Daycare Checklist for Parents

Getting complete and sometimes critical information about a daycare facility is not necessarily easy.  The Department of Early Learning (DEL) website and Child Care Aware only possess limited information about daycares.  So how do find out if it’s a good daycare?   Make a public records request (RCW 42.56).  This information will give you excellent insight as to how the daycare is run, how it is monitored by the State and what licensing/daycare standard problems it has encountered.

To request public records, write an email to DEL’s current Public Records Officer, James DeHart:

Dear Mr. DeHart: 

This is a public disclosure request for full information contained within the DEL computer files and hard copy paper files on licensed day care facility (write provider’s name or name of day care here), including, but not limited to, all provider notes, CPS complaint referrals, inspections, licensing complaint referrals, staff background checks and licensing investigations. 

Please also advise me if DSHS CPS records exist.  If so, please provide the name and email address of the DSHS CPS public disclosure coordinator for me to contact.  If you forward this email, please copy me.  

Please forward the requested information to me via an email attachment.  If the file is too large and you want to send it on a CD, please let me know and I will provide you with my mailing address. 

Thank you,


In addition to a public disclosure request, visit the daycare and use these questions and tips of our daycare checklist to assist your search.

  1. Is the daycare licensed?  For how long? Ever had its license revoked?  Suspended?
  2. View the children in care.  Are they happy, sad, irritable, engaged in play, isolated?
  3. View the staff.  Are they happy, on edge, depressed?  Relating to the children with interest, kindness and caring?
  4. How does the provider say they operate their daycare?  Do you see that in action?
  5. Most injuries at daycare occur due to lack of supervision. View the supervision. What do you see?   How are the children playing outside supervised?
  6. How often do injuries occur at the daycare?
  7. Does the provider or any staff members react defensively to your inquiries?
  8. Ask to view the folder that shows the staff, family members and any others living in the daycare home have cleared background checks.
  9. Ask to see the kitchen and the food served. (Clean, dirty, good food choices?)
  10. Ask to view the playground area.  (Does equipment seem well maintained?  Ground protection for kids falling off equipment?)
  11. Ask for the names and phone numbers of referrals who would recommend their daycare center.
  12. For any facility your child attends, how does he/she feel when they are dropped off at the daycare?  How do they feel when they are picked up?  Happy?  Sad?  Irritable?  Note the cues!

Touring each day care is important! An impromptu visit is even better so you can get a true feeling of what happens at the facility during a “typical” day. When unexpected visits are welcomed by a daycare facility, it becomes another positive “checkmark”. Finally, don’t forget to do a public records request.  If you have any questions or encounter any roadblocks, please contact Ken.