Deciding on a Daycare
You truly need to feel comfortable and happy with the daycare you choose; otherwise, every minute you're away from your child, you'll be worrying. That's what parents do! But with a little legwork, you'll be able to find a home or facility that is safe and nurturing. If you want to be sure you're choosing the right daycare for you and your child or children, you'll need to do some research and interviewing.
So, how do you even go about finding daycares? Well, your best bet is probably word of mouth. Ask other mothers at the park, at school, and especially your friends and acquaintances. Write down the names of providers or centers that people gush about. You can also jump online and check out the National Association of Family Child Care's website. You can check your local newspaper, bulletin boards at your local grocery stores or community centers, and the Yellow Pages, but always be sure to visit and interview those places (all places, really).
So, you'll have a list of centers. Now you can weed out some of them. What are you looking for? Location? Cost? Center? Home provider? (I'd recommend interviewing both a center and a home provider so you can compare the differences.) Make a few preliminary phone calls to your list of potentials, and eliminate those that do not fit your criteria.
Next, visit and interview the caregiver. Here is a list of topics you'll probably want information on:
- Cost, fees
- What is included in the cost, fees?
- References from other clients
- Caregiver/child ratio, number of children and ages
- Hours/vacation days
- Policies (sick days, behavior and discipline, late pick-ups, etc.)
- What food does the caregiver provide?
- Do they accommodate for allergies/special dietary needs?
- Child rearing philosophy
- Sleeping arrangements/how do they approach nap time?
- Do you sign a contract?
- What is their level of communication with parents? Daily reports? Weekly? Conferences?
And, of course, you'll probably add more questions that specifically address your child and your life. Don't be shy about this; take the time to find out everything. Don't worry; they are used to it! And they probably appreciate you taking the time to learn more about them and their facility.
Lastly, trust your emotions. If you feel you have a good connection with the center director or the home provider, that's a good sign. If you just aren't sure, or you have a put-off feeling, keep looking. Of course, no place is perfect, but you'll want to find one that's safe, nurturing, happy, and right for your family. It will make dropping them off a lot easier!