I think one of the biggest challenges for working families is finding quality affordable childcare. When we moved back to Des Moines finding a daycare for my daughter was one of the most stressful parts of relocating. Who can you trust to give your child the best care possible when you’re not there?
Both of my kids went into daycare at four months old and stayed in until they went to Kindergarten – eight years in total. During that time we pretty much tried it all…in-home provider, daycare facility, church-based center, full-time, and part-time. We were with six different providers and made changes due to our family’s or the provider’s shifting circumstances. So, I thought I would share some insight we gained from those experiences.
What’s the right daycare for your family?
When I was a new mom, I joined a mom’s support group, which had an on-line discussion forum. The most heated discussions always revolved around daycare and the topic was eventually banned. One mom would have glowing things to say about a daycare provider and another mom would not have glowing things to say about it. Keep in mind, the daycare that’s right for your family, may not be the right fit for every family.
Some parents know exactly what type of daycare they want for their kids. If you don’t that’s okay. It’s never too early to start reviewing and researching. The process takes time and there may be waiting lists, especially if you have an infant. Not all facilities provide infant care.
Of course, health and safety considerations are major concerns. In the State of Iowa, the Iowa Department of Human Services registers and licenses daycare providers. You can visit their website to search for providers and review Child Care Public Web Portal. While you’re on the site, you may also want to check out what the requirements for different types of providers are. Another good resource is Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral. You can also look for providers on this site and I recommend downloading their A Guide to Choosing Quality Child Care.
Once you’ve completed your investigation, it’s time to start visiting daycares. I recommend visiting at least three and plan on spending a fair amount of time at each one to get a feel for the place. I will admit that sometimes you will walk in, turn around and leave. Go with your gut. If a place doesn’t feel right to you, it probably isn’t. I’ll also leave it to you to decide, if you want to make an appointment or show up unannounced. There are obviously pros and cons to both.
Prior to your visit you will want to do some prep work and have some questions at the ready.
- Make sure to ask what the adult to children ratio is?
- How many children will be in the room?
- What training and education has the caregivers completed?
- How long has the caregiver been at the facility or providing in-home childcare?
You will also want to know what your child will be doing throughout the day.
- Ask to see a daily schedule.
- Is there an educational component to the day? If so, is it accredited?
- Can you review a sample lesson plan?
If you have an older child, you may want to take them along on visits or on a tour of your final choice, to let them have input.
Lastly, there’s cost to consider. Obviously, for a lot of families cost plays a major factor in their daycare decision. According to Childcare Aware of America’s Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2014 Report the 2013 Average Annual Cost of Full-Time Child Care in Iowa is $4,388 for school aged kids; $7,904 for four year olds and $9,185 for an infant. Yikes!!!
After you’ve made the visits, it’s time to make the best choice for your child and family. We always eased in, when starting at a new daycare. You may want to leave your child for shorter time periods and work up to full-time. Make sure to check-in with the caregivers to see how everything is going.
Once your child is settled in, the journey has just begun. Some providers communicate better than others and program changes can turn a good daycare provider into a bad one fast. Make sure to check-in with caregivers and ask questions. Visit regularly, have lunch with your kid, and participate in activities when you can.
What’s your advice for finding the daycare that’s right for your family?