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What are Daycare Ratios?

Parenting and Child Care

State Regulations

Each state in the US has specific regulations for child care and daycare centers. However, each state’s requirements vary, and most regulations only provide minimum standard of care. The criteria for daycare evaluation includes: supervision of the children, amount of space for the center, quality of daycare materials and equipment, overall cleanliness/sanitary conditions, staff training and child/staff daycare ratios.

The child/staff daycare ratios tell how many children each childcare worker can watch. This ratio must be maintained or the daycare center may be in violation of state law. Each childcare teacher may also have an aide, or another adult employee who helps in supervising the children. However, only daycare staff with direct responsibility for childcare can be counted toward the daycare ratios. A resource person like a police officer, arts teacher, volunteer parent, nurse or other visitors do not count toward the child/staff ratios.

Ratios and Daycare Staff

Different states have different daycare ratios based on the age of the child. For example, infants and babies under 11 months need more staff attention than older children. In Texas, for babies under 11 months, maximum of four children can be assigned to one daycare staff or 4 to 1 ratio. Other state daycare regulators divide the children into broad groups like infants, toddlers, pre-school and school-age children and then set the daycare ratios. For example, Missouri sets the child/staff ratio for preschool children as 8 to 1. But for Pennsylvania, the child/staff ratio for preschool students is 10 to 1. For mixed aged groups, the daycare ratios also vary by state and the number of children.

However, many pediatricians and child care advocacy groups prefer 3 babies to 1 caregiver for children under the age of 11 months. They also advocate lower child/staff ratios for older children as well. Childcare workers can give individualized attention to each kid and can respond quickly to emergencies when the child/staff ratio is lower.

General Advice

Parents should look at the entire setup within the daycare before making a decision. For example, children with special needs will require more staff attention. Parents should look for daycare centers with lower child/staff ratios and make sure that the staff is well trained. Also, parents should look for a daycare center with a low staff turnover rate; it’s a sign of good communication, training and management skills between the daycare center owner and the staff.

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