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How to Choose a Daycare

The necessities of life. In post modern America, for working couples and singles with young children, childcare outside the home is often a necessity. Choosing a day care is an important decision and ideally should be made deliberately after some research.

Where to start

Word of mouth is usually cited as the way parents learn of child care options, and certainly the experience of others you trust is an invaluable resource.

However, you should also know that in Charleston child care centers (whether day care, preschool, or others) are licensed by the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). You can view a list of licensed centers at http://www.wvdhhr.org/bcf/ece/cccenters/.

This resource will give you contact information, display the type of license the center has, and even show a history of code violations the center experienced at the last inspection and whether each violation has been corrected.

What to look for when visiting

You will want to visit the facility while it is in operation, especially while children are present. Pay special attention to such things as cleanliness, staff involvement with the children, number of children per room and per staff member, and general maintenance and repair. Are electrical outlets covered? Do all the toilets work? Are ceiling tiles all in place? Is the carpet frayed? Are there water leaks anywhere? Is mold or mildew visible? Are classrooms clean, especially floors?

Take special note of security measures. If a facility allows you to roam freely, with little supervision, it would suggest security is not a high priority. Visitors should be required, at least,
to check in and not be allowed to move about without an authorized guide. Are outside doors locked? Are the entrances monitored? Are parents or others who pick up children required to demonstrate their authorization to do so? Does the site provide parents with internet camera access?

Although the DHHR is the licensing body, any violations related to food service or illness fall under the auspices of the county Health Department. If the facility serves food they are required to be inspected. The inspection certificate should be prominently displayed indicating the color-coded rating received by the facility.

Meet the Director

The director of the facility is key. This is the person the DHHR interacts with and the person responsible to make sure full compliance with guidelines, policies, and common sense are always met. A good measure of the facility’s standards will be how often the director is allowed to be absent. You should expect the director to be on site most of the time. When the Director is not present there should be a designated person fully authorized to act on behalf of the Director.

During a visit it is surely acceptable that a staff member guide your tour, but you will definitely want to meet and spend time with the director.


As might be expected, there are many websites and internet articles dedicated to the subject of choosing a day care. Parents magazine is a respected resource in this field and has published a simple article and accompanying video titled “8 Tips for Choosing Child Care.” Also, checking your state’s DHHR and local/county Health Department websites are helpful resources when determining which day care is best for you child.

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