Child Care Quality

When families need to use child care, it’s important that their children are enrolled in the highest quality care possible. Research indicates that children who receive a high quality early childhood education have better math, language and social skills as they enter school, and as they grow older require less special education, progress further in school, have fewer interactions with the justice system and have higher earnings as adults (Barnett, 1995).

Tips for Choosing Quality Child Care

Several research studies have found that high quality child care programs have certain characteristics in common. These characteristics can help parents make better child care choices for their children because they indicate a much greater likelihood of high quality care. Quality indicators measure the conditions that generally foster a safe, nurturing and stimulating environment for children.

Quality Indicators

Low ratios and low turnover allow teachers to respond to the individual needs of children, to give each child ample attention and to create a strong bond, adding to the child’s security. Higher education helps staff and directors understand the needs and development of young children, which helps teachers plan activities for children and interact with them in developmentally appropriate ways. Well-compensated teachers with good benefits change jobs with less frequency, lowering turnover and increasing opportunities for children to create attachments and build relationships. Finally, child care programs with a national accreditation or higher-than-minimum license demonstrate an intent to provide high quality care and have met higher-than-minimum standards to receive the accreditation or license.

When you visit a child care program, use one of the child care checklists below to determine how many quality indicators the program has. If you can answer yes to most or all of the questions on the checklist, your child will have a greater chance of having a successful child care experience.

Danger Signals

The work of parents in ensuring a quality child care experience does not stop once a selection has been made. Parents can serve as advocates for their own child and other children by monitoring their child’s child care program. In North Carolina, the Division of Child Development and Early Education, the agency that regulates NC child care programs, may only visit a program once a year. Therefore, monitoring your provider is up to you.

Here are some warning signs that can help alert parents to problems:

  • The center or home discourages parental visits or questions.
  • Parents must knock or call before entering.
  • The teacher or family child care provider seems harsh or indifferent to children.
  • The teacher or family child care provider uses corporal punishment, such as spanking, shaking or rough handling.
  • Teachers spend more time talking to each other than talking and playing with the children, or the family child care provider spends more time taking care of her own needs or the needs of her family than talking and playing with the children.
  • There are not enough adults for the number of children in care.
  • In a child care center, children are moved from classroom to classroom during the day to meet staff/child ratios.
  • In a family child care home, there are a lot of other family members and friends in the home that you and your child do not know.
  • The center or home is dirty or unsafe.
  • Toys, learning materials and equipment are in short supply and often put out of the reach of children.
  • There is a pattern of recurrent accidents or illnesses that seems excessive.
  • Children are expected to wait for long periods of time doing nothing but standing in lines or sitting at tables.
  • Your child is still unhappy after a reasonable adjustment period.

It is always advisable to share your concerns with your child care provider. Often there is a reasonable explanation or solution. If, however, the problem seems very serious and involves children being physically or emotionally harmed, parents in North Carolina should not hesitate to contact Child Care Referral Central at 855-EARLY ED (855-327-5933) or the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education at 1-800-859-0829. Sometimes parents feel that the problem is only affecting their own child and solve the problem by finding another child care program. Sharing your concerns with others may help prevent additional children from being hurt.

Compliance History

The North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education monitors all regulated child care programs in North Carolina. Consultants from the Division’s regulatory department inspect programs and investigate complaints, in order to ensure compliance with child care laws. Inspection reports, complaints, and investigation results, filed in the regulatory office in Raleigh, are public records, thus available for public viewing.

Parents can view general compliance history information by visiting the Division’s Facility Search Page. Parents wanting written documentation of the compliance history for a regulated child care center or home may either call, email, complete an electronic request form, or visit the Division of Child Development and Early Education (see contact information below). Written documentation may include site visit summaries, substantiated complaints filed against the program and administrative actions.

With a phone call, email, or request form, the Division will copy the past two years of the provider’s files and mail them to the parent. (Information is not shared over the telephone.) It can take three to five weeks to receive the copies. There is no charge for this service and no limit to the number of provider records that can be copied. Visitors to the Division’s office in Raleigh may review entire files.

1-800-859-0829 in North Carolina, or 919-814-6300 if calling from other states. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. EST to 5:00 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday.

To review compliance histories of particular child care facilities, go to the Division of Child Development and Early Education online facility search.

  • Type in the name of the facility and county then click Submit
  • Choose the facility you want to research from the list of facilities found based on your criteria
  • Click on the DCDEE Visits tab located above the Basic Facility Information
  • This page allows you to view DCDEE visits and violations for the past 3 years. You can also submit a Request for More Information that can include: State Actions against a program, Substantiated complaints, Summary of visits, Unsubstantiated complaints and Sanitation reports

Division of Child Development and Early Education
333 East Six Forks Road
Raleigh, North Carolina 27609
Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST
Monday through Friday

Have child care questions? We can help!


Our staff members are part of the team of NC Child Care Resource and Referral Specialists who are operating the statewide child care referral hotline. If you are a family needing referral support from the hotline, please call us (toll-free). If you need other information or support or are a prior referral client needing additional/follow-up services, please email us (, and we will respond as soon as possible.