Can Yelp help you find reliable child care? ASU looks to find out

Posted at 5:10 AM, Oct 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-09 11:42:33-04

From top restaurants to moving companies, you have probably used Yelp before to find a businesses to use. But, have you ever thought to use the website to find a daycare?

The site can sometimes be a dumping ground for complaints. So, is it credible when looking for someone to look after a child? Researchers at Arizona State University decided to find out.

The study included 40 cities and roughly 50,000 submissions on nearly 10,000 childcare facilities. Three of those 40 cities were Phoenix, Mesa, and Tucson.

Researchers tell ABC15, even they were shocked by the findings.

They found, through the reviews, that a majority of parents were meticulous and detailed. More than 75% gave a 5-star review.

As for why they decided research like this was important, ASU said they wanted to see exactly what parents were looking for in childcare, what they were saying in these reviews, and how uncovering that could lead to policy changes that could benefit all children.

But, despite overwhelmingly positive reviews, lower income families often reported more bad experiences, disrespect, and a lack of learning for their children.

Chris Herbst, an associate professor at ASU, was deeply involved in this study. He hopes this research will encourage parents to keep documenting their experiences.

"It provides this sort of learning loop for childcare providers," Herbst explained. "So, if providers know the parents... feel a certain way about the program, then providers can use this information to inform their... quality improvement activities."

While these reviews are a good start, Herbst stresses that parents have plenty of tools they can use, beyond just basing it on online reviews.

One suggestion he gives is using the Quality Rating and Improvement System.

Parents can search their state and look-up different facilities to see how this system evaluates and rates the program's quality.

ABC15 also reached out to Erin Raden for more tools and advice for parents. She is the Executive Director of the Arizona Early Childhood Education Association.

In regards to using online reviews, like Yelp, Raden said it is good to use. However, it should not be the only way you make a childcare decision.

"You may have a parent that's upset about something," Raden described. "And that might be the right choice for them to no longer take their child there. But, that doesn't mean that it wouldn't be the right choice for you."

Raden also suggests taking your time and visiting at least two or three facilities.

"It's just going to be a lot about what feels right to you and you should always trust your instincts," Raden explained.

She said that it is not about a facility being the most beautiful place, but instead -- look at how the students are engaged with their instructors.

Another tool ABC15 has brought to parents' attention in the past is on the Arizona Department of Health Services website called AZ Care Check.

This was suggested after ABC15 uncovered details about an abuse at a Phoenix daycare

Three employees at Brighter Angels Learning Center near Central Avenue and Baseline Road were convicted for their involvement in a child being struck with a broomstick inside their facility back in February of 2017.

But, since ABC15's reporting and the conviction, the facility has changed their name to "Rise and Shine Academy." 

So, we wondered -- how can parents still ensure they are getting all the information they need about a facility?

In an email from the Arizona Department of Health Services previously on this subject, they said: "Although the facility name has changed the licensee has not. Therefore, the facility history can still be found in AZCareCheck by entering the new facility name or by facility address. When you click on the enforcement type entries you will see that the previous and current facility name is associated."

Since Ruben Sandoval, who was convicted of covering up the abuse at facility, is still the owner, all citations will remain, no matter the name change.

In regards to parents looking into the number of citations a facility has received overall, Raden said to be sure to look into exactly what they have been cited for.

"There are paperwork violations. Something that's... maybe an occasional slip-up; they forgot to put something away... No, you don't want that, right? But, one of those over a couple of years is really not disqualifying," Raden described.

Raden refers parents to the Arizona Child Care Resource & Referral website.

She said it has plenty of tools for parents, the ability to search for a provider by zip code, plus a checklist that parents can print off and take with them to any facility they visit.