Desperately Seeking Childcare
In the world of parenting quandaries, picking childcare can be more daunting than choosing a pediatrician. Although the Bay Area is seemingly teeming with daycare facilities, options can quickly narrow depending on a parent’s needs. It’s a process that can leave many feeling overwhelmed.
Here are some things you can do to reduce that stress.
Cautiously use your social network: Friends are a great reference and so is the county’s Child Care Resource and Referral Agency, but don’t base your decision solely on another’s experience. Jennifer Jelavich, owner of the online referral site EastBayPreschools.com, says parents often discount a viable option based on another person’s encounter. “Remember the feedback you get, but don’t make your decision on this alone,” she says.
Be an early bird: Start months before you need care and visit enough centers. Sherrie Rose Mayle, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, an organization that accredits childcare facilities, recommends that parents visit a multitude of places with different philosophies. “The more schools that parents visit, the more they will understand what is available in the area,” she says.
Visit and pay attention: “Pay attention to the vibe,” says Mayle. How do the teachers interact with the students? Do they seem to enjoy their jobs? Are the kids happy and at ease? Is the furniture kid-friendly and are the toys appropriate and learning based? Visit more than once, because your initial tour may not typify the average day.
Ask questions: Come prepared with questions, Jelavich suggests. Consider asking about: teaching philosophy, teacher credentialing and training, disciplinary strategies, additional programs, staff turnover and holiday schedules.
Follow your gut: What is important is that you feel comfortable. “If (parents) feel at all nervous about it and suddenly feel uncomfortable, then it’s important that they pay attention to that instinct and not rush into a decision,” Mayle says.
Check licenses: Every county and state has different licensing requirements. Check those in your area and make sure the facilities you visit meet them. Organizations, such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children, offer accreditation above the state or local level.
Jennifer Christgau-Aquino is a Bay Area-based freelance writer.
Childcare Aware. A database of information on childcare providers. childcareaware.org.
National Association for the Education of Young Children. Tips and information on finding childcare. families. naeyc.org/what-to-look-for-in-a-program.