Finding the right daycare facility for your family

More and more families are finding themselves balancing the responsibilities of caring for their children with having to go out and work to provide for them. Unfortunately, recent stories and studies make clear the alarming risks associated with leaving your children in the hands of individuals who have not been properly vetted, lack the proper qualifications, or simply should be nowhere near children.  Should you ever find yourself in a situation where your child is injured while attending daycare, follow the link HERE to learn what to do.  Hopefully, you can avoid ever finding yourself in that situation by reviewing some of the tips below.

Before making your selection, it is important to know a couple key facts about what daycares look like in Virginia.


What is a Daycare?

According to Virginia’s licensing standards, “[a] child day center is defined as a program offered to (i) two or more children under the age of 13 in a facility that is not the residence of the provider or of any of the children in care, or (ii) 13 or more children at any location.”

Are Daycares Licensed and Regulated in Virginia?

Believe it or not, not all daycares are required to be licensed. In Virginia, the licensure and regulation of daycare facilities is governed by administrative code 22VAC40-185. Daycare facilities are broken down into two types, “out-of-home care” or “in-home care.”  These types are them broken down into four sub-categories of regulation:

1. Licensed

This is the top of the pyramid of state-level oversight.  A licensed child daycare program has certain requirements that must be met to keep its licensure status.  Among those requirements are necessary inspections (at least two times a year) as well as mandatory background checks for employees, mandatory training, and certain requirements for health and safety standards.  A licensed daycare is regulated by the Department of Social Services for the Commonwealth of Virginia.  The oversight helps not only enforce a standard level of safety but also creates a record of violations and incidents which are largely searchable on the Virginia Department of Social Services website.

2. Unlicensed but Regulated

Unlicensed but regulated daycare programs usually appear in the form of voluntarily registered family day homes, religiously exempt child daycare centers, or certified preschools operated by an accredited private school.  Each of these types of daycare facility may not require formal licensing, but do have certain individual requirements laid out by Virginia for inspections, background checks, and certain health and safety standards.  Only religiously exempt child daycare centers are not inspected by the Virginia Department of Social Services unless a complaint has been made.

3. Approved

These are daycare centers that are regulated by an entity other than the Virginia Department of Social Services.  For example, many Northern Virginia localities, such as Arlington and Alexandria, have authority through their local ordinances to approve family day homes and child daycare centers.

4. Unlicensed and Unregistered

These are child daycare programs that only have to meet the minimum requirements laid out by the Code of Virginia and are not required to undergo inspections or any of the background check/safety requirements of licensed and regulated facilities.  These types of daycare facilities must only follow two statutory requirements.  First, they cannot be operated by a registered sex offender or child abuser, or in a home that a sex offender or child abuser resides in.  Second, these daycares are required to provide written notice to the parents of every child receiving care that the daycare is not regulated by the Department of Social Services.

Picking the Right Daycare for You

Knowing the information above is a giant first leap towards picking the right daycare for your family.  As you go into your search, keep in mind these tips for ensuring that you select the best and safest daycare for your children.

  1. Search for the daycare facility on the internet.

Perform a Google internet search of any daycare facility that you are considering.  You can add additional search engines to access more reviews and make sure you are accumulating all the available information. A simple internet search can turn up any red flags such as news reports about incidents or injuries at the daycare.

  1. Research the daycare facility on the Virginia Department of Social Services Website.

The Virginia Department of Social Services keeps track of all licensed and regulated daycares in the Commonwealth of Virginia.   If you click on this LINK you will be able to search your daycare center and find any history of incident reports or violations.

  1. Visit the daycare before making your selection.

Physically visiting the daycare facility before enrollment is a critical step in the selection process.  Make sure to schedule a time where you can see the facility in action with children being taken care of.  Ask if you can sit in on a class or care session.  Bring a list of questions to ask administrators.  Some examples of good questions to ask are:

  1. What are your children to caretaker ratios?
  2. Are all the background checks up to date?
  3. When was the last inspection by the Virginia Department of Social Services?
  4. When was the last incident at your facility?

Following these guidelines can help you in your search for a safe daycare facility to trust with caring for your children.  If you or your family find yourself in the awful position of having a child injured while under the supervision and care of a daycare facility, an experienced attorney like those at Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen can help you with your daycare injury case. There are complex laws governing liability and compensation in these cases, and an attorney can simplify matters for you and help you pursue the full compensation you deserve.  The attorneys at Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen have that experience and are here to help you when and if you need us.