Finding the Right Daycare for Your Child

A Challenging Situation

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When my son was about 15 months old, we moved to a larger city. The main reason was so I could find work in a field that required greater access to a metropolitan area. I also wanted to part ways with the woman who had helped care for my baby while I was living a commuting lifestyle. She wasn’t taking very good care of him, and I was tired of being on the road three hours a day. I would come home at night exhausted, only to find my lively little boy stuck in his wooden crib, often with diaper rash. I always suspected he’d probably been parked in there for hours without much attention. Living this way – both for him and for me – had become impractical and I knew I needed to make a change.

So, my first step toward better daycare – and a better life – was to move about 100 miles from the town where I had been living for several years. Since my son’s father was often away on business, our most urgent need was to determine where to put this little boy while I worked each day from 9 to 5. To say we didn’t have much of a support system at the time is an understatement. We might as well have been in a foreign country, starting a new life in an alien place. We didn’t know anyone and didn’t know the area very well. And, since I hadn’t started my new job, I wasn’t really in a position to ask around about different resources.

Daycare Dilemma – What Do I Do?

Before my new job was set to begin, I began seeking daycare services in earnest only to find that most of the good places were full, others bordered on being scary and the really nice ones cost more than our rent each month. But, the more I researched the various daycare centers and visited who knows how many of them, I began to discern some patterns. I also learned some lessons that might be useful to young, inexperienced, unprepared parents like the one I was then.

Here they are, I hope these will be of help to you.

  • Lesson #1: Don’t settle if you can possibly help it.

After searching high and low, I finally found what seemed like a good, middle-of-the-road daycare facility close to our new apartment. It wasn’t fancy, but it seemed cheerful inside and the ladies in charge were experienced and, seemingly, patient. But, a mental red flag passed through my thoughts when the owner advised me to bring a towel with my son’s name on it. When I asked why, she told me it was what he would sleep on at naptime. On the hard tiled floor? But at that point, I was pretty much in a bind and decided to give it a try. In other words, I settled even though I was not totally comfortable with the choice I was making.

As weeks passed by, the towel situation didn’t seem to bother my son, who always threw a big fit when I dropped him off each morning. The ladies, however, told me this recurring tantrum was no big deal, that Oliver’s tears would dry up just moments after I left and he would be buoyant throughout the day. Admittedly, young children have a knack for laying on the guilt when their moms and dads drop them off at daycare.

Then one day I came to pick him up and Oliver greeted me, smiling as usual, but with a giant, purpling knot on his forehead. I demanded to know what happened, and one of the caregivers said he tripped on a carpet and landed on his face. Lately, I’d been noticing that most of the kids ran around the daycare helter-skelter, and I had a strong suspicion this supposed fall was a result of not being watched closely enough. At any rate, I decided to honor the feeling that had been in my gut for some time. Luckily, I had developed a Plan B as the result of a recommendation from a co-worker, so I removed Oliver immediately and enrolled him at what ended up not only being a great daycare experience, but it extended through preschool and kindergarten.

I guess you would say that I – and more so Oliver – got lucky in finding this wonderful Plan B. But, the thing I learned from this was that I should have never settled in the first place. I yielded to the pressure of needing to make a decision, when I should have followed my gut and kept looking.

  • Lesson #2: If your baby or young child is prone to illnesses or fevers, be prepared to pick him or her up from daycare at the drop of a hat.

My son, who is now 12, experienced countless ear infections from the time he was about a year old until he turned 3 or 4. It seemed like we were constantly at the doctor’s office for those painful episodes. Every time he ran a fever – which sometimes seemed like every other day – I would get a call from his caregivers to come get him and bring him home.

If you are a young, single, working mother, the last thing you’re able to do is take time off from your job, the “lifeblood” of your world, without any notice and on a frequent basis. Luckily, I was working at a place with a generous policy for paid days off. So, ultimately, we got away with this, even though it caused some frowns now and then. But, not all employers are as accommodating to personal or health situations.

Therefore, you have to factor the likelihood of these events into your selection of a daycare. If you have someone who you can count on in these circumstances, it may not be as big a factor. But, if not, maybe a daycare closer to your office makes more sense than one far away. I learned that it’s best to be prepared for such eventualities and to work out an acceptable plan ahead of time as those sick days will definitely occur.  

  • Lesson #3: Develop sources.

In the context of finding your child a safe, loving place to be while you earn a living, having good sources of information – and support – is very important. If not for my co-worker’s suggestion to check out what turned out to be a fantastic daycare facility, Oliver and I would have been up the proverbial creek without a paddle. I still thank God for that woman I haven’t seen or talked to since she left our old company years ago. I also thank my stars for the other parents I got to know who helped guide me to excellent doctors, schools, teachers and even clothing stores, as I became acquainted with what then was our new area.

Most people are happy to share resources because they understand the importance of making sure children are safe and well-cared for. Don’t hesitate to let that work to your advantage – and your child’s. If this doesn’t happen naturally, you have to make a special effort to ask people around you what their experiences have been and what suggestions they might make to you as you search for a reliable “home” for your child.

  • Lesson #4: When you feel something isn’t right, it usually isn’t.

With small children, it can be difficult to separate their dramas from real dangers or harm, but as their parent or guardian, you must rely on your instincts whenever you feel something is not right for them – even if you end up being wrong. It’s better to be wrong than to have them in situations that compromise their safety, happiness or well-being. One thing all parents learn, often sooner than later, is that no one will stand up for their children’s interests to the extent that they will. We are their best advocates, and it’s our job to see them through their young lives hopefully being safe, well and happy.

Other Helpful Resources

Hopefully, this article has stimulated your thinking about this important and difficult choice. As we have tried to convey, it’s not something that you should hurry, nor should you accept the first option that comes along. It will take both research and work on your part to find the right facility or program for your child. Here are some addition resources that we here at Good Choices Good Life recommend for parents in search of a reliable daycare for their children:

5 Steps to Choosing Daycare
(From Childcare Aware of America)

Daycare Provider Interview Guide
(From Baby Center, LLC)

How Much You Will Spend on Daycare
(From Baby Center, LLC)

Child Care Choices: Weighing the Pros and Cons

8 Tips for Choosing Child Care

It Can Happen to You

In an effort to remind all of us that terrible things can happen when we select the wrong or an inadequate daycare for our child, we share this true story taken from the Circle of Moms website as expressed by a mother who wants to help others prevent what happened to her child:

“My little girl (14 months old) has been roughed up.They didn't tell me anything other than "she bonked her nose on the kiddie table.” She has a sliced lip, sliced nose, and roadrash on her forehead. I don’t know what emotion to feel today so I thought sharing this with other moms might help. We spent the night in the ER filing reports and meeting with Child Services and the local police. Today is just a numb day. The director of the facility fired the teaching staff for the infant/toddler room while I was there yesterday. She is nothing but apologetic and is installing nanny cams in every room today. I'm thankful for that, but I still feel that it's a little too late. I know the wounds will heal, but I feel like I failed my little girl. I know I shouldn't, but it’s my job to protect her. They hurt my baby. I know there are going to be bumps, bruises, and tears...but this is just ridiculous, and the fact that no one is telling me how this happened makes me question everything.

There are no guarantees, but the better research you do, the less the chance that something like this will happen to your child.

Written by Lindsay Jones

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