Identifying Quality Care
Quality comes first in your search for child care, preschool, pre-K and school-age care.
You want your child to have a safe, warm and brain-building environment. Thankfully, programs like Indiana’s Paths to QUALITY™ system can help you connect with quality care.
As you look for a great program, be sure to ask about each of these areas.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to look for. Below, you’ll find information on the factors that ensure safety and quality.
Caregiver Background Checks
Quality programs want to ensure they have high-quality staff. This means ensuring that all staff receive full criminal background checks. Federal criminal background checks should be completed by staff upon hire and renewed regularly.
A licensed program must meet requirements set by the Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning. These standards require that basic health and safety measures be met in the environment, that educational requirements are met, that the facility is inspected for safety and compliance and ensures that the records for inspection are publicly available.
Indiana offers a voluntary quality rating and improvement system for child care providers called Paths to QUALITY™. Although all licensed child care programs are not required to participate, programs that do participate meet quality standards and may receive coaching from SPARK.
Health and Safety
Child care programs are more likely to protect children from harm and illness if they consistently practice standards such as frequently washing hands, disinfecting diaper changing stations, cleaning toys and properly storing cleaning supplies and other poisonous materials.
Group Sizes and Ratios
These factors can affect the quality of care for children in relation to safety, attention given and daily adult interactions. Depending on the age and personality of your child, take a moment to understand which group size and ratio works best for you. Look for opportunities for your child to be independent, work together with caregivers and other children and change activities throughout the day.
Quality programs work closely with families to ensure they are informed about their child’s development and are a welcomed partner in their care. They often have an open-door policy, which means family members are free to come and go at any time. A program that provides written policies to include and engage families is demonstrating signs of true family partnerships.
Generally, accredited programs are those that meet the highest standards of care and exceed licensing regulation. Once accreditation is achieved, the program will have a certificate.
Inclusive Child Care Programs
‘Inclusive’ programs include children with and without disabilities as they take part in the same routines and play activities. Child care providers in inclusive programs learn to recognize each child’s strengths and needs. They creatively adapt routines and activities so that each child can be successful.
Caregiver Education and Dedication
Longevity of teaching staff contributes to higher-quality care. It also shows a welcoming, supportive and positive environment, which may translate into better care for your child. The amount of education and continuing professional development a child care provider has is an important indicator of quality.
Abuse and neglect concerns
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call Indiana’s Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline today at 1-800-800-5556. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You do not have to be afraid anyone will find out who made the report because you can report abuse and neglect anonymously.
Have a concern about a provider? Learn more about Indiana's complaint process.
Complaints and/or concerns about licensed or registered child care programs can be reported to Child Care Resource and Referral team members or to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.
When filing a complaint, individuals should be prepared to share the name of the child care program (including location), details about the concern or information about involved parties and the approximate date the incident occurred. Calls can be made anonymously, but any name given must be entered as stated by law.
Complaints will be processed within 48 hours of being received. After processing complaints, the appropriate parties will follow up within 30 days.
Families can also find inspection reports and any validated complaints or enforcement/actions for regulated Indiana programs. To learn about past complaints for a specific program, visit Child Care Finder and search for a program. The program page will include information about past complaints that you can explore.
*Note: Any person who suspects child abuse or neglect may have occurred in a child care facility has a duty to report the suspicions to the Department of Child Services at 1-800-800-5556.
Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning
Washington St., Room W362, Indianapolis, IN 46204
Child Care Aware's National Hotline