Begin by visiting several child care homes, facilities or centers. On each visit, think about your first impression.
Does the place look safe for your child?
Do the caregivers/teachers who will care for your child enjoy talking and playing with children?
Do they talk with each child at the child's eye level?
Are there plenty of toys and learning materials within a child's reach?
You should always visit a home or center more than once. Stay as long as possible so you can get a good feel for what the care will be like for your child. Continue to visit from time to time even after you have started using the child care provider.
What does the child care setting sound like?
Do the children sound happy and involved?
Are the teachers' voices cheerful and pleasant?
A place that is too quiet may mean not enough activity. Too noisy may mean that there is a lack of control.
Count the number of children in the group, then count the number of staff members caring for them. Obviously, the fewer the number of children per caregiver, the more attention your child will get. A small number of children per caregiver is most important for babies and younger children.
Its very important that adults who care for your children have the knowledge and experience to give them the attention that they need. Ask about the background and experience of all staff, including the program director, caregivers, teachers, and any other adults who will have contact with your children in the home or center.
Find our more about efforts in your community to improve the quality of child care. Is your caregiver involved in these activities? How can you get involved? For more information, contact your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency.
Research has proven that 90% of all brain development happens in the first three years of life, providing an unprecedented window of opportunity to shape the capacity of our state's future citizenry.
It is a classic case of pay now or pay later. Children enrolled in quality early childhood programs are more likely to graduate from high school, complete college, stay at a good job, buy a home and raise a healthy family.
Children without these opportunities however are more likely to require expensive remedial education programs, drop out of school, rely on social services and have less productive futures. This results in an increased burden on all West Virginia taxpayers and continues to strain the resources of our small state.
An early learning investment has been documented to save $7 for every $1 that society spends. Yet, less than a third of West Virginia's children benefit from early care and education. And, for the children who do attend these programs, a quality environment is not guaranteed.
More and more, teachers are reporting children entering kindergarten not ready for school. Many cannot yet speak in complete sentences, hold a crayon or understand how to interact with their peers. This slows down the educational process for all children in a classroom and presents these children with learning challenges that are likely to follow them throughout elementary and secondary school.
The research is backed up time and time again—study after study proves that quality early childhood environments are indeed the key to future success. Yet, the potential to change the course of West Virginia through a quality early care and education system remains largely untapped. The early care and education system in our state continues to lack the respect and resources of more traditional educational programs in the public schools.
An investment in early childhood as part of the solution to West Virginia's economic problems cannot happen without better public support of the issues. While increasing public understanding is a critical step in gaining that support, an awareness campaign must motivate action, as well as inform.