Things to consider when choosing a day care - WFLA News Channel 8

Things to consider when choosing a day care

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SARASOTA COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

On Saturday, Feb. 1, state officials will revoke the license of a Bradenton day care.

Earlier this month, investigators say a 4-month-old baby was found unconscious at the Children's Academy of Southwest Florida. The baby was later pronounced dead. Investigators say a staffer also tested positive for drugs.

It's a scary story for parents, and it stresses how important it is to find the right day care for your child.

Picking out a day care is very serious matter, so it doesn't hurt to ask a lot of questions.

A day care is more than just a place to leave your kids, it's school before they become old enough for the classroom.

"Learning starts at birth. We want children from the time they are born, really, to be given every opportunity to be exposed to experiences, to language, to reading, and to good solid relationships," said Claudia Malecki, who is Quality Services Manager with the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County.

Malecki says day cares can be vital to a child's upbringing, so it's important to find the right one. Early learning officials say there are some red flags to look out for.

"If you walk in and children are wandering around classrooms, crying, teachers not attentive to them," said Malecki.

Officials also suggest you spend time visiting day cares and look at the cleanliness of the place.

"You need to visit. You need to feel that preschool, if its going to fit in with you, your schedule, and how your child is going to react to the situation," said Malecki.

Also pay attention to the student-to-teacher ratio. All teachers must be trained and certified so ask about that, and day care workers should be easily accessible to parents

"I think there has to be an open communication between the director, the teacher and the parent. The parent being the first educator for the child," said Malecki.

You should visit day cares unannounced and come armed with questions.

"Make sure that they have an open door, and that you're allowed in to not only the building but to each of the classrooms," said Malecki.

If this has you feeling overwhelmed, don't worry. There are plenty of resources to help.

There are Early Learning Centers operated by the state of Florida, in Sarasota and Manatee counties and all over the state. The staff at the centers can help you find the right day care.

When it comes to inspecting day cares, state workers look at many details, from monitoring the cleanliness of the bottles to checking on the amount of available space between cribs.

Officials say even after you pick out the right day care, keep visiting, and keep checking up on them. Since these children will be spending most of their days away from their families, it is vital that they're in a safe and nurturing place.

Helpful Resources:

A Quality Checklist for Evaluating Early Learning Programs, from Florida's Office of Early Learning Day Care

Inspection Records at the Florida Dept. of Children and Families website


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