On Your Side: How to find the right child care center for your family

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Finding the right child care center is a task many families with young children face at some time. Whether or not the facility is right for every family can depend on the needs of the child, the family, and the resources available locally. 

Resources are available online, but some don’t reflect state inspection regulations and procedures in a way that fully shows the licensing and inspection history of the child care center. 

Tennessee Licensing Requirements

There are at least 16 steps before a child care center is licensed. The requirements include the basics, attending an orientation and getting a business license to other child care specific requirements, like a review of the facility and interview of the main supervisor. 

The Director/Supervisor is expected to have experience working with young children and an education in a related field. 

The licensing requirements are included in a 98-page document, detailing specifics about day-to-day operations and the consequences for not upholding the licensing requirements. 

In addition to the minimum licensing requirements, there is another program available to centers that go above and beyond. 

The Star-Quality Child Care Program is a voluntary program that recognizes child care agencies who exceed minimum licensing standards. These agencies can receive a rating of one, two or three stars. An agency must be open for one year before it is eligible to receive stars.

Tips for Parents

The Tennessee Department of Human Services reccomends starting the child care search early. This allows time for multiple visits to the facility and meetings with the supervisors or caretakers. 

“If a daycare tells you no, that you’re not welcome to come in for a tour before enrolling your child then that’s a red flag,” said Annette Johnson, a parent. 

Johnson spent four months searching for the right child care center for her son. She made half a dozen visits to local facilties and did research online. 

“You want to make sure that you’re comfortable leaving your child with this provider for 6,7,8 hours a day,” said Johnson. 

She used the TDHS website to pinpoint specific areas she wanted to find a child care center, available in a mapping option online.

A spokesperson for THSA said finding a licensed center and verifying it through the state’s website is a crucial step in finding a safe and valuable child care center. 

“The most common mistake is not checking if the daycare facility is licensed. We’ve seen instances where daycare providers claim to be licensed, but they’re not,” said Sky Arnold, TDHS. 

TDHS suggests looking for specifics when finding a child care center, according to this list: 

  • Promoting positive relationships among all children and adults
  • A curriculum that promotes learning and development in each of the following areas: social, emotional, physical, language, and cognitive
  • Consistently receiving information about your child’s development and learning on a regular basis
  • Children’s health, nutrition, and safety are supported

More resources, including Frequently Asked Questions for parents, can be found online: 

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