Look Just Past the Front Door

Ever wonder about the quality of your child care program? Start by looking just past the front door.

In Alabama, child care is regulated by the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR). If your child’s facility is licensed, the license will be prominently displayed somewhere near the facility’s front entrance. If the facility is eligible to be exempt from the state regulations and license, then a letter indicating the exemption should be displayed near the entrance.

So how is this an indication of quality? The state licensing requirements set forth Minimum Standards for child care operations. Among these standards are child to staff ratios, class size, teacher qualifications including ongoing training requirements, and health and safety measures. The licensing requirements also include regular inspections by DHR staff to ensure compliance with the regulations.

If a facility meets the criteria to be exempt from these standards, they have to meet some initial basic inspections by the local health department and fire department but other regulations and inspections do not apply.

Quality indicators include:

  • Teacher qualifications and ongoing professional development – knowledgeable caregivers are more likely to provide appropriate learning activities and environments that support a child’s healthy development across cognitive, social, emotional and physical domains
  • Child to staff ratios – fewer children per caregiver means a better response to a child’s needs
  • Class size and age groups – small class sizes comprised of similar-aged children are more manageable
  • Health and safety – hazard-free facilities and background checks for staff are some safety measures to have in place

While the DHR child care licensing requirements are minimal, they set research-based standards that address these and other quality care indicators.

If you’re utilizing or plan to utilize child care, these are some points to consider when selecting a facility or provider for your child. Children benefit from positive, nurturing interactions and safe, stress-free learning environments. Every child is unique, but all children deserve basic health and safety protections while spending time in child care. What practices and standards does your facility or caregiver have in place to ensure your child is getting the best start to their life? Start by visiting the program and looking in the front door.