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Parents can inspect providers to find best child care
HEALTH MATTERS

Parents can inspect providers to find best child care

Choosing a child care provider is one of the most important decisions that working parents make. The COVID-19 pandemic has added even more stress to those decisions for many moms and dads. Thinking about the health and safety factors that professional inspectors check can help parents pick a day care that is best for their child’s growth and development.

Montana law requires day care operators with three or more children in care to be registered or licensed through the Early Childhood and Family Support Division of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

RiverStone Health inspects the 40 licensed day care centers in Yellowstone County. The RiverStone Board of Health also requires the five drop-in day care centers in Yellowstone County to register and undergo inspection. When choosing a day care, parents should ask lots of questions.

• Take a tour of the day care and observe. How does the staff interact with children? Is the environment fun and educational? Do the children get adequate rest as well as active play? Are there enough staff members watching over children?

• Ask about the day care’s illness policy. How do they handle a child’s allergies, medicine or other special needs? Are staff members certified in CPR and first aid? Are staff members immunized to protect children from illness?

• RiverStone Health sanitarians, assisted by other public health staff, check immunization records to make sure all children and staff working in the day care center or drop-in center are properly immunized to prevent childhood diseases. Parents should inquire about the day care’s policy on checking childhood immunizations before children enroll.

• Ask about the caregivers’ education and training. Ask other parents about their experience with the day care.

• Check that bathrooms are clean and sanitary and that hand-washing sinks are set to avoid scalding temperatures.

• Look at cribs, playpens and infant play equipment to make sure it is safe and clean. Are crib sheets and linens changed between infants? Any toy that ends up in a child’s mouth should be sanitized immediately afterward.

• Ask about food service. Is the food cooked and held at proper temperatures to prevent foodborne illness? Is the menu nutritious for your child?

• Check outdoor play equipment and play areas for safety features.

Although Yellowstone County has a lot of day care capacity, staffing shortages have been an issue lately. It’s a good idea to start looking for infant care six to eight months before you will need it. There may be shorter waits for care of toddlers and preschoolers.

When your child is in day care, drop by to say “hello” and stay involved. Join your child for lunch, their birthday treat or ask to read a short book to his or her class. Trust that your child is well cared for and safe, but also listen to your parental instincts. If you have concerns about a day care or day care provider, call RiverStone Health at 406-256-2770.

Nikki Peterson, a registered sanitarian at RiverStone Health, can be reached at 406-256-2770.

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