What matters most when looking for a daycare

How many daycares are actually quality rated? The number might surprise you. Eric Mock/WGXA

MACON, GA--For Macon mother Alex Bettencourtt, finding the right daycare for her daughter was not just important, it was essential to her daughter's health.

"She has hydrocephalus, which is too much fluid in the brain, she had a shunt placed when she was 11 days old, she also can't take liquids by mouth, she has a silent aspiration, so she has to have a gastro port to take those liquids," Bettencourtt said.

Bettencourt said she wanted to put her daughter into a daycare equipped to handle her special needs.

You can search all licensed daycare facilities in the state on the Georgia Department of Early Learning and Care's website. There you'll find reports on inspections the state performs on daycares. Inspectors make sure they meet standards of safety, food service and hygiene to name a few.

Heather Goelz worked closely with daycare programs and the state. She was an outreach coordinator for "Leap Early Learning Partners".

"General safety concerns and hazards are good things to look for." Goelz said.

Goelz said when you see these types of infractions on an inspection report, it's critical to follow up with the head of the school.

"Because if you are a parent that values safety, and you see transportation violations, it's really important to ask the director or administrator 'tell me about this situation, can you help me understand it and can you tell me how you've resolved the issues so it doesn't happen again,'" Goelz said.

But Goelz adds, "Look beyond inspection reports."

"Over 80% of childcare programs are in good standing, but it's important to note that that in and of itself does not indicate a program's ability to make quality improvements or provide high quality care," Goelz said. What you really want to look for is whether the program is Quality Rated.

The state's quality rated program gives one, two or three stars to daycares and pre-k programs.

To qualify they voluntarily submit to stricter guidelines, like a low teacher-to-student ratio.

"It's very important parents look at the rating system,"Goelz said.

Bettencourt says quality rating was a big part of their family's decision.

"We kept looking for daycares, there were a couple other daycares that said they would take her as she was but they didn't have a quality rating," Bettencourt said.

There are not as many quality rated daycares in your area as you might think.

According to the Department of Early Care and Learning, only 26% of the state's more than four thousand daycares are Quality Rated. The numbers get a little better in Middle Georgia.

In Bibb County only 32% of daycare centers are Quality Rated.

And in Houston County only 43% are Quality Rated.

On the Department of Early Care and Learning's website you can narrow your search to Quality Rated daycares only.

Thankfully for Bettencourtt, she found a three star quality rated daycare in Macon that meets her daughter's needs.

"Right now she's just turned sixteen months and she can walk! That's something that I fully give to these people here. that's something I know that they have done for her," Bettencourtt said.

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