Routine Care | Child Care
I recently received a discussion post at the MOMMBY.com facebook page about finding a daycare. This article assumes you have decided to have outside child care for your baby (and only you know the best decision for you and your family) and so please refer below about information I came across during our family search for child care.
One of the best ways to find a care facility is by asking friends and family. You can also refer to your county web site for information. For example, please refer to the Fairfax County Search Engine. I would also check your states licensing information, please refer here for Virginia's. I came across the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education which appears to have links for each state to the appropriate state licensing information center.
There are many different types of care to find for your child. Whether it is a Nanny, Daycare, or care at someone else's home only you will know the right place for your child. You may want the individual attention provided by a Nanny or you may prefer the structured setting of a daycare. You may like the "homey" feel of the care at someone's house. The only way you'll determine the right place for your child is to investigate your options. I didn't feel comfortable finding a Nanny or in-home care in my area so we primarily looked into daycare facilities. Now knowing a friend that found a nice in-home care place I would probably consider that option if I needed to. I also thought a Nanny or in-home care would be more expensive than the daycare option. That is not always the case; our friend's in-home care is more reasonable than a standard daycare and they don't make them pay for the summer months when the child is home with mommy.
Registration amount? Weekly or monthly rate? What is cancellation policy? Is there a charge if you pick up your child late? Some facilities charge by the minute. If your child is eating solid food, is the food price included? Are there any other additional charges?
The prices of the daycare facilities we investigated were around $1,500/ month.
Questions to Ask
We primarily looked at daycare facilities so most of my questions were tailored to those facilities. I tried to add some additional questions you may want to ask a Nanny or In-Home Care facility.
- Before, I get to actual questions...it is very important to OBSERVE the facility. Request a tour and pick up on little things, like are the pictures hung at child eye level, is the facility painted in warm inviting colors? Does it look clean? Are the caregivers friendly? Do the children look happy. The one place we visited the children immediately were swarming us, I felt like they were pleading with us to pick them up. Other facilities were not like that so I don't know if I was reading into it or maybe that facility wasn't as equip with providing the children enough love, attention, and stimulation.
- How many caregivers to each child? Generally for infants, the ratio is one to four (one caregiver for every 4 infants).
- Is one caregiver specifically assigned to your child or is it a "sharing" system where all of the caregivers are equally responsible for each child? We liked the idea of one person being specifically responsible for our child with the other caregivers helping out as needed rather than the "share" system. It was simply our personal preference because we felt it would be nice for our child to know there is one special person that will definitely be taking care of him.
- What type of training do the caregivers have? (CPR, 1st Aid, Teaching Certificate, language of teachers, able to distribute medication to children if needed?) Some of the facilities we visited said they would not distribute any form of medication to the children. If the child needed medication for any reason, one of the parents would have to stop by to give it.
- What is the daily schedule for the children? If you have an infant you may want to find out if the facility will follow "your" schedule? Generally, once the child is over one year, they will have to follow the standard schedule of the facility.
- What are the daily activities? Are there lots of colorful toys or educational toys? Do they have "theme" days? Are there things to climb on in the "toddler" rooms?
- Is there "educational" curriculum for the older children? Are the teachers licensed? Is it structured learning? Are there additional classes for pre-school/ kindergarten children that have special needs or are gifted?
- Do the children get to go outside every day (weather permitting of course)?
- How are the children grouped? By age or by skill level?
- How do they communicate with the parents the child's day. A lot of places record when and how much the child ate and how many wet or soiled diapers the child had. They may also record things the child did and the temperament. You would want to make sure there is some kind of communication process in place. That is another reason we liked the facility that had one person responsible for each child, not the "share" system.
- How do they communicate with you if something happens to your child or if your child needs medical attention?
- Do they have web cams where you can log on and watch your baby. This is a fairly new thing so not all places have it yet.
- Find out the policy for picking children up? Are other people allowed to pick your child up? You would want to make sure they have a good policy in place to protect your child but also have flexibility that in an emergency someone other than you would be allowed to pick the child up.
- What are the hours you can drop off and pick up your child? What is the policy if you are going to be late to pick the child up? Some facilities charge by the minute.
- What is the discipline policy. You will want to make sure your child will be protected by another child that might be "bite" or "hit" but on the other hand what if that is your child? Will you be banned from bringing your child to care?
- What is the procedure for sanitizing toys? Is everything cleaned daily?
- How are the children fed? I.e. what is the policy for dropping off your bottles with breast milk or formula? What is the labeling system so they can ensured your child gets his bottle?
- Once your child is eating solid foods, will you be required to provide the food or will it be provided by the center? If you want to provide the food, are you allowed?
- If the facility provides the food, ask for the current month's menu, it is usually posted. You will want to make sure it is the actual month's menu, not a sample. Check for healthy food and/or healthy snacks. Some places are even starting to offer organic food.
- What is the policy on children with allergies to food? Are there good controls in place?
- Where is the sleeping area? Does each child have a specific crib she sleeps in every day? Are sheets provided or do I provide the sheets? Can your child bring a favorite blanket? Don't be surprised if the children sleep in the same "play" room with bright lights. I've been told the child adjusts fairly easily to sleeping in a well lit room. Make sure someone is responsible for supervising the children when they are sleeping.
- Where is the changing area? Do they clean the area after each change or do they use disposable liners? Make sure the changing area is out in the open. One place we went to smelled really bad and we were immediately turned off by this. The other places we visited did not smell bad so do not think that just because they are caring for several infants the place should smell like dirty diapers.
- Does each child have a designated area to bring extra clothes, blankets, diapers, ect.? Most places have this.
- What is the sick policy? You will want to balance the fact you wouldn't want sick children to be there and get your child sick with the other side that you will not want to keep your child out for an extended period if she has a runny nose. How do they communicate to you if there was a child in the class with a contagious disease?
- What is the immunization policy? You may be interested in this to ensure all children have their immunizations or on the other hand if you want to follow an alternate immunization schedule you may want to make sure your child will be allowed to attend if following an alternate schedule.
- Is there a mommy room? I.e. if the facility is near where you work would you be allowed to stop in and feed your baby either a bottle or breastfeed? Or are you allowed to check-in on your child?
- Is there a waiting list?
- Don't forget to ask about licensing.
If you are looking into a Nanny or Home Care where one person is responsible for your child and the other children you may want to ask:
- Nanny or Home Care: Who will take care of the children if the caregiver (i.e. one person) is sick or wants to take a vacation? If taking a vacation, what time is it?
- Other Home Care: May want to find out what are the ages of the other children the caregiver watches.
- Other Home Care: Is the caregiver planning to allow any more children to join her group? Similar to the caregiver ratio question.
If you are looking for a part-time care facility you may want to ask:
- What is the price for full week versus partial week? Some places charge for the full week even if the baby is only there part-time. Our friends in-home care doesn't charge for the summertime when the mom is off work.
- What days would the child be allowed to attend if going part-time?
Mother's Day Out/ Part-Time Care
If you are home with your baby and you simply need a few hours of care for your baby to give yourself a break or run various errands you may look into a Mother's Day Out program. Various churches usually offer at least one morning varying between 2 - 4 hours for a baby usually starting around 1 year old where the Mother can have a "morning out" to herself. Once the child is closer to 2 1/2 to 3 years old there are a lot more preschool options available. My favorite thing was joining a gym with daycare. When my son turned 1 it was the perfect place for Mommy to not only de-stress through exercising but simply having some alone time to shower and get ready for the day while my son happily had some playtime with other kids. When my daughter was born I returned to the gym soon as she was 2 months old (my gym's requirement) and once again it allowed me to de-stress so I could be a better mom.
After reading the above information, investigating various care options, talking with friends and family members, observing the care facilities, you ultimately have to decide what is best for you and your child. You may also want to consider travel time when you are looking into the care options? Do you want a place close to your house; thus, you will have to make sure you will be able to get off work in time to pick your child up. Or did you find a great place near your office so you will be nearby if there is an emergency? In this case, are you ok with sitting in traffic with your little one. My commuting time was at least an hour each way so if I chose the place near my office that would mean I would have my baby in his car seat for over two hours each day, possibly at times when he was hungry and wouldn't want to be sitting there.
Maybe after your investigation you decide you don't want to put your child in someone else's care, that ultimately became my decision. But many people have to or want to put their children in care of another person and there are many good options out there. You just have to find the right one for you and your family. Only you know what is the best option...I wish you the best of luck!
Last updated: August 2011; July 2010