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Finding dependable daycare

Looking for the perfect daycare center? Join the club! More than half of all working families enroll their children in daycare, but only after a daunting search for a facility that provides safety, nurturing and education for their child and peace of mind for them.

Though no one can (or should) do the legwork for you, child experts have a few recommendations that can make your daycare expedition more productive:

• List expectations. You won’t know if a daycare center meets your needs unless you know what you want. Take time to identify your expectations before you start your search.

• Get feedback. A modern building with a fancy playground is impressive, but a good staff makes for great daycare. Talk to parents who’ve used daycare, then call each center. Ask about security, discipline, meals, naptime, emergency procedures and teacher qualifications.

• Pay a visit. Once you choose a center, go there unannounced and watch reactions. Were you greeted warmly or suspiciously? Given a tour or just a pamphlet? Was the place clean and bright? Were the children playful or glum? Did the staff seem caring or cold?

• Do the math. The American Academy of Pediatrics says daycare facilities should assign one staff member per three babies, five toddlers or eight preschoolers. And younger kids should have smaller classes: six babies, 14 toddlers or 16 preschoolers per classroom.

• Exchange views. Interview every teacher who will care for your child. Be sure you are fully satisfied with their experience, attitude and trustworthiness before enrolling your youngster. Since good facilities are in demand, you’ll likely be asked to sign a long-term commitment.