Transitioning to Day Care: A Guide for Keeping Your Kids Safe

It’s the moment you – and your child – have been waiting for. Making the move from at-home care to daycare is a big step, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. For many families, adjusting to this new transition can be challenging, but landing on the best child care for your little one is actually the bigger hurdle. 

There are an estimated 12.8 million children under the age of six in child care in the United States. And yet finding affordable and safe day care has become a significant challenge for working parents for three big reasons. One, there are fewer options available to choose from. 

Before the pandemic, the number of child care providers in the U.S. was already declining. Three years later and the problem is worse. Between December 2019 and March 2021, over 8,800 child care centers closed, and almost 7,000 licensed family child care programs ended. 

Years of low wages and lack of benefits have resulted in severe staffing shortages for child care programs. And many child care providers that temporarily closed during the pandemic, or had to lay off staff members, have not had the financial resources to reopen. Some that remain struggle to provide a safe, healthy environment.

Second, the cost is staggering. Child care for an infant in a licensed center now exceeds annual in-state tuition at public universities in 34 states. Over 50 percent of families spend more than 20 percent of their household income on child care. It is the most expensive household expense nationwide, costing families even more than housing. 

Third, there’s a lack of regulations and reporting requirements. Serious inconsistencies in licensing, enforcement, training, and staffing have created dangerous situations where thousands of kids are injured each year – some fatally – while in the care of others.

Fact: we keep far better statistics on pro sports in America than on deaths and injuries in child care settings. Regulations and reporting vary from state to state, and no federal reporting requirements exist for child care injuries and fatalities. 

How to Maneuver Multiple Crises in the U.S. Child Care System

The bad news: the U.S. child care system continues to experience multiple crises, with families finding it difficult to locate reliable, affordable child care. And although the cost is staggering, money means nothing if your child doesn’t come home safely at day’s end. 

So, what can you do to keep your child safe? If you’re trying to find a quality, licensed day care for your child, here are just some of the essential safety questions you should be asking before you send your child to day care:

  • What education, training, and experience do the child care provider(s) have? Are all providers certified in CPR?
  • Are the proper car seats, booster seats, and seat belts used if traveling? Is there a transportation policy?
  • Does the caregiver have current references from other parents that you can use?
  • Will the child go outside? How will they be supervised while outside?
  • What food will the child be eating? What is their nutrition and allergy policy?
  • Is the child ever given medication? How will that be distributed?
  • Is the center licensed or registered with the appropriate local government agencies?
  • What is the protocol for a medical emergency?
  • Is the location secure? Who is allowed into the area, and what is the screening process?
  • What is the staffing ratio of children to caregivers? What happens if staff are out for illness or vacation?
  • What types of training are caregivers required to attend before starting at the facility, and do caregivers have any continuing education?

Additional Steps to Take to Prevent Tragedy

There are a couple of additional steps you can take to prevent tragedy for your family. First, start early. No matter what type of services you’re looking for, getting a child into any day care facility often takes time. Use a cost calculator to understand better how much you may pay for child care. 

Second, research your providers by talking to referral agencies and ask about licensing requirements, complaints, violations, financial assistance programs, and more. Ask about adult-to-child ratios, group size, caregiver qualifications, turnover, and accreditation. 

Third, stay involved. You and the caregivers are partners now. Remain active in your child’s life at day care and consistently check in with the day care providers. If, heaven forbid, anything has already happened to your child and you wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.