When searching for good child care providers, it is important to first do your research. You can do this online, by talking with your friends, or by going to libraries and reference book stores. If possible, try not to bring your child with you on the initial visit so that you can question him or her, be more observant, and concentrate on finding out what exactly you want to learn. (see my article on “characteristics of good child care.”)

Most parents who have young children find good child care providers by word of mouth. Ask your friends and family about their options, and then do some of your own research. There are many part-time daycare centers for children; some are for-profit, others are not. Check with local business associations to find out if any of them might be a good option for you or your children. Be sure to keep your children’s ages in mind when speaking with managers and employees.

For those part-time care providers that are for-profit, the company will have its own policies and procedures regarding their hiring practices. Be sure to check these out and ask any questions that you have before signing any contracts. Some companies will require that you take a background screening test and a drug test (as well), and some will not.

There are other ways of finding good child care options, too. For those parents who can afford to go into a more expensive private facility, there are many services and toys that are specifically aimed at infants and toddlers. These can include baby gates, high chairs, mobiles, teething rings, sling seats, and toys that encourage babies to sit and stay down. Look around for these options, even if it is not within your budget, as the parents of older children may not need all the special toys, but having these toys can be very helpful.

It is also important to remember that finding good child care centers does not have to be done during the first visit. Some facilities wait until the infant has reached between one to two years of age before they begin looking for caregivers. Others look into your home and your past history of taking care of small children before scheduling an appointment. Scheduling an appointment as soon as possible is your best bet for getting a reservation. Even if you are not interested in the center before the visit, your new provider may ask you questions that you may not feel comfortable answering during the first visit, so having a little information ahead of time can be helpful.

Finding child care and day care centers that are right for you and your family does not have to be expensive, especially when compared with some options. Talk to your friends, read reviews online and check with your local Human Services Department to find out if there is any available financial assistance. There are many government programs that offer financial assistance for families who are low income and cannot afford daycare. Look into your social security number and/or contact the local Child Care Association for more information on funding options.