children safe when parents are working.The Need for Quality Childcare Programs: Quality StaffOne of the most important factors in the success and quality of care in any program is the relationship between the children left in the care of the program and the staff members who work with these children. Every program whether it is a home based program, independently owned or ran by a nonprofit organization should have a process in place that screens and selects staff and volunteers who are best suited for their program and safe for your children.Every organization/agency that serves children needs to have a staff and volunteer screening process as part of their hiring practice as this greatly reduces the chance of child abuse. A quality childcare program will make sure that their staff are not a threat to the children that they serve; this may appear to be an obvious practice for any program but sadly, it is not. Quality programs will ensure that all of their staff, including any on-site cooks as well as any maintenance workers or custodians have been thoroughly screened and had background checks completed. This includes conducting and updating driver safety records. Having doing so, lets the parents know that the safety and welfare of the children are their highest concern.The Need for Quality Childcare Programs: Safe EnvironmentsIt is very important to know that the physical structure of any childcare program aides or hinders in the proper protection of the children that they serve. It should be the goal of every program to keep children from situations and circumstances in which they are at increased risk. A quality program should give you a tour of their facility and:
Their landscaping should provide unhindered visibility to open areas where children play outside.
The play areas are in the open and provide unhindered visibility from multiple locations on the grounds.
The program has secured areas not used for program purposes like closets, administrative areas and any kitchen area. The program should have windows installed in doors and closets; this ensures that staff are able to see if a child has gotten into and area and the child is unharmed. It also eliminates an area where a child can be abused or bullied.
These are just a few things that any quality program should have in place. It is very important to make sure that your child or children are in a clean and safe program while you are at work.The Need for Quality Childcare Programs: Policy and ProceduresMany quality programs have policies and procedures that ensure that the children are safe while in their program. There are some policies that you should be aware of and are required to sign off on. The program should have clearly defined policies and procedures for admitting and releasing children. Does your childcare program have clearly defined policies and procedures for monitoring which people outside of their program are allowed into the program building or on the premises?The childcare program that wants to provide quality care for your child or children should have a clearly defined policy and procedure for child pick up at the end of the day or special events. It could look like you have to provide a valid ID and sign a sheet before the staff releases your child to you. A well ran program will have a photograph of you or the designated person responsible for picking up the child.Child abuse is never an issue that any parent wants to have happen to their child or children but, it is an unfortunate reality. It is very important that the program has clearly defined policies and processes regarding investigating allegations or suspected child abuse. They must have clearly defined behaviors and violations that are reported to the appropriate authorities and have a designated contact person for questions and concerns about possible child abuse. A quality childcare program should provide all of their staff and volunteers vital information and training to assist them in the prevention and response to child abuse. The program should make all parents aware of these policies and processes as well as having parents sign off that they are aware of those policies.These are just a few things that you should be looking for when you are searching for a quality childcare program. Many parents are so focused on what kind of curriculum a program uses that they tend to overlook some vital areas of importance when it comes to quality childcare and safe programs. So, the next time you tour a childcare program; remember some of these key things that indicate whether or not you are evaluating a quality program.