Sending your child to Daycare is never an easy decision. Unless you married a Sugar Momma or Daddy, we are immersed into the proverbial rat race. Guzzling gallons of caffeine and working ideally 9 to 5 for someone who is maximizing our output so we can be graciously rewarded with inadequate pay. I digress. The decision to send our children to Daycare is painful. Sure it’s nice to get away from the occasional crying and diaper changes and have an opportunity to have an “adult moment” without the pressure of saying something inappropriate that their little sponge brains are going to absorb and drip out later when visiting the pediatrician. You know that deep down no one will care for your child quite like you. Because we don’t live in an age where we can clone ourselves, at least not legally, as parents we must resort to finding a childcare provider. Factors such as the quality, competency, cost, and reputation of care providers are common concerns of every parent, and if they’re not they should be.
You may subscribe to the idiom “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, you would be wrong to heed this advice when it comes to childcare. For example, just because there is a water stain on the ceiling in the shape of Olaf does not mean the child care facility is not a quality care provider. Nor does it matter that there are excessive layers of dirt on the air conditioning vent. Well, as a matter of fact, it does have a direct impact on the level of quality. Water stains on ceiling tiles suggest that there is a leak of some sort behind the tile. This can also indicate that mold exists on the other side of the tile presenting a risk to the air quality in the center. Depending on a child’s threshold to air pollutants this may cause health issues. When choosing a childcare provider it is safe to say, “if it looks dirty and dangerous, that’s because it is dirty and dangerous”. Go ahead and leave the book on the shelf and move to the next one. Tip: At a minimum all child care providers should follow CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of illnesses. You can learn more by visiting the CDC website. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/school/.
Competent child care providers should also have certifications and up to date vaccinations for their staff. When a Daycare touts that some of their staff have have Pediatric First Aid and CPR certifications this should not be seen as a plus. Having these credentials is a must have. We don’t ever want our children to get hurt at Daycare, however if they do get hurt, there is a reason someone came up with the name curtain climber, we want a competent person responding to their emergency, not a frantic person trying to reference First Aid advice by fast-forwarding through episodes of Doc McStuffins. The last thing I want to hear from a Daycare after my child has been injured is “It’s Time For A Checkup”.
A competent child care provider understands that mitigating illness is essential. The first step in mitigating illness is prevention through vaccination and educating staff on trending illnesses. Most child care facilities require employees to be vaccinated annually for the flu. That’s great, but what about Pertussis? Pertussis is the Whooping cough. You can get more information at the CDC website. Parents are typically advised by medical professionals to make sure everyone who will be coming in contact with the child get vaccinated with the Tdap. The Tdap really is a useful vaccine, it immunizes you not only against pertussis, but it also provides protection from tetanus for 7 years. This means that there is no need to worry when you’re out on a fishing trip and you end up stepping on an old rusty worm crusted hook. The CDC recommends getting the Tdap but falls short by not mandating the vaccine for adults. A shame.
Childcare is expensive! The costs of Daycare is not indicative of the level of service or quality of the Daycare center. Often Daycares will have amenities such as gyms, water parks, indoor playgrounds, and cool technology that are touted during the initial tour. But unless your 6 month old is a sports enthusiast that loves spending time on an iPad hash tagging his favorite pacifier color these amenities are useless to you as your child will not be able to use them until they are at least 3 or 4. The costs of these amenities are embedded in your cost of tuition, why pay for something you are not going to use.
Daycare costs vary and it’s not because of the location. Some people believe that the “nice” Daycares are those located in the affluent neighborhoods. Not so. Daycare costs will vary based on the centers educational approach or their accreditations. Standard Daycares lookout for the welfare of your child, they keep your child from licking the electric outlet. Daycares that consider themselves “Learning Centers” have all the electric outlet proofing that standard Daycares have plus they focus on development through formal teaching methods. Montessori schools also have all the electric outlet proofing that Daycares have plus they focus on creating an environment that encourages children to develop at their own pace while your bank account is drained at a similar pace. Montessori schools are phenomenal, and because of their education approach they are typically more expensive than learning centers.
Choosing a Daycare that has adequate security measures is important. Knowing that a Daycare can keep your child locked safely inside goes without asking right? Wrong! Every year children escape the un-watchful eye of Daycare staff. Just this year in Texas 4 toddlers, two of which were 20 months old, unlatched a gate and made their way towards a busy street. Fortunately the children were not harmed. The Daycare had no previous incidents. In 2015, a Nebraska Daycare allowed a three year old slip out a back door unnoticed into an alley. The three year old wandered more than a block away from the Daycare in the rain when he was rescued by a good samaritan. In 2014… you get the point. Don’t assume a Daycare is secure without inspecting and asking about security measure and practices.
You want to ensure that the child care center is reputable. So when looking for a childcare center that is reputable it may seem to go against convention, but avoid making your decision based on online reviews. People write reviews when they are passionate about things, meaning that when a service falls below or well above a person’s expectation, that person runs to the internet to rant or rave. These reviews are seldom an accurate description of the average person's experience. This is why I encourage all parents to stop by Daycares that they are interested in and speak with the parents who have children enrolled. Ask questions like, “Would you recommend this Daycare to a friend or family?” or “Do you feel like the center really cares about the wellbeing of your child?”. You should receive honest feedback but avoid visiting on Mondays. I mean come on, Mondays are tough as it is, don’t make it harder for parents that may be having a tough Monday. Also if you are planning on approaching people wear decent clothing. Don’t show up in a stained cutoff shirt with baggy shorts unless you want the cops called for some weirdo harassing parents.
Don’t forget to research the Daycare through the city or county. Because Daycares need to be licensed they are inspected annually. Results from inspections are filed with the local government agencies and are public record.
Beware of the Gimmicks
Don't fall for gimmicks, some centers will have what I call gimmicks or sugar coated turds. These are ploys or ineffective practices that initially seem like great measures, but when applying some common sense it really turns out to be a turd covered in Krispy Kreme glaze. For example, one child care center I visited explained that in order to keep a clean floor in the infant and toddler room, which minimizes the children’s exposure to germs since they are crawling around, all teachers must wear tyvek shoe covers. I was immediately impressed, yummy glaze. I thought, finally a place that is taking some real measures to ensure the children do not get needlessly exposed to dirt and grime brought in on the soles of shoes. As we were wrapping up our visit the child care provider in the infant room asked the director if she can watch the children while she went to the restroom. She was relieved from her post and she walked out of the class with her booties, walked into the bathroom with her booties, returned after 5 or 10 minutes in her booties, and rejoined the class. I thought nothing of this until the care provider sat down to play with the children and revealed the bottom of her booties, I was not shocked to see how dirty the bottom of her booties were. Very Wal-Mart Feet like. I would not have been surprised if somewhere on that dirty bootie was a turd particle, she was in the bathroom after-all.
Just remember that every Daycare will have its Pro’s and Con’s. Similarly, every Daycare will have its good and bad days, do your homework and there will be more of the good than bad. Ultimately your goal is to find the best Daycare based on your needs and budget.
Check back soon to see our decision matrix created specifically for parents looking to score and compare daycares.