CONSUMER ALERT: TIPS TO HELP PARENTS WEIGH CHILDCARE CHOICES
LITTLE ROCK - For many families, finding high-quality child care is crucial. Finding a trusted center to care for pre-school children during the day and school-aged children after school is a must for a growing number of families with parents who have demanding work schedules.
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued today's alert to help parents who are weighing child care options as their children return to school.
"As a parent, I understand how important it is to have peace of mind when others are caring for our children. And all children deserve to be in safe, nurturing environments," McDaniel said. "Fortunately, Arkansas has many high-quality child care centers for families to consider. These tips will help families select the best center for their needs."
We recommend parents consider the following while shopping for a child care provider:
• Be sure that the provider's hours of operation meet the needs of your work schedule. Ask if the center charges a fee when parents arrive late to pick up their children. Find out what days the center is closed for holidays and if you'll be charged if your child does not attend the center while on vacation.
• Check to see if the center is licensed or registered with the Arkansas Department of Human Services. Does it have outstanding violations or recent complaints? Is the program accredited or in the process of becoming accredited? If the center cannot tell you, contact the Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education at 501-682-4891. You may also search for facilities by going to https://dhs.arkansas.gov
• It's always a good idea to visit the center before you enroll your child. Ask if the center welcomes parents of enrolled children to drop by without an appointment to visit their child.
• Ask what security measures the center has in place to make sure only parents and those authorized by parents have access to children. Are visitors screened or are IDs checked before a child is permitted to leave the center?
• Ask what education, training, and experience staff members have. Are staff members required to receive updated training each year?
• Ask if the staff is large enough to accommodate children at the center when employees are ill or on vacation. Are children supervised at all times, even when they are sleeping? Ask what the staff-to-child ratio is at the center for different aged children. The American Association of Pediatrics standards are:
Birth to 12 months should have three-to-one child-staff ratio with no more than six in a group.
13-30 months should have a four-to-one staff ratio with no more than eight in a group.
31-35 months should have a five-to-one staff ratio with no more than 10 in a group.
3-year-olds should have seven-to-one staff ratio with no more than 14 in a group.
4- and 5-year-olds should have an eight-to-one staff ration with no more than 16 in a group.
6-, 7- and 8-year-olds should have 10-to-one ratio with no more than 20 in a group.
9-, 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds should have a 12-to-one ratio with no more than 24 in a group.
• Ask if the children are permitted to watch television and if there are restrictions on the type of programs they can watch and how long they're permitted to watch.
• Ask if the center requires medical exams before children are enrolled. Are immunization records updated frequently? What are the center's policies and standards for when children are ill? When are children sent home and when can they return to the center after an illness?
• Ask for the center's lunch menu. How does the center make sure children are receiving nutritional food and how does the center manage children with food allergies?
• How are tuition payments made? Are there other services, such as music lessons or tutoring, available in addition to child care? Will you need to pay extra for these services? Can you expect
tuition rates to increase each year? How often has the tuition rate increase in recent years?
For more information about identity fraud, consumer-related issues, or to file a complaint, visit GotYourBackArkansas.org or call the Consumer Protection Division's hotline at (800) 482-8982.