Questions Parents Should Ask and What To Look for in a Provider

Provider Background

  • What is the experience, training, and qualification of the childcare provider?
  • Is the provider regulated? (County Certified-Provisional/Regular, State Licensed or Group Center)
  • Is the Provider trained in CPR/AED or early childhood education?
  • Is the Provider tuned in to what is going on in childcare (nutrition, child development, needs of children, positive behavior guidance)?
  • Are there names and numbers for reference checks?
  • Does the provider use additional caregivers, substitutes or volunteers?
  • Who arranges back-up care if the provider is unavailable? Do they have and ER contact person listed for emergency situations?
  • Will the same provider and/or staff member care for my child everyday?
  • What is the turnover rate of children and staff?
  • Does the provider carry renter or home liability insurance? (This is not required for in-home certified providers, but is strongly suggested).
  • What are the ages and maximum number of children in care?
  • How long has the provider been in business?
  • How long does the provider plan to remain in the childcare business?
  • Does the provider have full-time and/or part-time enrollment?

Business Policies

  • What are the daycare fees?
  • Do I pay in cash or by check?
  • Do I pay in advance or at the end of the week?
  • Is the fee fixed or flexible?
  • Do I pay for overtime if I pick my child up late?
  • Do I pay for days my child is on vacation or sick?
  • Do I pay for the provider’s sick days/vacation days?
  • Does the provider provide transportation to/from the local school?
  • What are the hours of operation?
  • Do the hours/fee change during summer months?
  • Is childcare available on school holidays?
  • When will my child not be allowed to attend childcare (due to sickness)?
  • Is there space to isolate sick children?
  • What are the policies regarding emergencies?
  • What is the policy on terminating care of a child?

Parent Involvement

  • May I observe the program before and after enrollment?
  • Are surprise visits by parents encouraged?
  • May I partake in activities (birthday parties, picnics, and fieldtrips)?
  • Are parent ideas welcome?
  • Are there ways for parents to get involved in the childcare program?

Space and Safety

  • Is there adequate indoor and outdoor space?
  • Are all areas of the home clean?
  • Where do the children nap/sleep?
  • Does the provider have adequate items (high chairs, baby gates, cribs, pack/plays, toys)?
  • Is the home safe for children (stairways protected, outlets covered, and poisons out of reach)?
  • Is the outdoor play area safe?
  • Is it fenced?
  • Can the provider see the whole area of the yard at all times?
  • What kind of play equipment is available?
  • Can my child bring toys from home (special toy, security blanket)?
  • Do caregivers always wash hands after diaper changes, blowing noses, and before handling food?
  • Are medications handled safely?

Daily Activities

  • What is the typical day like for the children?
  • Will I receive a daily report on my child and his/her activities?
  • Does the daily schedule allow for free time and planned activities?
  • Is there a daily balance of playtime, story time, activity time, and naptime?
  • Where are these activities located?
  • Where is the sleeping area?
  • Where are children allowed to play in the house?
  • Is there a comfortable and restful area for naps?
  • Is there sufficient quite times?
  • Are there outdoor and indoor activities?
  • Does the provider plan activities like nature walks, bus rides or field trips? (The provider must receive your permission in writing to do these things with the children.)
  • How are children transported?
  • Do they have a child vehicle safety alarm installed in the car (Required for 6-passenger seats or more)?
  • What are the limits on watching TV?
  • Are there music experiences?
  • Are activities appropriate for my child’s age/ability?
  • Are there enough play and educational materials?
  • Are they within my child’s reach?
  • Does the program keep up with the children’s changing interests?

Special Needs

  • Will the provider be able to meet my child’s special needs? (Nutritional, medical, developmental, cultural, religious needs).
  • What are the children fed during the day?
  • Does the provider have a planned menu to view each week or month?
  • Does the provider participate in the USDA Food Program?
  • Do I have to pack meals or a snack?
  • Can my child maintain a special diet in this childcare program?
  • Is the food balanced, varied, and nutritious?
  • Which meals are provided?
  • What time are snacks/meals provided?
  • What will the provider do if my child does not like a meal?
  • Would anything in the surroundings irritate a child with allergies? (Food, animals, dust, etc.)
  • Does the Provider have any pets within the home?
  • Is the pet up to date with rabies vaccinations?

Behavior Management

  • How will my child be disciplined? (Physical discipline and/or shaming is not allowed)
  • Does the provider agree with me on what behaviors should be disciplined (and how)?
  • Are limits clear, reasonable, and consistent?
  • Can the provider positively redirect children?
  • Is positive reinforcement used?

The Provider

  • What is the provider’s personality? (Cheerful, flexible, patient, understanding, relaxed, warm)
  • Does the provider take good care of herself/himself?
  • Will the provider always be ready to answer my questions?
  • Is the provider a suitable role model?
  • Does the provider seem to enjoy children?
  • Does the provider and the children enjoy being together?
  • Does the provider have age-appropriate expectations?
  • Does the provider listen to children, rather than simply give directions/corrections?
  • Does the provider treat each child as individuals, with dignity and respect?
  • Does the provider get down to the child’s level and speak to the child directly?
  • Does the provider smile, look at, talk to and listen to the individual children?
  • Does the provider greet and welcome the children when they arrive?
  • Are the children’s needs met quickly, even when things get busy?
  • Are the children comforted when necessary?
  • What does the provider do when a child cries?
  • Is the provider sensitive to the emotional needs of children?
  • Does the provider encourage identifying emotions?
  • Does the provider encourage sharing?
  • What would the provider do if a child bites?
  • Does the provider encourage sensitivity to others?
  • Does the provider encourage independence, exploring and creativity?
  • Does the provider help children gain confidence in themselves? (Example: compliment them when they do a good job).

The Child Care

  • Are the other children in the home happy and relaxed?
  • How do the children interact with each other?
  • Is the childcare program and the provider accepting/responsive to the varied cultural and ethnic backgrounds of children and families?
  • Are a variety of backgrounds (cultures, ethnicities, genders, ages) evident in pictures and toys?
  • Is the provider respectful of my family’s lifestyle and values?


  • What approach will be used with toilet training (timing, wording, method)?
  • Does the provider or any household members smoke? (Not allowed during childcare hours in the home OR on the dwelling/property).
  • What is expected of me as a parent? (Fees, clothing, diapers, food)
  • Are the goals of this program compatible with mine?

Some things to keep in mind while at the childcare program

  • What are my instincts telling me?
  • Is this the kind of place where I would like to hang out with my child?
  • Will my child/children be happy here?

If you have additional questions or concerns, please feel free to contact the Waukesha County Certification Staff.

Jennifer Mantei, Day Care Certifier
Beth Treder, Day Care Certifier
Karen Narlow, Day Care Coordinator

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Fax: 262-650-3856

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