Child Care Search Advice....

Howdy All -

Well - we are due in early November. I plan to return to work right after the new year. This is NOT my ideal solution as I would prefer to be a SAHM - BUT - we can not afford that. So baby skittles will have to be put in day care.

I work a little over an hour from my home. So I’m thinking that I should have child care near my job. This way I can make surprise visits during the day. And if I need to get to the baby quickly I can! It also means the hour I spend in the car each way will be with the baby instead of with the center.

So - I’ve already gone to two places, and am seeing a third place today. Do any of you fellow Dopers use a day care center? And have you used them for a six week old child?

I’m located in New Jersey. I work in the Princeton area if that gives you any help.

Thanks!

First of all – congrats! You’re about to become the proud parent of a pooping machine. Nothing better in the world, in my opinion.

One good resource I used in my childcare search for baby Noah was my county government website. If you have interest in an in-home babysitter, most county government websites have a childcare search for all childcare providers that are county and state licensed. Ours also included regular daycare centers in the search but those were pretty pricey for us. Our son was 3.5 months when we put him in daycare, and I found the in-home babysitter was a better option for a child that young. When he’s well into his toddler years we’ll probably switch him to a center so he can get lots of stimulation and more group socialization, but for now he’s thriving with “Miss Linda”, who watches 3 other little kids that he just adores. It’s a little lower-key environment and he gets a little more one-on-one.

The downside of an in-home babysitter is that when she is sick, daycare is cancelled for the day. Luckily it has only happened once, but it’s definitely something to think about.

We’ve had ours in a center. Thing One was about 7 1/2 months (he was adopted at 6 1/2 months) when he started. Thing Two started at about eight weeks.

We liked the idea of a center. We don’t worry about vacations or sick days. We don’t worry about the “daycare mom” saying “well, mine’s in first grade, find a new provider.” Staff turnover happens, but since our kids always have multiple teachers around, there is consistance even when teachers leave (but do ask about their turnover rate, it will give you insight into the quality, and you want your kids to form relationships - a few of our teachers have been there since the center opened). Ours is a corporate center (Kindercare) which means we don’t have to worry about church based “values lessons.”

Make sure that the center is clean. Make sure that the teachers are engaged. Even in the baby room they should be able to show you “art projects” they do with the kids. They grow up quickly, so pay attention to what happens with toddlers/preschoolers and even schoolagers. Find out how they will handle special situations. My daughter spent two weeks as a vegetarian and they just went with it - it was great (she was finally seduced by chicken nuggets). Find out what the process is for things like “biters.” The reality is that some kids bite (lets hope yours isn’t one of them) so you don’t want a zero tolerance sort of policy, but you do want habitual biters addressed.

I have the opposite philosophy of Winnie - we try for as little disruption as possible (its part of the training of adoptive parenting - you are taught to avoid disrupture - though our kid adapts great). So we went looking for a center that was going to provide a stable environment until elementary school.

Congrats on the new little one! We have two kids, an almost-three year-old and a 9 1/2 month old. Until last month they were both in a large (around 200 kids) center about a block from our house. We’ve recently moved them to a home daycare a couple of miles away, but still about 20 miles from where we work (hubby and I carpool into downtown every day together).

The pros and cons are similar to what others have mentioned. The center was great for its location, though many people prefer a daycare close to their place of work. That would have been difficult for us, because both of our kids HATED HATED HATED riding in the car until about 6-7 months. I mean, nonstop, top-of-their-lungs screaming from the moment we buckled them in until we finally arrived wherever we were going. Imagine dealing with that for 45 minutes two ways each day in rush hour traffic. I have been told that most kids love riding in the car and may actually be lulled to sleep (ha–where are those mythical children??), so using a center close to work will probably be okay for you.

Other than location, we also never had to worry about staff sick days with the center, there were lots of age-appropriate activities for both kids and the facility was new with a library, computer lab, large inside gymnasium, etc. Downsides were the cost, staff turnover, and the kids were CONSTANTLY sick–if they didn’t have a cold or ear infection, they were at least constantly stuffy and sniffly. We called it “daycare crud”, and we as parents always seemed to have it as well. We were always sitting at a zero balance on our sick leave as a result.

We are pleased with the home daycare we’re using now. The owner/lead teacher is a former kindergarten teacher, former daycare center director who is now completing her master’s in early childhood ed. In other words, very qualified, at a much more reasonable rate (about $300 a month cheaper). There’s virtually no turnover in her assistant teachers, and none of us have been sick a day since we moved the kids. The cons? The age range of the children is larger (infant to 4 yr olds), so it’s harder to incorporate lessons, though they do quite a bit of arts and crafts, and music, and they have a learning theme each week (last week it was “caves”, this week it’s “oceans”). The kids also get a lot more one-on-one attention. On the other hand, she also has about 2 weeks of paid vacation each year that we have to cover ourselves, or find someone to stay with the kids those days and end up paying double.

If you can find a really well-qualified home daycare that you feel comfortable with, it will probably save money in the long run, but honestly either situation has its good points. You just have to decide what will work best for you. Good luck.

Thanks so much for all the great input!

I can’t believe how difficult of a decision this is (as it should be). And I certainly hope I don’t have a car crier! That will make my long commute even longer! :slight_smile:

I don’t have children myself, but will relate the experience of a former co-worker. Her grandmother took care of her son until he was about a year old, then she decided to put him in a daycare center (one of the corporate ones). She ended up missing so much work her insurance and job were at risk. Her son was sick ALL THE TIME. Not every other week, every week. She ended up taking him back to her grandmother.

A comment on this… I can’t imagine spending two hours a day in the car with my children. The two minutes it takes to get them to the daycare near my house is plenty. First it was crying. Then it was “Mom, look at this!” (“Honey, I’m driving the car”) or “I’m hungry.” Then it was the “scream at the top of your lungs for no apparent reason” phase. Now we are just into “Mom, she’s touching me!”

My 30 minute each way commute is a blessing of alone time and quiet contemplation. I listen to grown up music. I listen to books. I turn off all noise and think.

A lot of people like their kids close to them at work. We like daycare close to home. For instance…

When my husband drops off, and traffic was way backed up, he’d head home, dial into work and clear up email until traffic was lighter.

When I got home, I’d get the mail, get dishes in the sink, start dinner. Then I’d pick up my kids. I could run to the grocery store, pick up kids, get home without the ice cream melting.

When we take the day off, we can spend it with our kids, or we can spend it with our kids in daycare! Things like being able to work from home are much easier.

When it came time for kindergarten, our daycare transported our son to the neighborhood school and picked him up. Had we had him in a daycare close to work, we’d have been making childcare arrangments (and remember, we don’t like disruption).

Obviously, not all this applies to everyone. If your job is one where you can never work from home, having daycare close by to facilitate that doesn’t do a darn thing.

Depending on how much money you can spend, you may want to check out this place-
http://www.pmonts.edu/index_school.php

Here is a list of Child Care and and Family Care providers for Mercer County-
http://www.princeton.edu/hr/resource/mercer.htm

This is the University affilated center-
http://www.princetonol.com/local/unow/

I would start now and go visit as many places as you can to get a feel for what provider gives you the best feeling. Visit several times. Ask lots of questions. Get the numbers of some parents who use the facility or home and ask for their opinions. Good luck!

Another question to ask is about their illness policy. What is their minimum threshhold for fever? When will they call you? How long does the child have to be out? Do you have someone who can step in and take care of your child when the child is sick?

For example, my son’s daycare calls me if he’s got a 99.5 temp, and requires that he be sent home if he’s got 101 or higher. He’s also got to be out until he’s symptom-free for a minimum of 24 hours. Certain illnesses, like strep or impetigo, require a doctor’s note to certify that he’s no longer contagious, AND he has to be on antibiotics for three doses OR he has to have a doctor’s note that explains why he’s not on any. Yeah, it’s a PITA when I have to miss class because he’s sick, but I’m glad, because it means he won’t get sick from another child.

Keep in mind that many daycare kids spend the first year in daycare sick. They give each other their germs, and your child may get hit with all of it. The good side to that (and there is one) is that once they pass that first year, their immune systems are stronger and they’re a lot less likely to get sick.

Robin

Thanks again everyone!

I am really leaning towards a Goddard School in the local area.

I visited three places last week and liked this one the best.

The drawback is that it is the furthest from my office. There are two other centers wtihin five minutes of my office. This Goddard School is about ten minutes from my office. So the distance isn’t so great, but it is a bit further.

I guess ten minutes away is much better than the hour away the baby would be if I were to enroll him by my home.