OAK GROVE, MS (WDAM) - Parents have probably heard alarming headlines over the years about daycare centers.
The latest happened in New York last week, when a caregiver stabbed three infants and two adults. It turns out that daycare center was unlicensed.
Hearing stories like that probably makes any parent wonder: Who will watch my child when it’s time to take them to daycare?
Mississippi Early Childhood Association Representative Judy Prine toured Oak Grove Learning Center, a licensed facility, in Oak Grove Thursday afternoon to show parents how to make sure a center is right for you and your kid. With a master’s degree in childhood development, she said she knows what it takes to be a caregiver and what’s required to become a licensed and certified childcare center.
“Childcare centers are licensed by the state department of health, childcare licensure division, in the state of Mississippi,” Prine said.
Prine advised parents to treat searching for daycare centers like it’s a business meeting.
“You want to make sure those licenses are on the front door where they are visible,” Prine said.
Prine said parents should trust their gut and their senses, literally, by paying attention to what the center looks like, smells like and what you hear from class rooms.
“How does it sound? Do you hear laughter? Do you hear early learning going on, people engaged, teachers engaged with children, or do you just hear teachers directing, handing out directives?” Prine said.
And find time to sit with the director of the center to see its' daycare license and background checks on teachers and staff.
“It’s very important that the parent asks who their child’s teacher would be, so that they know what their educational background is. That’s extremely important,” Prine said.
Children eat and nap at daycare centers. Prine said that means parents should check for a kitchen rating and nutrition standards.
“You’ll also want to look into the food service, what was it rated? What was the cafeteria rated, just like you are going out to a restaurant,” she said.
Prine said always check for safety. She said check for locked doors, fences and a safe fenced-in playground.
Most of all, make sure the center is welcoming. She said childcare centers should have an open-door policy for parents, with nothing to hide.
Prine added a red flag for any center is if the director isn’t forthcoming with providing the license, background checks and walking you through all the regulations a center is required by law to have.
She recommended parents ask for the childcare center’s handbook. Lastly, Prine said a center shouldn’t be only about custodial care, parents should check the activities of the day to make sure children’s educational needs are being met.