I remember the joke about the drunk who was scrambling around in a pool of light underneath a lamppost late one night, obviously searching for something. A policeman walked by and asked him what he was doing. "I'm lookin' for my car keys," came the reply. The officer commented to the hapless gentleman on the pavement; "Sir, the bar is 3 blocks away and there is no car in sight... are you sure that you lost your keys in this location?" The indignant response was, "It's too dark to find anything anywhere else, this is the only place that's lit up enough to be worth searching!"
Like the gentleman above, when it comes to choosing the people who you will put in charge of your child, I can bet that you are looking in the wrong place. You are scrutinizing the adults because they are the most easy to observe and understand from your own mature perspective. They speak your language and have the credentials that are agreed-upon as being valid. And, they are probably talking to you in a most convincing manner.
However, relying on that alone could prove dangerous to your child.
I could go on about the human tendency to look for answers in all the wrong places but I will resist the temptation and get right to the point.
In looking for the best people to service your children, never look solely at the people themselves nor listen to their assertions about their results and their great philosophies regarding kids. Instead, work out how you can observe them in their actual working environment with children. And here is the trick: don't watch the adult, watch the kids.
Are they engaged? Do they look happy? Are they comfortable with each other and with the adult? Is the area relatively orderly? Do things proceed on some semblance of a schedule? Is the adult calm and professional? Can he or she control a whole group through explanation and reasoning or are more authoritarian methods employed? Is there an aura of respect and kindness or is the atmosphere competitive and harsh? Does there seem to be a lot of illness and accidents around this person or is there a sense of well-being?
Take the time to observe the children and you will always make the right choice. This also goes for nannys and babysitters: what frame of mind is your child in when you return home? Are they happy or stressed? No matter what the sitter says about how things went, just one look at your baby will tell you everything you need to know.
Of course, your observation and gut-feelings about the adults in your child's life are very valuable but that is just the first step in the elimination process. Just like an artist who asserts his genius but never shows you an actual painting, a teacher or counselor can claim to be the very best but the real test is what effect do they have on your own child. And the best judge of that is you.