An investigation by RTÉ into child care standards at the Hyde & Seek Childcare chain has revealed concerns over the standards of care at the company.

While the findings make for difficult reading, the children's charity Barnardos today stressed that thousands of crèches around the country are dedicated to providing quality childcare.

Speaking to RTÉ News, the CEO of Barnardos, Suzanne Connolly recommended a number of steps that parents can take when choosing a crèche for their child.

Ms Connolly said: "We are out in the community offering them support in terms of providing the best environment they can for the children, supporting them in terms of how they develop a really positive interaction with their children, providing training, providing various publications.

"We find the whole sector really responsive to that report, and really committed to their own development."

1. Visit the crèche

Ms Connolly said that when parents are deciding which crèche to choose for their child, the parent should first visit the crèche they are thinking of during working hours.

"Visit the crèche when there are children there, and observe how the staff are with their children. Are the staff warm? Are they smiling? Are they responsive? What is the ratio?

"What is the feeling they get when they go in there? Do they feel welcome? Because the relationship that the providers have with the parents is very indicative of how they are going to relate to that parent if the child goes to that centre."

2. Examine the environment and facilities

Ms Connolly also advised parents to examine the environment and the facilities at the crèche and ensure that there is an outside environment for children at the facility.

She added: "Is it a physical environment that they feel would stimulate their child and will support their child's development?

"So if it's a baby, what you're looking for is that there are appropriate cots, with space between the cots. If you look at the programme last night, it was horrific what was shown in terms of the number of cots in one space.

"What you need to be asking for as the child gets older is - what are the facilities around for that child to develop their brain? Because children at a very young age, they love to touch things, they love to feel things, they like to look at things and there should be a variety of play materials available for those children to do that. The other thing is there should be an outside environment so the children can go outside.

"There should be a very nutritious menu available, the parent should ask what food is provided for the children."

Ms Connolly said that the parents should get a gut feeling which says "I feel okay here".

3. Policies

Ms Connolly said that once the crèche is visited and examined, parents should then think about asking about policies.

"What are the policies that the crèche has in terms of health and safety? What happens if the child has an accident? What do they do? What do they do if the child cries?

"If you are the parent of a baby, you should know that your child gets an immediate response if a child cries, that's the child's way of expressing their need for attention," she said.

4. Parents should feel welcomed

Ms Connolly also said that parent should feel welcomed at the créche, and recommended that parents establish a relationship with the staff and the manager at the créche. 

"So you have to satisfy yourself that the child is getting the care and attention that they need. And that is really about what sense you get from having visited the centre. 

"And I would also suggest to the parent, they should feel very welcomed, they should even be able to pop in unexpectedly during the day. Maybe collect your child early one day, and feel very welcomed in that regard.

"What I would do as a parent is establish a relationship with the staff and with the manager. And if they are not telling you about your child's day, if they are not showing an interest in your child - that would worry me."