Do your research. Call county child-care licensing offices and ask for providers' licensing histories, correction orders and serious injury/death incidents. Check the state website, www.startribune.com/a1263, for basic licensing details and sanctions since July 2010. Ask to see providers' licenses and current licensing restrictions.
Count the kids. Generally, family child-care licenses allow 10 to 12 children, with limits of no more than two or three infants/toddlers. Check the limit for your provider's license type.
Cover the basics. Ask for proof that caregivers (and subs) have completed training in preventing SIDS and shaken-baby syndrome. Make sure providers conform to safe back-to-sleep practices. Ask whether providers have liability insurance or accreditation.
Visit. Day cares should have open-door policies. Visit at times other than drop-off and pickup to see how providers interact with kids. Inspect cribs and ask providers for records showing their cribs meet safety standards.
Check website. The site parentawareratings.org lists family day cares that have agreed to meet voluntary standards that exceed state law. They are rated one to four stars. Ratings are in select counties until 2015, when providers statewide will be eligible. Call 1-888-291-9811 for advice from Parent Aware.