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Child Care Resources

Finding Child Care: Questions to Ask

Joan Sprain; Reviewed by Ronald L. Pitzer, Family Sociologist

Revised July 2013 by Kathleen A. Olson, Program Director — Partnering for School Success.

Start looking for child care options as far in advance as you can. Finding the right option can take some time. The first steps in selecting child care are to determine your needs and a list of potential providers. After that is done, you can begin to narrow down your choices by interviewing providers. Although most of the following information applies to family and center care, you could also use it for any child care situation.

Consider more than one child care provider. Even if you like the first one you visit, it’s useful to compare your impressions with others. The more time you spend on this important decision, the more likely you will be happy with your choice.

Gather Information

Call your local agency that licenses family and center care, or child care resource and referral agency. Ask about licensing requirements in your area. Ask how you can get information about complaints and licensing violations. Check if your family qualifies for any child care financial assistance program.

Telephone Interviewing

Interviewing providers over the phone can be an efficient way to gather information. When you call, introduce yourself, state how you got the provider’s name, and your reason for calling. If it is a center, ask to speak with the director. Ask if this is a good time to call and if there is an opening.

Give the provider your name, as well as the name, age, and sex of your child and when care is needed. Tell them that you’d like 10-15 minutes of their time to answer a few questions. The following list of questions can be used to check off as you interview the provider.

In addition, you can ask the following questions in either a telephone or face-to-face interview.

There are also several questions related to the age of your child that you should ask. These include the following:

Face-to-Face Interviewing

Visit the child care option you are considering. Even if you like the way a provider answered your questions over the phone, don’t stop there. Ask when you (and your partner) could meet with the provider to gather more information and to allow them to interview you. This will also give you a chance to observe the provider(s) in action and inspect the site. Here are a few more questions to ask:

Pay Attention to Your Observations

Trust your instincts when you interview the provider. Any strong negative feelings are usually a sign that this arrangement will not work for you and your child. On the other hand, if you can make the following conclusions, chances are you've found quality care.

The provider appears to love children and seems to be a warm and friendly person that you think you could develop a respectful, trusting relationship with.

The provider seems to show a balance between running a business and nurturing the children.

The children you observed seemed happy. The provider understands what children can and like to do at different ages and provides opportunities to help them develop. Your child’s self-esteem would benefit from the care.

There appears to be a comfortable, safe, and healthy environment for the children.

Making Your Final Choice

Take time to think carefully about all the information you have gathered. You may have to compromise some of your expectations to fit the available choices. But don’t give too much up. You can always re-think your options. Once you decide, contact the provider as soon as possible to reserve space. If the provider does not give you a written policy and contract, be sure to clarify your agreement in writing.

Make a follow-up appointment with the provider to review arrangements and to sign any necessary forms. You may want to schedule a two-week trial arrangement. If you take this extra time up front, you will be less likely to experience any unpleasant surprises later. And most importantly, your child may also be happier in the child care you have selected.


Child Care Aware (2013). 5 steps to choosing care. Arlington, VA: Child Care Aware of America, Office of Child Care, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Related Resources

Quality Child Care: How Do I Know It When I See It? — Finding out about all the options open to you is only the first step in selecting child care.

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