Holding a list of never-ending questions with trembling hands, you struggle to count your breaths and calm your anxiety. You’ve got to stay present and alert – this place could be your child’s new home-away-from-home, after all. The time is coming. You’re going to have to face facts, pack up and send your precious little one off into the land of childcare, eventually. The thought is debilitating, terrifying even. These meetings and walk-throughs are the dread of your days. But they don’t have to be! Finding a daycare or caregiver to give the best care to your precious bundle doesn’t have to be the nightmare you’ve been anxiously sipping wine at night thinking about! Take a deep breath and follow these tips and guidelines for finding a reliable, safe and engaging caregiver for your child.
First Things First
Determine which type of childcare you want. What’s best? Most affordable? Here are some pros and cons of each type of childcare you might want to consider.
- A nanny would allow your child the one-on-one, most-like-a-mother caregiver you might be looking for. Your child could be entertained, played with and kept happy, absent of the responsibilities of other children that a daycare would have.
- Usually, their schedule is exactly what you need it to be and you can hand-select this person who will have, without a doubt, a huge influence in your child’s development and life
- One-on-one attention comes with a hefty price-tag, in most cases. In other words, if you find someone willing to offer far less than the going rate for a nanny, be wary of the quality of care your child will receive.
- Your child will be spending the majority of their time with an adult, void of the peer-to-peer influence that is imperative for social development. For this potential downfall, however, it could be discussed that your child goes to a play or library group a few times a week to interact and play with other kids their age.
- A nanny may need to adhere to a very specific schedule. If you have an early or late day at work, she/he may not be able to accommodate care for your child. If you decide to hire a nanny, be sure to have a plan in place for instances like these!
Key Questions to Ask
- What is your experience with children?
- Are you CPR/ First Aid certified?
- What is your ideal schedule?
- What is your policy regarding both yours and my child’s sick days? (When will you need to take the day off if you’re sick? How much advance notice will you attempt to provide and will you expect pay for this day?)
- What would a day with my child look like?
- What are your disciplinary procedures?
- Who are the best personal and professional references to contact regarding quality of care and reliability?
- A lively-social group for your child and they’ll learn through both doing and seeing other children do similar tasks.
- Daycares generally have earlier and later hours, so if your 3 o’clock meeting runs a little late, your child will still be cared for without issue if your daycare doesn’t close until 5 or 6pm.
- Reliability of care – daycares won’t close if one teacher gets sick. Daily operations may be a little different than normal, but your child will still be able to attend and receive their typical care. For parents who have little to no sick days to spare on sick caregivers, this is high on the list of “pros”
- Speaking as a former daycare center employee, as a parent you’ll basically be at the mercy of the daycare. Any licensed daycare (which ANY local center should have, by the way) has to follow state and federal guidelines when it comes to childcare… whether you like those rules and regulations or not. Many are in place for great reasons, but others, they’re literally ridiculous. License regulations can dictate how long they’re allowed to reuse your breast milk or formula in a bottle before they HAVE to dump it. You may or may not agree with whatever the regulation is for your state, but if you don’t agree with it, it really doesn’t matter. It’s going to happen because that’s what the state tells this daycare needs to be done.
- Many mothers will tell you that exposing kids to all the germs that other children may bring in is good for their immune systems. Honestly, they’re right. But when you’re the parent who has to take day after day after day off due to strep throat, a cold with a too-runny-for-daycare nose or another instance of diarrhea or vomiting, it becomes less of a “perk” to have your children constantly exposed to the various germs.
- The ratios of infants/children to teachers are always something to consider in a daycare as well. A four-to-one ratio for infants, as is in the State of New Hampshire regulations, might sound like a reasonable, low number. But walk into the room at some point during the day (yep, you also want to make sure there is an open-door policy for ANY place you choose to leave your child) and hear three hungry babies crying, one of them possibly being your own, because the one teacher in the room only has hands to feed one child at a time, and your perspective might change.
- You’re also at the mercy of who the daycare hires to care for your child. Do some research to find out what kind of turnover rate they have. If it’s a daycare with a high turnover, why is that? Hhint- look for referrals on yelp, google, etc. In essence, you have no say in who the director decides is a good fit for the center. You have to put your full trust that any person they hire has your child’s and your child’s classroom in their best interest and will provide for them safely and positively. Do not take this lightly – do your research and ask all your questions (see below) pertaining to staff, turnover rates, teacher qualifications, etc.
Key Questions to Ask
- For infants – what is your policy for how long breast milk and/or formula can stay out before being dumped?
- Are diapers/wipes/diaper cream provided? If so, what brands and is there a maximum limit per month?
- Are snacks/meals provided? If so, what do typical meals look like and what happens if my child refuses to eat something that day?
- What credentials does a teacher need to work here? What is the turnover rate like?
- What are your policies for unexpected closures due to weather, too many staff members out sick, etc?
- What disciplinary practices are in place for children who may bite, hit, push, etc.?
I know what you’re thinking. WOW for the “con” list for daycare centers. This isn’t to scare you away from them, really. Some daycares are amazing and the services they offer are unbeatable in terms of convenience and reliability. Some only appear “amazing” on the surface, however, and it really is imperative that proper research is done on a facility before enrolling a child.
- Usually a mother herself who either has young kids of her own or older children in school. Either way, they’re less frequently the highschool and college students you might find at a daycare center. Motherhood skills are invaluable and give (at least it did for me) peace of mind that they know what they’re doing when it comes to caring for children.
- Usually they are more flexible with state rules and regulations. For instance, when I ran my own in-home daycare following working in a center, I did not have to become licensed in the State of New Hampshire unless I took on more than four kids who were not my own. Every state varies and some states DO require that any amount of children being cared for aside from the caregiver’s own children must be licensed. Be sure to do your research! You do not want to place your child with a caregiver who should have a license but doesn’t! Regarding flexibility, I could determine what was “too-sick” for daycare vs a center who had a strictly laid out policy. I’d be more open to taking a child who needed a little more TLC that day whereas a daycare would say if they aren’t their “fully healthy selves, they need to be home”.
- Home daycares are typically much smaller than a center, offering a more personal childcare experience for both you and your child. You’ll get to know the other parents who have their children enrolled and your child will gain the social skills they need while also getting nearly personalized care.
- Home daycare caregivers are people too, who get sick, need days off for their own family priorities or go on vacation like other families at least once per year. All of these types of events result in having no childcare for your child. As with a nanny, you should have a backup plan in the event your home daycare needs to close unexpectedly or will be closed for several days.
- Many home daycares are not willing and/or able to accept State assistance plans that aid low-income households in paying for childcare.
Key Questions to Ask:
- Are you licensed. If yes, ask about State rules and regulations that are followed. If no, ask why not (is it not required, do they choose to remain unlicensed and if so, why)?
- Are diapers/formula/wipes/diaper cream supplied? If yes, what brands and is there a maximum per month?
- Are snacks/meals/beverages included in tuition? What policies are in place if your child won’t eat what is offered that day?
- How and where is naptime handled?
- What are the policies of the caregiver for their own sick/personal days? How much advance notice will be given and is payment still expected for those days?
- Best personal AND professional references to contact regarding quality of care and reliability?
So, now that all the “basics” are covered, onto what might be the biggest question. WHERE might one find QUALITY childcare options? Here are some recommendations, but again, use your own judgement and instincts when meeting anyone!
- Word of mouth – this is where I personally started because obviously, if someone in my close family or “circle” recommends someone, I’m going to trust them over anyone else. Our recommendation for our home-daycare came from my mom, who had a long-time patient that had one opening in her home-daycare
- com – Background checked with referrals and most of the questions we’ve covered answered before you even choose to speak to the person or center. This website takes a lot of the uncertainty out of finding quality, reliable childcare.
- Facebook groups – this might seem a little “sketchy”, but if you’re in a few local Mom groups, you’ll likely be able to get several credible suggestions!
It’s overwhelming, I know. And the craziness of leaving your child, going back to work and having to find childcare in the first place might leave you feeling stressed out, overwhelmed and upset – if you’re anything like me! I get it.
There are so many feelings after giving birth, being on maternity leave, finding childcare and facing going back to work, but take baby steps. Plan out your “attack route” on finding childcare in small parts first. Fine tune your family’s needs before you go in, guns (questions) blazing and your quest should be far less stressful. You’ve got this. Trust your instincts.
I trusted my instincts when we found our childcare provider and I am so glad I did. We asked around, did our research and had a home-daycare for our child and eventually children that I couldn’t have asked for more from. She was a mom herself and had been doing childcare for several years. She provided everything but diapers and wipes and had a long list of recommendations. She took amazing care of our kids and to this day, we are still friends on Facebook, where she likes and comments on pictures of our kids as though they were part of her family. That’s the connection you want. Don’t stop until you find it because that peace of mind is like nothing else, I promise you!
Meet The Author:
Ashley Lavoie is a married mom of three living in Southern NH. She loves to write and do kids activities and crafts with her children. She loves being outdoors, reading and learning new things! She found herself a stay-at-home-mom following the Neonatal Diabetes diagnosis of her youngest son when he was just six months old. Now, she is a freelance writer and advocate for Neonatal and Type One Diabetes and ADHD, running a blog as a means of therapy and a little extra income for her family!