1. Do you have any openings? This should always be your first question, because if the answer is no and you need care in the near future, this provider probably isn't going to meet your needs. However, if you really want this particular provider, be sure to ask about a waiting list or other contingency plans...just in case.
2. Where are you located and what is traffic like during typical morning and evening pick-up times? It's one thing to drive by a potential facility on a Sunday afternoon; it's another to try and turn left into the center across a sea of cars during rush hour. If keeping an on-time schedule is important to you, you need to know what you're facing.
3. What are your operating hours? Typical hours with most institutional day care facilities are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Others partnering with corporations or educational institutions may have hours more like 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Know your operating needs, and how long you'll need from the time you leave work (and assuming you leave on time every day) to arrive at the center. You might also ask about what happens if you are late, and how is care provided for your child.
4. Are there key holidays or dates that the facility closes? Is this schedule firm or might there be adjustments as needed from time to time? Some facilities close for all key holidays; others offer care arrangements, but often at an additional charge. A few centers may close during summer months, or for longer periods during winter break periods. Make sure they'll be open when you need care, unless you have other options during those times.
5. What do you charge and are there additional fees or supplies I will be required to pay? The key is to have no surprises, and know exactly what you'll be paying for up front. Some centers offer discounted rates for certain employers. It never hurts to ask!
6. How are children organized? Find out the ages of the other children, ratio of adults to children, and any special room arrangements.
7. Do you offer part-time or flexible care? Part-time jobs may only need part-time care. Some families may only need occasional care. Some centers offer transportation to and from school, and especially kindergarten.
8. What is your turnover rate? While a new provider shouldn't necessarily deter you from picking a provider, excessive turnover of staff might.
9. What backup care is provided in case of provider illness? Larger facilities often have backup plans in case, but if it is a home provider, a backup plan may be more difficult.
10. Are you certified and/or accredited? Why or why not? What training do you have? Parents should know whether a provider has basic First Aid and CPR or behavior management training, for example.
11. Are background checks conducted on all staff members? It's not enough to just know they are. Ask whether they are state or national checks and how often they are run on employees. Make sure you are comfortable with the response.
12. What is the daily schedule? Most caregivers should be able to provide parents with details about planned activities, thematic units, or a schedule by hour.