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What Are Tips to Consider When Choosing a Daycare Provider?

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Whether you choose a licensed child-care provider, a registered faith-based center, or family home care, parents and caregivers have a lot to consider when choosing a daycare provider for their child. From safety concerns to staff credentials to meal plans and costs, there are many important things on a checklist when considering what center to choose.

To help those new to daycare, here’s a good checklist to consider when weighing your options:

Research: Most parents and caregivers agree that word of mouth reputation is very crucial when making a decision on daycare for their child. Get recommendations from other parents, your pediatrician, family members, and coworkers on which day care centers they either know personally or have heard good things about. One of the best ways to get a quality check is to see if a center is an ABC Quality provider, the voluntary quality assurance program sponsored by the Department of Social Services. You can research potential daycare centers by type and by rating using the provider search on this site.

Phone Interviews: Start your daycare search by doing a simple phone interview. You can usually judge the professionalism and level of care provided in that first call as well as learn about hours of operation and other important information. If the staff person on the other end of the call isn’t forthcoming with answers or seems disinterested, you probably want to scratch that one off your list of possibilities.

In-person interviews: Once you have made a list of possible daycare centers, make a plan for in-person visits. Make sure and pay special attention to how the staff interacts with children and the teacher/child ratio. Also, be sure you understand a potential center’s program structure (curriculum), whether the staff has appropriate credentials and background checks; and examine personal care practices (health & sanitation, staff trained in CPR, etc.). Also use your own judgment on things like overall atmosphere, food prep stations, whether a center is clean and inviting, and how the children look and behave. For a list of other quality indicators, visit our Parent Resources.

Policy checks: Parents and caregivers can either do a policy check on their visit or a follow-up call/visit. Some potential subjects to address include how staff implements discipline/timeout; dietary concerns/meal offerings; naptime; etc. Also, make sure and ask about the center’s sick-child policy (what symptoms prevent a child from attending) as well as drop off and pick up times and procedures.  

References: A quality daycare center should be able to provide a list of former and current clients who can give a reference  their personal experience with the center. Take the time to call the references and ask questions instead of relying on a printed reference letter.

Costs: Make sure you fully understand all associated daycare costs, including registration fees, weekly rates, and what those cover. For those parents and caregivers who qualify, ask if a center is part of the  SC Voucher Program that provides financial assistance to eligible families to help them pay for child care so that parents can work. To learn more about vouchers, visit

Surprise visit: One of the best ways to see if a center is all they promise to be is to show up unannounced in a surprise visit. You can get an accurate picture of what a center is like on a day when staff has not been prepped for a parental visit. If the center doesn't allow unscheduled visits of any kind, you may want to cross it off your list.

By ABC Quality Team on September 15, 2020