After the birth of a child, parents sometimes struggle with going back to work and the need to find child daycare, regardless of how many other children they have or how old the children are. For first-time parents, finding and accepting the need for child daycare can seem daunting.
Knowing that your child is being well taken care of in daycare can help to make the transition easier. Need help finding child care? We’ve broken down the process into the following three steps:
Step 1: Research Your Options
There is no such thing as starting your research too soon, especially if you live in a large city. To help narrow the scope of the search:
- Identify your priorities. For example: Is it important for your child’s daycare to be near your work, or is it better if it’s close to home? Is the number of children being cared for in a given facility a determining factor? Do you prefer using a daycare facility or hiring an independent professional to care for your child in your home? Approximately how much one-on-one attention does each daycare option provide to each child, and how much attention might your child need?
- Ask for recommendations and references from friends, family and colleagues.
- Search for lists of licensed/accredited child care centers or daycares in your area through organizations such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children or the National Association of Family Child Care.
- Call daycare facilities and ask some preliminary questions by phone, such as what are the fees, what is the age range of children in their daycare, and what is their approach to child care. Doing this by phone, and speaking with whoever answers your phone call, can help you to spot daycares that sound the most helpful, happy and professional.
Step 2: Visit Your Top Choices
After researching and narrowing your options, and to get a real sense of each daycare provider, arrange to visit your top choices and meet with the director. Also, arrange to meet a potential caregiver face-to-face. If possible, take your child with you so that you can observe how he or she reacts to the daycare environment and interacts with the caregiver.
During your visits, be sure to ask any and all questions that could help you determine if a given daycare option is the right fit for you and your child, including:
- What are the hours of operation?
- Do they have vacation schedules?
- What is their philosophy on discipline, sleeping, nutrition and other child-rearing considerations?
- How many children are in the group?
- What is their adult-caregiver-to-child ratio?
- What are the caregiver’s qualifications?
- How long has the caregiver been working at the daycare facility, or providing daycare in children’s homes?
During your visit, request a schedule of daily activities and of the center’s policies, and ask for a list of past and present references. Then follow-up and call the references and ask specific questions, such as what they like and don’t like about the daycare provider.
Step 3: Stay Involved
Now that you’ve found an ideal child daycare that has everything you’re looking for, that doesn’t mean that your daycare work is done.
Make it a point to stay involved with the daycare provider as much as possible. Check in with your child’s caregiver regularly, even if it’s just during drop-off and pick-up. Ask the caregiver questions, such as “How is my child doing?” Volunteer when you have the time, even if it’s for as small a project as fixing broken toys, for example. Participate in special events, such as field trips or by offering to read a book to the children in the group.
When you’re involved, not only do you get to spend more quality time with your child, but you also can assess and make sure that you made the right childcare selection.