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Is my child safe at daycare? 5 things to look for when choosing a child care facility

Daycare teacher Meghan Mere reads to 1-year-olds at Learning Castle Children’s Center in Prescott Valley on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. (Max Efrein/Courier)

Daycare teacher Meghan Mere reads to 1-year-olds at Learning Castle Children’s Center in Prescott Valley on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. (Max Efrein/Courier)

Who to leave your young child with for the day while you work is a decision many of us have to make.

It’s a decision that can be scary at times, for you are trusting that person or business to monitor and protect your child in your absence.

If you choose a reputable child care facility or group home, then chances are things will go smoothly, but as the quad-city area saw with the alleged child abuse incident by a worker at Gummy Bear Early Learning Center in Prescott Valley in early July, not everyone can be trusted equally.

Click HERE to read the latest on the Gummy Bear center's situation.

All one can do is make an educated decision based on research, reviews, observations and gut instincts. To get parents started, Colby Bower, assistant director for public health licensing at the Arizona Department of Health Services, said there are several red flags to look out for when considering a child care facility or group home.


1 - Go to to make sure the business is properly licensed and to look for any citations facilities may have received over the years. When doing this, Bower recommends looking at the context of the violations, rather than the number, for some violations are much more serious than others.

“For example, we’ll cite a deficiency for not having the menu posted for snacks, but that’s a lot less important than staff not having CPR training,” Bower said.

2 - Visit each child care business you are considering at various times of the day and observe how each place is run. “Any facility that won’t let you observe or is hesitant about giving a parent a tour, that should be a big red flag,” Bower said. “Facilities should be open and welcoming.”

Obvious things to look for during a tour are general cleanliness and how childproofed the environment is. For instance, anything that could be considered toxic to children, such as cleaning agents or medications, should be securely put away and out of children’s reach.

3 - Check to see that child care staff have CPR training. Ask to see the certificates of training completion if they’re not already displayed, and make sure they’re up to date (within the past two years).

4 - Ask about caregiver-to-child ratios. The Arizona Department of Health Services requires the following ratios be maintained at all times:

Infants — 1:5 or 2:11

Age 1 — 1:6 or 2:13

Age 2 — 1:8

Age 3 — 1:13

Age 4 — 1:15

Older than 5 — 1:20  

If the facility exceeds these requirements, that means a child is less likely to be overlooked or poorly monitored.

5 - Pay attention to how a daycare’s staff disciplines children. The discipline should focus on positives and never involve harsh words or physical punishment, Bower said.


If someone has a concern about something that occurred in a child care business or how the business is being managed in general, there are two recommended actions. One is to simply speak with the business’s staff and see if the concern can be addressed.

The other option is to file a complaint with the Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS).

Anyone can file such a complaint if there is a suspected violation of Arizona state rules and/or statutes governing the operations of licensed child care centers or certified group homes.

“For example, if we get a complaint about inappropriate discipline, then we will go out on site and investigate that complaint,” Bower said.

If someone is unsure whether something qualifies as a violation, then he or she can call DHS at 602-364-2539 and ask to speak to the Surveyor on Duty about it, according to the DHS website.

Complaints can be hand-delivered, mailed, faxed, emailed or submitted using an online complaint form found at

Follow Max Efrein on Twitter @mefrein, email him at or call him at 928-445-3333 ext. 1105.

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