Dear Monica,
We have been looking for a quiet, small in-home daycare for our child. We’ve interviewed three [providers] and plan to interview another this evening. We like one a lot, but is she truly qualified? I’m not talking about a paper certification, I mean just how nurturing [should she be]? Any help would be great!!

Dear Jennifer,
Since children’s needs are dictated by their ages and stages of development, it would be helpful to know the child’s age. The definition of nurturing differs depending on children’s age and developmental stage.  Choosing quality childcare is one of the most important life changing decisions for a parent. It is a decision that requires an investment of time conducting interviews (to include caregivers, checking references, and conducting site visits), careful evaluation of the providers’ qualifications (to include training and experience), and a significant financial investment.  The assumption is that consideration of rates and hours of operations have already been addressed and it is now time to make a comparison.  Next on the list is this question – How does one evaluate the value of one provider’s services over another? The short answer is the provider’s training, early childhood education, experience, environment/setting.
It is difficult to discuss a provider’s qualification without addressing the issue of quality childcare. Quality childcare begins with a program that is operating within regulatory guidance such as licensing or County permit with standards and compliance checklists. Since these checklists are based on children’s developmental needs, childcare industry research best practices and standards. As a parent, these are the tools I would use to measure qualification and quality services. The Virginia Department of Social Services addresses here the question of  why quality childcare matters. Additionally, on my website under the section titled “Families” there is a resource listing to help families in search of childcare. Also, here are a few areas in which you can objectively discern if this favored provider is knowledgeable and skilled at nurturing young children:
Provider relationship and interaction with the children:
  •  How does the provider respond to the children?
  • Does she guide the children?
  • How does she enforce the limits and boundaries?                                                       
Home Setting both indoors and outdoors:
  • Is the home set up to ensure children’s health and safety?
  • Is there sufficient space with a variety of age appropriate play equipment to comfortably meet the needs of enrolled children?
Learning Opportunities: Program/Daily Schedule:
  • Is there a daily schedule/routine?
  • Are self help skills supported and encouraged?
  • Do you see the provider cuddling, engaging in conversation, and interacting with the children?
  •  Does the provider offer opportunity to support children’s development in key domains to include: literacy, science, math, social and emotional skills, critical thinking, physical and fine motor skills?
  • How is the provider’s persona and temperament? Is she welcoming, friendly, energetic and flexible? The chosen provider should be sensitive to your needs as a parent just as much as the needs of your child.
Remember, there is no perfect program; the childcare search takes time. However, through observation and involvement, the selection process in the end will ultimately generate the desired result that is the right place for you and your child.
Happy Parenting with wishes for much success!