It's time for you to go back to work, and that means your new bundle of love is heading off to daycare. You're not happy about separating from the baby every day, but finding a good daycare provider is the best way to balance your schedule and ensure that your baby gets proper care.
What you worry about is accidentally choosing a daycare that poses a serious risk. Will negligent staff members allow your child to suffer an injury? Do you have to worry about actual abuse? If you just meet with them for 10 minutes and glance around the facility, is that really enough time to determine whether or not these strangers are fit to take care of your precious child?
It's hard for parents to know what to do. To help, here are six red flags that can alert you to an unsafe daycare environment:
1. Caregivers who are not emotionally supportive
It's important to make sure children are fed and clothed, but excellent caregivers will also be there emotionally for your child. Emotionally-supportive care providers help children who suffer minor injuries and actually engage with them during play. They'll stay involved and interested, rather than just watching the clock.
2. Facilities that look overbooked
If you really want your children to get attention and proper care, watch out for daycare centers with too many children. This creates an environment where even a well-meaning worker cannot attend to the children's needs properly.
3. No communication
If you find it hard to ask the staff or administrators questions, or if they do not want to talk to you, it may be best to find a new daycare center. The staff should make it easy for you to ask questions and learn about your child's experiences during the time spent in care.
4. Health and safety hazards
Trust your gut. If something seems inherently unsafe, and you would never let it happen at home, there's a problem. Some daycare centers are simply dirty and poorly-maintained. Others may keep dangerous toys on the premises. Look for anything that could cause an injury or illness.
5. Staff members who ignore your concerns
If you're worried about something concerning your son or daughter, the staff at the daycare should take it seriously, whether they believe it's a real danger or not. This is your child. You deserve to have a say and to have someone listen to you. If the workers blow you off or roll their eyes, it's a problem — even long before an injury occurs.
6. Low standards
That facility may look cluttered, but that's natural with kids. But it should be clean and well-cared for. Those running the daycare should feel proud of it and try to make it presentable. If it appears neglected and run-down, ask yourself if someone who cares so little for the facility is really going to care properly for your child.
Daycare injuries and abuse do happen, even when parents are diligent about exploring their options. Make sure you know your legal rights.