Do your research. Call county licensing offices and ask for providers' licensing histories, including correction orders and serious injury or death incidents. Check the state website,, for basic licensing details and sanctions since July 2010. Ask to see providers' licenses..

Count the kids. Generally, family child-care licenses allow 10 to 12 children, with limits of no more than two or three infants/toddlers.

Cover the basics. Ask for proof that caregivers have completed training in preventing SIDS and shaken-baby syndrome. Make sure providers follow 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 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.