Leaving a child in the care of a daycare provider is nerve-wracking for any parent. Her safety and well-being is at the forefront of any child care decision, and New York tries to take some of the guesswork out of that decision by requiring regular daycare inspections. All daycare providers in New York undergo a facility inspection by the Office of Children and Family Services prior to licensing, as well as routine unannounced inspections. The inspection criteria help keep children safe and healthy, and as a provider, there are steps you can take to ensure you pass inspection.
Read the Provider Handbook, and request a copy of the licensing inspection checklist to ensure you meet all of the requirements. Speak with the licensing representative at OCFS or at your local Childcare Resource and Referral Agency for clarification if you need it.
Contact the licensing office to determine who should inspect your home for compliance with fire codes. New York law requires daycares to comply with the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code.
Organize your records. The inspector will check that you have; copies of evacuation and health care emergency plans on approved forms, information about the children enrolled in your program and their health, a list of all of the people approved to work in your daycare, health statements for you, anyone living in the house and employees, a copy of your program activities outline, documentation of training, and copies of the forms you sent to the local public safety offices notifying them of your daycare. You’ll also need to have documentation that your home and the surrounding area are free from environmental hazards.
Completely clean your home. Shampoo carpets, dust, and scrub and disinfect surfaces. Pay close attention to bathrooms and food preparation areas. Get down on your hands and knees to look for potential hazards.
Childproof your home. Remove firearms from the premises, or lock them in a container away from the areas where you care for children. Lock alcohol, cleaning products and potentially dangerous items out of reach of children. Add outlet covers, doorknob covers, refrigerator locks, stove knob protectors and secure loose cords. Install safety gates near stairways and alarms on any outside exits.
Install window guards. New York law requires window guards on all windows more than 32 inches from the floor.
Prepare a safety kit. Include basic first aid supplies and a flashlight. Have a working and charged telephone on-site at all times.
Set the temperature. New York law requires that the day care area always be at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The OCFS recommends a water heater setting of 120 degrees to prevent burns.
Create a play area for the children. Stock the play area with age-appropriate toys that are clean and in good condition. Check with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ensure that none of the toys have been recalled. The OCFS recommends providing open-ended activities, such as blocks, crayons and play dough that children can use to explore their creativity.
Arrange your kitchen food preparation according to food safety guidelines. Store meat and dairy foods in the refrigerator, with meat at the bottom to avoid spills and the spread of germs. Provide an adequate number of plastic dishes and child-sized cutlery for the number of children in your care.
Assess your outdoor environment for potential hazards. OCFS follows the Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines for play areas. Make sure that any playground equipment is in good condition and meets safety standards. Install a fence around the play area if necessary. If you have a swimming pool, install a lock and alarm on the door or gate leading to the pool.
An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer on topics including lifestyle, education, and business. She is the author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), and her work has appeared in Lewiston Auburn Magazine, Young Money, USA Today and a variety of online outlets. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.