Looking for child care in Travis County? Austin Public Health has this handy map. You can see where centers or in-home day cares are located. You also can see which ones have been Texas Rising Star certified and or National Association for the Education of Young Children certified. These measures look at the director, the teachers, the ratios, the amount of education, the outdoor activities, parent involvement, and other rubrics.
To look at the safety standards of your day care, check out the Texas Health and Human Services database, which shows the size of the center and location as well as what violations or self-reported incidents the centers or in-home care have had.
And if you’ve ever thought to yourself, this daycare isn’t working out, read this story I wrote in 2014 on how to switch day cares;
Election Day 2008. I walked into my daughter’s day care room and saw another new teacher – her fourth or fifth of the school year. I was done. From my car, I called another day care center to see if by chance they had room for a 5-year-old for the next six months. They did.
Right then, I fired my day care of almost eight years.
The center that was perfect for my son and perfect for my daughter for the first four years of her life had changed. We needed something else.
Leaving your day care is a big decision. Sometimes there are obvious red flags: Is the center clean, are there a lot of accidents, are the children well-supervised, does anyone have access to the building and your child, are teachers doing what they say they are doing in their newsletters, does the staff know your child and you?
If your gut is telling you there’s something very wrong, check with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. At http://www.dfps.state.tx.us, you can look up recent inspections at your center and see what the violations were and if they’ve been corrected.
Before you decide to make the move, Lisa Tate, director of Children’s Lighthouse Learning Center in Cedar Park, suggests having a conversation with the center. A good center wants to hear why it’s not working for your child.
There might be something that the director is not aware of that needs to be fixed or it could be that you misunderstood what has been going on in the classroom.
Sometimes there are things that happen that might be typical for kids at that age – like biting – that might be alarming to parents, but are normal.
Tate likes for parents to meet with her face to face so she can read their body language, but phone, texting and email work, too.
“I assure them that I understand. If I’m doing something wrong, I want to fix it,” she says.
Sometimes it’s just not a good fit for your child anymore, and your current day care might be able to point you to a center that is better-suited. Maybe your child needs more structure or less structure.
Maybe the boy-girl ratio isn’t good for your child. Maybe your child needs to be challenged more or less academically. The teacher and your child might not be an ideal match.
Your child might need more targeted assistance than the center can supply.
Those are all things that you can’t predict when you first go looking at day cares.
Sometimes your family and your child would like another location.
“Each location should be doing the same things, but the culture of each location is different,” says Andrea Breen, director of quality assurance for Stepping Stone Schools and an evaluator for National Association for the Education of Young Children.
If you do decide to pull your child from that center, you should give your day care a reason so that other children can benefit.
Make sure to look at the day care’s policies before quitting. Many require two-weeks notice.
Of course, if you think your child is in danger, don’t wait. Pull her out. “If you look at hierarchy – health, safety and security – nothing else matters above that,” Breen says. “If you feel there is a danger for your child to return to that school… you can’t return to that school for two weeks.”
And after you’ve given notice, there should not be any repercussions. Your child should be treated as if she were going to stay the rest of the year.
Sometimes, though, you might go to another center and realize that the one you had been at was actually better than you thought. That’s why you want to leave on good terms.
“It’s never going to be perfect 100 percent of the time,” Breen says.