Thursday, January 8, 2009

The daycare saga begins

While DH and I didn't make any New Year's resolutions, we did make a list of things that need to happen before the baby comes. We'd love to refinance the mortgage given the low interest rates. I'm also looking into consolidating my private student loans. But I doubt anyone can beat the current rate I have of 2.5% (although it is variable).

The most important thing on the list is to secure daycare for our baby. Since BigFinance has a generous maternity leave policy (12 weeks paid!) we are looking for a daycare with openings at the end of June or early July (depending on how quickly she wants to joins us). One of the biggest factors will be location. Right now I work south of Charlotte in a "remote" office but I am in a rotational program so in 6 months I could end up back uptown. So we need to find a place close to home to avoid having to switch while she is still an infant. Also, that way I won't be responsible for pick up and drop off every time. DH would probably do morning drop off since I get to work by 7:30 and I would do pick up.

We can't do a nanny (not just because of expense) as DH works from home and that would be very awkward. I am also anti home daycare at this point. I worry about putting the baby in a place where it is a mixture of ages. I'd prefer a facility that has dedicated infant care. Once she's a toddler I'd feel more comfortable.

A. emailed me her daycare spreadsheet which I used as a starting point in my search. I then spent 3 hours on Google maps looking for all daycare facilities close to our zip code. I went up to page 80 on the results so I was feeling good with my list. I found 5 that I thought were contenders and started making the calls.

Two of them (the ones I liked the most from the web search) had 18 month waiting lists! Gah. We'll probably put our names on the lists because they are great, location-wise and are very highly rated. Is it wrong that I think impending layoffs in Charlotte could result in a lot of daycare openings? I'm totally going to hell...not good considering these two places are associated with churches.

Another one that looked promising has a 5:1 teacher to infant ratio. Um, I don't think so! As a triplet I have no idea how my mom handled the three of us. Adding two more to the mix makes me picture my baby crying in her crib for 15-20 minutes before she gets some comfort. No way.

That leaves us with two KinderCare facilities which are not in the best locations. I drive by the facilities quite a bit and they look pretty run down. I haven't called them yet in the hopes that I will find more options. DH is working with SmallResearch's Employee Assistance Program to get a list of more options. They will even call the facilities which is great.

For those of you who have been down the daycare path, how did you find it? Are there specific questions that DH and I should be asking when we go visit? Feel free to heap advice on these first time parents!


A. said...

Yes, I am feeling the daycare search panic, too!!

There are plenty of questions to ask - I will e-mail you a list. But also, you will get a lot of information just from visiting - what the space looks like, where the infants sleep, how much room they have to play, whether there are plenty of infant-appropriate activity toys like bouncy chairs, swings, playmats, etc. And don't limit yourself to questions about the infant room. Ask lots of stuff about the older rooms, because your child will grow up (sigh!) and you'll be happy to know what's coming.

Mommy, Esq. said...

Not ideal but you could do in-home (as in, you hire a nanny) for say 6 months while you wait for the 18 mo waiting list to come through. If Jeremy is upstairs working it won't matter if the nanny is downstairs. I'm home all the time when my nanny is here and it is fine. I help at some feedings but she does all the work and I can do stuff around the house.

LauraC said...

We've had N&A in group day care since they were 3 months old because both Jon and I work from home. We wanted some separation from the boys and with twins, we wanted them to be used to being around other kids from a very early age.

In the Raleigh area, we have a monthly free paper called Carolina Parent. Every year, they list every facility that is registered with the state. I made a list of every day cares in our town and called them for availability and pricing. I thought there was something similar for Charlotte.

NC lists their star ratings publicly and lists all the violations for a facility over time. I checked the site for each facility we were considering.

As for questions to ask, you can generally find a good list of questions on babycenter. But nothing takes the place of visiting in person. Do the babies look happy? Do the workers look happy? How much experience do they have? Does the place feel clean? Does the director and staff seem to care about you as a parent? Follow your gut on this one.

Personally I think June is the PERFECT time to start a kid in group care. They get used to the germs before the bad yucky winter germs come around in October and everyone starts getting sick. But keep in mind when you visit in winter that most of the kids might have colds.

And definitely think long term. Ask to see the 1s room, 2s room, etc. Changing facilities can be very difficult on a kid the older they get. And if you're planning to have two, can you afford this facility with two?

PS. There is a big difference between 1 person taking care of 5 babies and 2 people taking care of 10 babies. Generally the babies are spread in ages from 3 months to a year, so their needs are different. They're on different schedules so there's rarely a time all 10 are awake. And in a pinch, a good facility with have floaters that can come help out. It's easier to understand once you have a kid in group care. But I had the same thoughts, even with a 1:4 ratio.

Donna said...

Just a quick comment -- I have done both the center daycare and the inhome daycare. I like both to tell you the truth. There are good/bad to both. My DS1 started in a center daycare (same one A uses). My DS2 started in the inhome provider (her home, not mine). There is a mixture of ages and there are some issues with that - but overall - the advantage is you get family atmosphere. This is what I love the most about the inhome provider. My sons are taken care of for those years by the same person, who knows them and teaches them and loves them. That is the biggest advantage. I will leave the good and bad about the center to A since she uses the same one I did.

jerseygirl77 said...

Another thing you might want to check is to look at the state's health department website (or whichever agency regulates daycare centers). Often they post their inspection reports online (both regularly scheduled and unannounced inspections). You can then see what kind of violations each center has had. Paperwork violations- no big deal. Employee dismissed for hitting a child? Um, what does that say about their hiring practices?

Also, don't judge a place just by driving by and seeing the outside. Go inside and meet the staff, get a feel for the "vibe" of the place. Just because a facility is a little bit older doesn't mean that the inside isn't perfectly fine and the care providers warm and friendly.

Good luck!!

Natalie said...

cultural care au pair offers flexible, affordable, in home care!!! And you just might have a connection.....

actually, i will say that one of the things that i think has helped maddie in her development and early speaking and overall social comfort is with being in a daycare setting with older kids.