Friday, March 28, 2008

Picking a care provider...

--posted by Pallavi (All Things Yummy)

Being a working mom, day care for my little one was/is always on my mind. I started thinking about it even before I had him. When I saw my friends around me going through various things, I always put myself in their position and thought.. what would I do.. ?!
#1:Some of them quit working altogether.. that wasn't an option for me due to GC processing blah blah..
#2. Some of them had visiting parents at any given time.. (lucky them !) Both my mom and m-i-l are working women too.. so they could only spend a few months away from India at most. So, that option was ruled-out too.
#3: Some sent their kids to India (well the plan was for about a few months initially, which ended up being a couple of years too in some cases !!) They are definitely very brave that they could do that! I could hardly imagine it...
#4: So, the only remaining option was to send my kid to a daycare here.. Either to an in-home babysitter or a traditional daycare center. And ever since I came to that conclusion, I started paying more attention to the group of friends who did that.. and their kids :)

Then R came into our lives and things started to unfold in reality.. Luckily my mom and mil took turns and stayed here until he was about 10 months old. So that worked out great esp. since I was working from home then too. I was always home with the baby and was working too. When he was about 8 months, I started investigating into what options I had then.
#1: To have a nanny who would visit and watch him (I was working from home then.. so that seemed like a great option)
#2. Enroll him at a traditional american day care facility
#3. Drop him off at a desi babysitter's place who would watch him along with couple of other kids.

I tried finding a nanny but there many issues with that and couldnt find anyone that fit.. so #1 was ruled out. Then, came the second option of the traditional daycare center. And from what I have observed and heard from my friends, the kids got sick too often at the daycare..And I was very worried about that.. So, I decided to go with option #3. Started talking to many babysitters in my area. I visited a couple of them and I picked the lady who seemed friendly and had a clean home. She was recommended by a friend and her daughter who is same age as R goes there too. So, I picked her. And started dropping off R there.

The first couple of weeks he was fine other than the stranger anxiety stuff and then came winter.. (bad timing !) And started a chain of ear-infections, colds, coughs, fever, antibiotics, loss of appetite, weight loss etc etc.. Its just too painful to even think about. Was tough on all of us. I am sure many of you know what I mean.. Eventually as the spring came along, he adjusted much better. I thought I will keep him here until he is 3 and then find a preschool.. I thought he would be older and may be not get sick that often. And for sometime everything was pretty nice.

About when he was 20 months old, R started talking a lot. And he started saying .. "aunty sofa sit.. tv watch".. and he kept saying that..with the limited vocabulary he had..I realized he is spending most of his time watching TV.... I am not too fond of TV and think he is way too young for it now. It was about end of september last year when I really started to feel that he needs some place where he can spend his time doing other things that are more useful for him. But from the previous experience, I didnt want to move him to a new place
in winter . So, decided to wait for warmer weather. But then I thought I could do my research as to whats available. Yes, I love research. I like to know whats out there before I make my pick.. :) So, I started looking not very actively but on and off whenever I could.

First went to the internet (like I always do with my research) pulled up a list of all the daycare/preschool facilites around where I live. Made a list of about 25-30. Yes, there are that many within 5 miles from our home!! And ordered them by the distance starting with the closest. Then started visiting each of the websites and called them and gathered all the information I could over the phone. Made an Excel Spreadsheet with the following columns for each one.
Name & Website & Phone Number
Distance from our home...and preferably on the way to work- the closer it is the better.

Are open atleast until 6:30PM (Both of us work quite far from home.. so anything earlier would be hard)
3.Food Options:
They have a good menu for our dietary needs or allow us to substitute on those days if we are not happy with the selection. (there were some that didnt allow anything from home due to the allergies issues)
4.Daily curriculum:
What do they do during the day.. when do they play, eat, sleep, learn. What kind of teaching approach they follow.. independence oriented or more structured..

The lowest one was $120 per week and the highest $320 per week. Most were between $180 - $250 for this age group.
Have a bus facility to the public schools-not now but after a couple of years
8. Sick Policy, Holidays, Student:Teacher ratio, Potty Training & Age Group divisions.
Most seemed same for this age group so these became non-criteria now..
9.Other things they offer:
Some schools offered webcam. Some offered Dance, Soccer, Martial Arts etc, even gourmet food for parents, drycleaning and weeknights babysitting...
10.Reputation & References:
What I heard from my friends about them.

Once I had all of this information, I could eliminate a lot of them.
From the past couple of weeks or so, I have been doing this much more actively. Now I am down to about 7 facilities. We will be touring them all. I will be checking for the following things :

1.Get in and get out.. how fast and easy it was.
3. Have a clean and well kept facility (How is the Kitchen if they have one)
4. If staff seem caring and experienced.
5. Good outdoor age-appropriate playgrounds for all age groups (R loves the park) - everyone will say yes to this on the phone :) but when you see you will know the good ones from the not-so-good ones.
6. They are quite diverse (with kids from all races/countries/languages etc.. ) Thats very important in this day and age. I believe that children need to learn to appreciate everyone alike and its important to inculcate that unbiased nature from childhood.
7.How the rooms are setup, Art work and other things posted on the bulletin boards, what the kids are doing while we are there.
8. The daily reports and Menu for the month and activities, themes etc.,
9. I definitely like to check out the infants/early toddlers room to see how they are being comforted..

We are touring the facilities now.. have 3 more left.. will post results after that pretty soon. Do share your views.. Would love to hear what you think..


Kodi's Mom said...

you are super organized, aren't you! like how you put them all on a spreadsheet, sometimes it really is the only way to get your thoughts together and not jumble them up. Also as soon as you leave each facility, I would recommend sitting in the car or someplace private and scribble down a quick note on your first impression, what you liked best, what bothered you etc. this will help you a lot in the final decision. and if possible, take your kid along for every tour. ultimately you'll guage the daycare based on his comfort level there. good luck and keep us posted!

Roopa Unnikrishnan said...

Really interesting post, Pallavi. It's like you laid out the lifecycle of the childcare decision! I have to admit, the one option I never touched was the drop off at a home. I'm incredibly uncomfortable with such situations -- there are no guarantees of good, consistent and thoughtful care. And there are always those horro stories about medicated or TV-addicted kids. Scary. Looks like you came up with a great set of options for K -- good luck, and good going! You're clearly going to make sure he has the best care he can get!

Sandeepa said...

Great work Pallavi. I like your detailed procedure. BTW where are you located ? Is it possible to give the names of the schools

Pallavi said...

kodi's mom : Yes, cant help it.When I was looking for locations for R's second birthday, I took him to my shortlisted 3 facilities to see what excited him the most :)) I will surely take him to the daycare schools too. Thanks for the tip about taking notes in the car never thought of that. Usually try to remember.

Roopa : I completely understand your feeling. I didnt want to do it at first but my husband didnt see anything wrong with it :( So, I had to do a lot of mental adjustment before I decided to give the in-home babysitter a try because it was october and the sickness thing scared me. R had lot of trouble adjusting to the stranger anxiety thing too and got so sick that I thought there was never any point in sending him to the in-home sitter because he became sick time I will just go for the regular daycare. No one can tell me anything differnt now after my experience. And I cant tell u how many times I cried feeling guilty for putting him in that situation :( Anyway, I knew this babysitter thing was temporary.. So, felt somewhat ok on the thought of better prospects in the near future. I am not sure what is the "BEST" one. But, I will be happy if he is happy. Thats all we all want right ? I hope thats how it will turn out.

Sandeepa: I live in Mason,OH.
My final list :
1. Goddard School
2. Kinder Care Learning Center
3. Child Time (was previously Rainbow Child Development Center)
4. Primrose School
5. Creative Childrens World (local)
6. Alphabet Kids (local)
7. The Little Leprechaun Academy (local)

Ironically, you will find most of these are national chains .. but those are the ones that happen to be in close proximity of my home.. So, I picked these.

There are also the following ..that I shortlisted.. Though I have heard some of my friends rave about these.. but they are a little far and out of our way to work.. so I am not sure I will tour these..

8. Creme De la Creme
9. The Compass School
10. The Child Place (Montessori School)

Pallavi said...

Well the comment turned out pretty long too :) Glad you all took the time to read it all ..

scribblermom said...

i agree with kodi's mom about scribbling down your first impressions and taking your kid. My hubby too makes such lists most often, making him super organized just like you :). Since i stay with my in-laws, they take care of Genie, so its smooth running till now.