Ask Carly Gilkerson to list things she hopefully never has to do again and picking a day care provider is probably near the top. The Edmond mother has done it twice and neither time was smooth. "It's a huge pain,” she said. "When you find somebody good, don't let them go.” Her two children, Sara, 9, and Ethan, 4, are now in two different home day cares where she feels they are lovingly watched. But that was after removing her daughter from one day care center and some other horrors. Her quest is similar to many parents' experiences. In the end, she decided to go with a home day care instead of a day care center because of the close interaction. Many parents, those in the field say, do not know there are differences between the two. But there are variations, such has how many children and what ages they can take, whether alcohol or tobacco is allowed and what kind of inspections they're subject to. Tips for choosing a center Melinda Belcher, resource and referral coordinator with the Child Care Resource Center in Tulsa, said each parent will feel differently about choosing a home or center. Some like the homey feel of the day care home while others prefer the school atmosphere of a center. Belcher offers the following tips: •Look for working smoke detectors. •Make sure the home owner or center operator allows parents to visit any time they want. If the day care operator allows only scheduled visits by the parent, that provider might not be the right one. •Parents working nontraditional hours might find more options with the home, Belcher said. •Talk to the operator for at least 20 minutes, ask for references and phone numbers of other parents. "It's just like a job interview,” Belcher said. •Parents also should ask themselves whether they would want to play there for eight hours a day. More regulations on centers •Mary Leaver, spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services, said there are 3,700 homes and 1,800 centers in Oklahoma. About 107,000 children are in centers and 30,000 are in homes. •There tends to be more regulations on centers because the department cannot make a homeowner do certain things within their property, Leaver said. Advantages to both •Leaver's child is in a center. She said she noticed one advantage recently when her son was having trouble there. They met with her and decided to move her son up one classroom and now he's doing much better. •Although Leaver keeps her child in a center, she said she has seen some amazing work done in homes. Either way, center and home employees, who go through the same background checks, have their hands full. "In one day, my son wipes me out, and he's only one child,” she said, laughing. DHS workload •DHS child care licensing workers are charged with three unannounced visits to each facility annually, Leaver said. Each worker is responsible for an average of 40 homes and 11 centers. •Last week Gov. Brad Henry approved new regulations passed by DHS officials. They were drafted in the wake of Joshua Minton's death at a home day care in Tulsa. Joshua died in a hospital after being found with his mouth taped and his hands bound. Vicki Chiles, the day care's owner, told police she taped Joshua because he would not be quiet during nap time. She is charged with first-degree murder. •The new rules, which speed up the time an emergency shutdown order can be issued and allow parents better access to see inspections, are sure to place more burden on the agency. The end of day care homes? •Rick Kerr, a Lawton owner and operator of six day care centers, said he thinks the rules could phase out many day care homes. •He said children at centers, by state law, are never left alone like they might be in a home when the provider checks the mail or uses the rest room. •Lori Burroughs, who watches Gilkerson's son, said homes allow for more personal care.