Be Picky – Parents Face Maze In Choosing Day Care Option

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 20, 2013

By Mike Barnhardt
Enterprise Record

Be picky.
For parents looking for day care options for their young children, that isn’t always easy.
What do you look for in a day care center?
The answer isn’t simple. It’s more than the number of stars awarded the center by the state. It’s more than the honesty of the program director. It’s more than the fact that it meets in a church.
But there is help – and it’s only a click away.
Dr. Donna Hinkle of Davie County has started, and she brings her lifetime of working with and in child care centers to help parents pick the right one. She’ll visit the center, talk to the director, watch the children, and give a recommendation. She welcomes visits and comments to her blog, and hopes a new discussion will improve the way people decide on day care centers.
“Nobody was helping parents very much when it comes to picking a day care or preschool,” she said. “There’s no substitute for going in and looking and seeing what’s happening.”
Childcare programs are not certified, and there is a real variety of programs. Even licensed centers are only looked at once a year, and that is only for basic needs such as cleanliness, safety and record keeping. Church-based programs are visited by state inspectors, but are not licensed. Those open four hours or less are not even checked.
Hinkle says that doesn’t mean a center is bad, just that it’s difficult for a parent to know whether it is or not.
“I’ve been thinking about this for years. I know of nobody who is doing this.”
She spends an hour or two observing the program.
She encourages local families to take advantage of Head Start, a program for 3 and 4 year olds that has openings in Davie County.
Take advantage of Smart Start, which has a variety of free resources for young families of all income brackets.
The best thing for a child’s development, she said, is for the mother to have at least a high school education and good parenting skills. Closely following that are a good pre-school program.
“One mother told me her daughter started school behind other …