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The daycare hunt, part II

4 Mar

This is the second and final installment of the story of our hunt for a daycare for Turtle. You can read part I here, if you’re so inclined.

After not having a particularly certain feeling toward any of the four daycares we toured, I started to panic a little. Daycare is easily one of the most important decisions a new parent can make. Knowing how hard it will be to leave my newborn, I desperately wanted to find an option I was not only comfortable with – but excited about!

I looked at this process in the same way as I look at finding a new house or choosing a college. It’s that feeling. That feeling of just knowing immediately that something is right. We were looking for that and hadn’t found it yet. And once I made my peace with that, I realized that that feeling was worth more to me than any other factor and any price.

Since I had exhausted most of the available daycare center options in the area, we decided our next move would be to further explore the home daycare option. I Googled “home daycare, OURTOWN” and got a listing of providers in the area. I searched their proximity to our house and ordered them from closest to furthest. The first one I called, the one closest to our house, was Sue.

Sue was so kind on the phone. She just started rattling off all of the information I could possibly need to know, without my having to really ask. The first big plus for her was the fact that although she is licensed for six kids, she said she never has more than three at a time. Right now she has kids at ages 3, 2, and 1. The three year old will be moving on to preschool in the fall though, and the 2 and 1-year-olds will be turning 3 and 2, respectively, thus creating a space for Turtle as the only baby.

She told me all about how loving the environment is, how she keeps in touch with everyone she has ever taken care of and how she has made wonderful friendships with the parents. She told me about all the activities she does with them, and how she likes to teach them letters, colors, shapes and numbers. She has a fenced in backyard, a dog, her husband is a mailman in the neighborhood so always nearby, they have a son who is grown and married, neither of them smoke or drink and they’ve both had background checks. She said she completely understands what this process is like and that we should feel free to ask her ANYTHING.

I got a really good feeling from her on the phone so I set up a Friday afternoon visit for DH and myself to stop by. She lives about three minutes by car from our house, right on the water. Her house is quite small but the view from her kitchen and deck is spectacular. There were no kids there when we visited as they had all gone home for the day, and she had already turned her house back into a home (ie put away the pack n’ plays, high chairs, toys, etc.). Her home was very neat and clean and calming, which we really liked.

She sat us down at her kitchen table and proceeded to show us her daycare license, her degree in early childhood education (another huge plus), her recommendations, her holiday schedule, and even her dog’s license and rabies vaccination. Her fridge was plastered with pictures of the kids she currently cares for and has cared for in the past. She showed them to us like a proud grandmother. She’s tiny, in her late 50s/early 60s, extremely sweet and kind and she just put us at ease immediately. Unlike the other home daycare provider, every child at Sue’s has his or her own crib, high chair, car seat, pack n’ play etc. Everything gets washed once/week. She also provides a detailed note re: feedings, bathroom, etc. at the end of every day.

We walked out of there, and we just knew. Now as it turns out, Sue is just as expensive as our most expensive daycare option. But suddenly, that didn’t matter to us anymore. Knowing Turtle would be getting loving, individualized care from such a wonderful woman was worth any price to us! I called one of her references over the weekend and the woman could not have raved about Sue any more. She said she would trust Sue with her life. She even used the phrase “gift from god.” Sold and sold.

I was off the following Monday so I brought Sue’s paperwork back to reserve our spot and got to see her in action with the kids. She was so easy, patient and loving with all of them. It wasn’t forced just because I was there. I saw her kiss the baby’s forehead without thinking anything of it and swooned a little bit. She told me about how the baby was in a “diaper race” at the mall over the weekend and how she and her neighbor went to see him. He came in third and she was so thrilled about that! I just loved how she was clearly so involved in their lives, even after work hours.

Sue said she was surprised how quickly we had chosen. I told her, when you know, you know. And with her, we were certain.

So that’s that! Turtle’s space is reserved at Sue’s and I could not feel better about the decision. As soon as that was done, I felt a HUGE weight lifted off my shoulders. It made me excited for a time when he is out of the hospital and well and at home and life will have resumed as normal. I cannot wait for that time.

Many of you requested my daycare questions so I’m just going to paste them here for everyone. I have two different sets of questions for daycare centers vs. home daycares.

Daycare center questions

Hi there. I’m currently pregnant and looking for information about your infant daycare program. Is there someone there I can talk to about that?
What are the fees for full time enrollment?
How do I reserve a space for my infant? Is there a deadline?
My infant will have some time in the hospital after birth and we don’t know how long he will be in the hospital. Is there any flexibility in the start day?
What is the infant to provider ratio?
Are there personal cribs for each infant?
Are the infants in a separate room?
When can I drop off and pick up?
Is there a fee for picking up late?
Do you close during public school vacation weeks?

Home daycare questions

Hi there. I’m currently pregnant and looking for information about your daycare program. Is now an okay time to talk?
Do you accept infants age 12 weeks or older? Do you have space in September for a new infant? How many infants do you care for at once?
What is the cost for full time enrollment for an infant? Do I pay when my child is ill or we’re on vacation?
How do I reserve a space for my infant? Is there a deadline?
My infant will have some time in the hospital after birth and we don’t know how long he will be in the hospital. Is there any flexibility in the start day?
What are the drop off/pick up times? Is there a fee for picking up late?
Do you close for school vacation weeks?
Would my infant have his own crib or space at the daycare? How often are sheets laundered?
Are infants separate from other children?
How long have you been providing daycare? Are you licensed and accredited?
What is the caregiver to child ratio? Do you have assistants to help you?
Do you have storage for breast milk?
Do you have pets?
Do you do daily communication sheets?

Daycare question resources:

http://www.ahdaycare.com/daycare_checklist.htm

http://www.babycenter.com/0_home-daycare-provider-interview-sheet_1452147.bc

The daycare hunt, part I

27 Feb

We started looking for a daycare option for Turtle fairly early – during the fourth month of pregnancy. I had heard they book up early, especially for infants, and I wanted to have the option to choose between different programs, not have to settle for whatever was available.

Going in, price was obviously a huge concern and factor. But we also wanted a place that was clean, organized, and where we felt the care he would be given would be loving and individualized. I was open to both daycare centers and home daycares. I figured the daycare centers would be more structured and perhaps more reliable, while the home daycares would be more loving and perhaps more affordable.

I started by calling a bunch of local daycare centers. I had a list of questions which I’m happy to share with anyone who is starting this process. The idea was to get a sense of their program and especially, their availability, hours, and cost. I also called one home daycare provider who had been recommended by a friend of a neighbor. Once I gathered all this information, I narrowed down the list to the daycares we wanted to tour.

We started with four daycares: three centers and one home. We had a high-priced center option, a mid-priced one, and a low-priced one. The home daycare was affordable and I figured I’d know immediately whether I was even comfortable with the home option by touring this recommended one. I’ll admit at this point, I was a bit biased toward going with a daycare center vs. a home daycare, because it seemed more organized and cleanly.

DH and I both took a morning off and went on the tours. First we saw the mid-priced center. I didn’t mind it but DH got a weird, nervous vibe from the staff and felt it wasn’t as clean as we would have hoped. Next we saw the high-priced one and DH felt much better. It was far more organized and they were obsessive about cleanliness. The babies were working on a little art project with paint brushes and vanilla during our tour. I liked this center but, aside from the top of the budget price, I had my reservations.

We then saw the low-priced center, which we both absolutely abhorred from the minute we walked in. They were feeding the babies delivery pizza for lunch with canned green beans. To tell the truth, this completely turned us off. The rooms were small and babies sometimes have to share cribs. They also couldn’t guarantee a space for him and wouldn’t be able to tell us if space was even available until JULY – a month after he was born! This was automatically off the list, although it was conveniently located near home and extremely affordable.

Finally we saw the home daycare. It was… okay. The provider was alone with about six kids and seemed a bit stressed. Her house was big and was jam packed with toys and activities everywhere the eye could see. It almost looked like a daycare center in a way but I found it overwhelming. It didn’t scream cleanliness either and the woman seemed a little “rough around the edges.” Not unkind but not overly warm and welcoming either.

We left this day of touring not really feeling comfortable with any of the options. We had it narrowed down to the high-priced center and the home daycare. The center was not conveniently located and was expensive. It was very clean and organized, but I felt it was clean to the point of hospital-like sterility. They had florescent lighting in there that could not be dimmed for nap time. It was also open-plan, so the babies were in the same space as the loud and rambunctious toddlers. Something about this rubbed me the wrong way. I felt like he’d be spending so much of his early weeks and months in a sterile, hectic, florescent hospital setting and didn’t want that to continue in his day-to-day care.

Yet the home daycare wasn’t clean enough. And while it was conveniently located and affordable, we still didn’t feel he’d be receiving the warm, loving care we were hoping for. I decided to check a few references for the home daycare while also calling a few others. I talked to the friend of the neighbor who had recommended the home daycare and she was very honest in saying that she felt like the provider took on more kids than she should have and that she felt her daughters didn’t exactly receive the most attentive or individualized care as a result. That was kind of all I needed to hear to decide that the home daycare wasn’t right for us either.

So back the drawing board I went…