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Child Care

How do you choose the best place to leave your children?  It can be one of the hardest and most important decisions you will ever make. The South Dakota DIvision of Child Care has devleoped an online searchable child care database. Click here to browse for registered or licensed child care providers in South Dakota.

Other Helpful Resources:
Choosing Child Care Booklet
Child Care Aware of America for Parents and Families

The following information can help you determine the best child care for your needs.

7 Steps to Choosing Child Care

  1. Read - Obtain a list of child care homes or centers available from 1) the Early Childhood Enrichment (ECE) office in your area; or 2) the online searchable database for licensed child care options in South Dakota.

  2. Call - Call the providers you have selected from your list. Ask the questions listed below.  Make sure you take notes, so that you can keep the different providers straight in your mind.
    A good telephone opening statement is: "Hello.  My name is _________.  I am trying to find child care for my (age) child.  If you have a few minutes, I'd like to ask you a few questions.
    What time do you open and close?
    Do you serve meals or do I need to bring my child's own food?  Is there an extra charge for meals?
    When I have the time, can I stay and watch my child play?
    I would like to come and visit your home (or center).  What day and time would be best?

  3. Visit - Visit the homes or centers that you have called. When you go, look at the children and the adults who work with the children.  Below you will find a list of things to check.
    Look at the Area
    • Does it look clean and safe?
    • Is there enough space inside and out so all the children have room to play?
    • Are there enough toys and materials for all the children?
    • Can the children reach the toys easily?
    • Is there time each day for both quiet and active play?
    • Is the provider licensed or registered?

    Look at the Caregiver
    • Does the caregiver seem happy to see your child?
    • Does the caregiver use a calm voice and talk to the children on their level?
    • How does the caregiver deal with a child who does something that he or she shouldn't do?
    • Does the caregiver seem happy and cheerful and to enjoy the children?
    • Do you feel good about leaving your child with this person?
    • Are children being comforted when necessary?
    • Does the caregiver seem to be knowledgeable?

    Look at the Children
    • Do the children look happy?
    • Are they playing nicely?
    • Are they given a chance to make choices?
    • Can you picture your child playing happily here?
    • Are the children too quiet?
    • Are the children too noisy?

  4. Ask - Ask the caregiver if you may talk with other parents who use that home or center.  Get several names and phone numbers and call these parents.  Have some questions to ask:
    • Are you happy with your child's care?
    • Does your child enjoy going there?
    • What do you like most about this child care?
    • What are some of the things that you don't like?

  5. Decide - Decide which provider seems best for you and your child.  Go over your notes.  If you feel unsure about a program, visit again.

  6. Act - Act on the tips below. It will help you to feel good about the care you have chosen.
    • Sign a contract before you start care. This helps you and the caregiver avoid surprises.  Include the following: the hours the program is open, the days the program will be closed, the items you need to provide (diapers, formula, special foods, etc.), the child care rate charged per hour, day, or week, and any extra fees or costs connected with child care (registration fees, etc.).
    • Get involved. It is the best way to feel comfortable with a new child care.  Some larger centers have parent groups that meet on a regular basis. Or, you can help with arts and crafts projects, bring in snacks for parties and get to know the caregiver and the other parents. You can make this new experience a happy one for you and your child.
    • If you have a complaint about a caregiver or a program, please call Child Care Services at 1-800-227-3020, or let your caseworker know.

  7. Get Help - Help is just a phone call away!  Child Care Services is here to help and wants you to be happy with your child care provider and the assistance you receive.  If you have any questions or concerns, contact CCS at 910 E. Sioux Ave., Pierre, SD  57501, call us at 1-800-227-3020 or email us

What Parents Should Do for the Child Care Provider

  • Be prompt or let your provider know if you will be late or absent.
  • Leave written permission and instructions for giving medication (dosage, times, special instructions). Label the container with your child’s name.
  • Leave information on: who to contact in case of emergency, parents' work numbers, and who can pick up your child.
  • Let your provider know your views on discipline.
  • Keep a sick child home (unless your provider offers sick child care).
  • Pack extra clothes. Dress your child appropriately for the weather, daily activities, or for her/his special needs (if in diapers or toilet training, make sure clothes are easy to get off quickly).
  • Work with your provider on toilet training, weaning from the bottle, etc.
  • Tell the provider if something has happened that may affect your child (death in the family, separation of parents, a move, went to bed late, etc.).
  • Discuss food allergies and restrictions.
  • Keep your child’s immunizations current.
  • Take your child into the facility and go in to pick him/her up. Allow a few minutes to visit each day.

What to Do if You Can't Find a Provider

  • Stay in touch with your Early Childhood Enrichment (ECE) representative, ask to have them contact you if a child care option becomes available.
  • Look in different locations; on your way to work, near work, or try a different route to work. This may be as good a solution as finding a day care close to home.
  • Talk to friends, neighbors, people at church, etc. who may have faced the same problem. What solution did they find?
  • Discuss your child care need with your employer and with co-workers. If many of you are having the same difficulties, your employer needs to know.
  • Make a short term plan for child care but keep looking until you find the kind of care you want.
  • Get on the waiting list of every program you are interested in. Sometimes openings come up unexpectedly.

Things to Watch For When Your Child is in Care

Even if you have been careful in your selection of a child care provider, you may still wonder if you have made the right choice. Here are some things you should watch for as you monitor your child care provider.

Does your child:
  • Respond to the caretaker warmly?
  • Ask to stay to finish play?
  • Settle into play easily with a favorite toy or friend?
  • Show you or tell you about the day’s activities?

Do you as a parent:
  • Feel comfortable spending time at the child care setting?
  • Find the caregiver responsive to your comments or suggestions?
  • Feel your instructions are being followed?

What to watch for:
  • You see or hear your child saying or doing things in play that seem to reflect some kind of mistreatment.
  • Your child is afraid to go to the child care or afraid of one particular person.
  • Your child begins to act withdrawn, nervous, or begins having nightmares or physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches.
  • Your child is suddenly afraid of undressing, using the bathroom, or bathing.
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