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South Carolina wants the best for its children and that means ensuring a safe, nurturing environment in which they can grow up healthy and happy. As a parent, one of the most important decisions you will ever make is choosing the right child care (day care), but making this choice can be confusing.

We know that parents want to place their child with a provider who offers the best possible care to their children so they can learn and grow. But what does this mean? What does a high quality facility look like?  

You might not know it, but not all child care programs are required to be licensed in this state. That’s why the first step in choosing a quality provider is to look for licensed child care. Licensed child care providers are required to meet the basic health and safety needs of children, undergo background checks, and be inspected by the Department of Social Services (DSS).

In addition to providing basic health and safety needs, a child care provider should be warm and caring, attentive to the children in their care, and should be able to identify and respond to each child’s individual needs. Staff should encourage children and discipline them in positive ways, instead of blaming, criticizing, or punishing them. Children need child care providers who will help them actively play and learn, and who will provide them with a choice of activities, toys, and materials throughout the day.

A quality provider has a set program along with written plans for the day; they also have standards for nutrition and physical activity. This means that child care staff must be trained and experienced in order to provide great care to all of the children in their classroom.

The Division of Early Care and Education can help you by explaining what we mean by child care, by helping you to understand the different types of child care available, and to help you determine what to expect in a quality child care program.