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How to Find the Right Early Education and Care Program for Your Child

Friday, May 7, 2021

She deserves it all. A safe and responsive environment that nurtures her today, because she needs that, but also helps her grow toward a bright future, because that’s important, too.

Research has a lot to say about the positive impact of early childhood education and care (EEC) on success in k-12 and beyond. Your child deserves the best, and here’s how to find it.

Resources for Finding High-Quality Childcare Programs

Childcare programs and experiences are as diverse as young children themselves. For some parents and caregivers, neighbors or family members handle childcare responsibilities. Others, however, are looking for a licensed childcare program for their young child. 

Fortunately, resources are just a click away. Search by area, age and more, and locate available financial assistance

Here in Central Massachusetts, Child Care Resources, an affiliate of the Seven Hills Foundation, curates valuable childcare resources for families, including a link to the Massachusetts Online Child Care Search. The state’s Department of Early Education childcare financial assistance web page also offers resources, including through Head Start.

Create your own childcare search checklist

Once you’ve located potential landing spots, it’s time to visit or speak with program directors. Here’s what to look for?

  • Does the setting feel comfortable, safe and happy? Is the facility well-organized? At high-quality childcare programs, children always come first and it shows. Educators and staff are warm and welcoming, and they engage with students in a respectful and helpful manner.
  • Are there indoor and outdoor play spaces? Children thrive when their days include time outdoors. Additionally, high-quality EEC programs include dedicated areas for meeting age-appropriate needs such as napping and diapering.
  • Is the curriculum research-based and age-appropriate? Young children have specific needs, just like school-age children. Effective childcare programs meet these needs with a research-based curriculum that is developmentally, culturally and linguistically relevant to the children it serves.
  • Is the program licensed? Massachusetts EEC licensing requires programs to meet quality standards of education, care and safety. Licensed providers have received specialized training in child development and curriculum implementation as well as first aid and CPR. Programs also must maintain effective teacher-to-child ratios.

    (It’s important to note that the Massachusetts Department of Early Childhood and Care authorizes some license-exempt programs, such as preschool programs incorporated into public schools. Many families also rely on friends, family and neighbors for childcare outside of the state’s licensing requirements.)
  • Do the hours and location fit your lifestyle? Quality childcare only counts for so much if it’s not convenient and accessible. Do the hours suit your needs? Does the location fit your daily commuting and work schedule? What is the financial commitment? 

Finding the right childcare for your child may take time, but she deserves it. The right match will have a positive effect on her for years to come.