All daycares licensed by the State require compliance with appropriate staff to children ratios. The ratios vary depending upon the number of staff and the experience level of the staff. All of the ratios are aimed to provide a safe environment for children by requiring an appropriate number of adults overseeing them.
For a licensed family home daycare operated by a single provider with less than one year of experience, the ratio is 1:6. However, there are limitations on the number of children by age group. Specifically, there can only be two children under 18 months of age. Alternatively, three of the eight children supervised can be under two years of age, but one must be walking independently. For an excellent grid that shows the staff-child ratios, staff experience requirements and the maximum capacity of a daycare home, please go to http://app.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=170-296A-5700. This is Washington Administrative Code provision 170–296A-5700.
Take careful note of the legal and appropriate staffing requirements when shopping for a daycare. It is obvious why the staffing requirements exist: only so many eyes can watch so many children. If the daycare you are considering fails to meet the required staffing requirements, a loud siren should be screaming inside your head that this daycare is probably unsafe for your child. An understaffed daycare means your child is not being watched properly if watched it all. This is particularly troublesome if the understaffing occurs in a daycare with sleeping infants or active toddlers. These children require constant vigilance to ensure their safety and well-being.
Don’t be afraid to walk away from a daycare that’s understaffed even if all other indicators are positive. Your child’s well-being depends on it.