All states (and the federal government) in the United States have regulations for childcare providers. As with other parts of the government, these requirements are more or less stringent depending on the desires of the people within the state. Each state does have laws regulating the number of children under the watch of a single caregiver, however. Most of these regulations depend on the age of a child. For example, a state may require one caregiver per three infants but allow six toddlers before a second worker is needed.
These requirements may or may not apply equally to daycare facilities and in-home daycare. In-home daycare providers may have a little more slack when it comes to kitchen cleanliness, bathroom size, and even number of children for whom they can care. A fairly sizable number of in-home providers also do not have licensing. They simply keep children in their homes without worrying about the state issues. In many states, an in-home provider needs a certain number of children before the state considers them a full-fledged daycare provider and puts the restrictions on their activities.
That is not to say that in-home daycare is never a viable option. Many a grandmother keeps one or two children in her home for some extra cash, and these ladies are great caregivers for your children. It does mean, however, that as the parent you should be more diligent about your inspection of the facility and what you ask prospective caregivers.
For starters, ask if you can come by when there are children there. You want to see this person in action to know if you can trust him or her with your children. You also want to see how the other children seem to be enjoying themselves. Are they clean? Do they look like they are having fun? Do there seem to be enough toys and attention to go around?
Also find out about meals. Most in-home providers will offer snacks and lunch to your children. You should ask what these meals will be. One provider we talked to would give macaroni and cheese for lunch. As fairly health conscious people, we were unsure how that would work for our son. He has never had macaroni and cheese, and it certainly would not constitute an entire meal for him. You will need to make decisions about these kinds of issues before you decide to leave your child. Also ask about breakfast and supper as some providers include these meals at certain times as well.
Do not be afraid to ask for references. Remember that you are leaving your child with this person. Choosing the wrong person could have serious consequences, so you should be sure that you find out as much about the person as possible. You may even want to call neighbors to ask for opinions if you feel the diligence is necessary.
Find out how long the caregiver has been taking care of children. There is no single answer that works for this type of question. You may be happy with the grandma who raised five of her own children and now loves doting on her grandchildren. Or you may prefer someone who worked in a daycare setting. Still other parents want someone who has medical experience. That may be the case if your child has specific medical conditions and you need someone who will understand them.
Discipline is one of the most important topics you can cover with a potential daycare provider. While few childcare providers will say that they think spanking is okay, many do not count little pops on the hands or legs as spanking. If you are opposed to this type of punishment, then you should be upfront about that now. Watch for the provider reaction to get a sense of whether or not she agrees with you.
While you cannot avoid any problems with childcare providers, you can ask enough about in-home providers to feel reasonably confident that you are getting someone who will take good care of your child. Just be sure that you remain vigilant after you have selected someone. There is nothing to say that you cannot change after the first decision has been made. Keep an eye on what is going on, and you should be in good hands.