5 Things Every Social Worker Should Understand About Daycare Settings

What Social Workers Should Know about Daycare Settings

  • Procedures and Policies
  • Customized Curriculum
  • Diversity
  • Child Safety
  • Age-appropriate Equipment

When it comes to caring for young children, expectations and standards are very high as every social worker assessing a daycare setting will see. The atmosphere at daycare sites vary greatly from that in traditional classrooms because of age and development stage differences, requiring different standards of care and learning opportunities for the younger group. Teachers and classroom aides are specifically trained and certified to meet the needs of children who may be as young as a few months.

Procedures and Policies

The childcare sector is a heavily regulated business in all states. Federal standards influence state mandates to make sure that the daycare facility complies or exceeds minimum standards of care established to protect young children. The standards may recommend instructional guidance and age-appropriate activities for social and behavioral support. Social workers assigned to inspect these facilities should be fully aware that all daycare locations, regardless of type, are subject to state and municipal licensing regulations as well as other laws covering operational procedures. The regulations are structured for flexibility, depending on enrollment and attendance size, so it is up to the social worker to verify the numbers to understand daycare issues such as staff size, teacher-student ratios, types of activities and work flow assignments.

Customized Curriculum

The specific curriculum of each daycare facility will vary, and the choice is entirely up to the administration. Some facilities focus on art engagement while others may use math and science themes to guide their instructional and recreational activities. Each facility is autonomous when it comes to curriculum content although franchised sites may adopt the same materials. It is useful for the social worker to understand this about various settings to have a better handle on what is going on inside classrooms or play areas.


The social worker should expect a diverse group of learners in every daycare facility. Cultural backgrounds, ages and individual differences can affect how staff manage the daily routine. Additionally, the differences in emotional and social development of the children may not be obvious to a social worker observing the daycare setting casually. Teachers and aides handle children differently, depending on their needs and abilities. The teacher/aide to student ratios are defined by state guidelines, but the facilities have some leeway especially with mixed-age groupings. Classroom and playground routines are planned to accommodate the needs of all children.

Child Safety

Providing a safe environment where children feel welcome and wanted is a primary concern for all daycare facilities. Younger children may be unable to read written cautionary signs or remember verbal instructions, so it is up to the teachers and aides to keep a close watch on their group and act swiftly to prevent untoward incidents. Some of these cautionary measures may seem odd, but adults usually have individual and group safety in mind.

Age-appropriate Equipment

Playground and classroom equipment and supplies are assigned based on physical age. Even with mixed age groups, teachers will guide young children to choose the most appropriate puzzles, manipulatives and art materials based on their interests and physical abilities. Often, they also have to make sure that the kids have access to their favorite games or books, which can be a tricky situation given the number of children. There is really no favoritism going on because teachers are just managing the situation as fairly as possible.

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Social workers understand that daycare facilities aim to deliver quality care for young children. The Child Development Council has created research-based guidelines to help these facilities come up with procedures and processes that will foster a safe learning environment for young children entrusted to their care. These efforts may not be immediately apparent to the social worker reviewing the practices of a daycare setting, so it may be necessary to ask probing questions for clarification.