Finding a great child care provider is like finding a new member of your military family. After all, your child will spend a significant amount of time there each week, and what happens at daycare can impact what happens at home. This connection makes it even more important for families when looking for a child care provider for a child with special needs.
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Here’s a list of ten questions for you to ask potential care providers in your community before enrolling your child with special needs in a new child care program.
- “Is your child care program nationally or regionally accredited?” With an accredited child care facility, you’re more likely to get the best possible care for your child.
- “Do you hold regular staff training or educational opportunities?” The answer to this question not only tells you how highly the child care provider values its staff, it also offers a glimpse into how receptive staff will be learning new ways to care for your child and their special needs.
- “What is your current staff-to-student ratio?” The more staff a child care provider already has, the more likely it is your child with special needs will more easily fit in with the current classroom environment.
- “How do staff discipline children, if necessary?” Look for providers who would reinforce the discipline strategies you use at home, in order to create a more consistent and predictable experience for your child.
- “What are the age ranges of children at your program?” If you know you’re going to stay in an area for a while, do your best to pick a child care provider that will be able to take your child on for the length of your stay at this latest PCS.
- “May I see your Parent Handbook or a copy of your policies?” Reading through a provider’s Parent Handbook or policies will tell you how organized a child care provider is, what situations may have occurred previously and what your family can expect.
- “What would you consider ‘special needs’?” Just like there is a range of special needs a child could have, there is a range of what child care providers consider to be special needs, which may impact your child’s subsequent care. Getting everyone on the same page before your child participates will help avoid confusion and misunderstandings.
- “Has your child care program ever cared for a child with this need before?” This question offers background on how the child care provider handled your specific need in the past, and how they may approach future accommodations. Bear in mind that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, child care providers are not allowed to assume what care your child needs based on their previous experience or personal understanding of the special need. Instead, they must evaluate your child as an individual to see what they need to thrive in the program and if such accommodations can be offered without posing a “fundamental change to nature of the program.”
- “How do you introduce new children to your child care program?” A proper introduction of a newcomer into the program can make a significant impact on the child’s experience.
- “How involved are the families in your child care program?” Some child care providers expect little outside involvement from the families; others expect regular volunteering and contributions from parents. Know what expectations the provider has for you as the parent before you commit to a child care program.
In the end, everyone – you as a parent and the child care provider staff as a whole – wants what is best for your child. By asking these questions, you can make sure they and you are ready to make your child’s time at their day care or other child care program a success. And, if you ever need extra help, you can always reach out your installation EFMP Family Support staff or to the Exceptional Family Member Program Resources, Options and Consultations, EFMP ROC, specialty consultants with Military OneSource.