This article first appeared on CharlotteFive.
When a baby is on the way, there are the usual traditions that mark the occasion: announcements, gender reveal parties, showers and babymoons. Most importantly, there is the search for daycare. According to new and soon-to-be parents, the minute the “+” sign shows up on that little stick, the search for a daycare needs to begin.
“Looking back, I should have gotten on several daycare wait lists the day I found out I was pregnant,” said Gilda McGee, 35, a college administrator and mom to four-month old daughter, Luna.
Finding a daycare is enough to make any parent panic. One soon-to-be mom described the process as a mystery — she did not know where to start. Finding the perfect place to leave your child for six to 10 hours per day can be overwhelming.
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There are various childcare development and daycare centers throughout the Queen City. Here is a list of items to consider and questions to ask when researching the right place for your child:
General: These considerations will help you get started
– When will you need daycare to begin? Consider how FMLA, vacation, sick time and family helpers may extend your timeline.
– What is the daycare star system used in North Carolina? How does it affect your search? The star rating system is a standard created by the NC Division of Division of Child Development. Daycare and childcare centers are rated on staff education and program standards.
– What is your budget? Costs range from $140-$350 per week depending on star rating, services and location. For instance, Taylor’s Playhouse is an in-home Four Star daycare in NoDa and their rate is $190 per week. First United Methodist Child Development Center in uptown is a Five Star facility and is $280 per week for the infant room. Sharon Academy is a Five Star facility located in South Charlotte. Their rate for one week is $325 for the infant room.
– Do you prefer a center located at a church, small local company, large national chain or in someone’s home? Plaza Baptist’s Children’s Center and Park Road Baptist Child Development Center are connected to churches.
– Do you require a place close to your work, spouse’s work, near home or somewhere in between? KinderCare offers six locations in the Charlotte area.
– Is part-time care an option for you? Is part-time care offered at daycare centers?
– Do you need meals and snacks provided by the center? Is an organic and natural diet important? Providence Preparatory School serves meals made with fresh and organic ingredients.
– When will you drop off and pick-up your child? Do you tend to work late or get in early? Do you need third shift? Kiddie Farm Child has extended hours.
– As your baby grows, do you want a place that offers field trips or a specific educational curriculum? Charlotte Montessori School offers a Montessori-based education.
Admission process: Once you narrow down your field of choices, ask…
– At what age do they accept children?
– Are you able to take a tour and observe rooms before you make a decision?
– How long is the wait list? How fast do families move off the wait list?
– Do you have to accept a space immediately if your name is called from the wait list?
Vibe: A visit to the daycare center will be a determining factor
– Does the center fit your family’s lifestyle?
– What do your instincts tell you?
– Do the babies and children there look happy?
– Can you talk with other parents about their experience at the daycare?
– Does the center offer Parents Night Out, a parent support group or family get-togethers?
Safety: Look over the policies in place for keeping your little one safe
– How are teachers and assistants hired and trained? How do they conduct background checks?
– What is the teacher-to-child ratio?
– What is the turnover rate for the staff? Director? Families?
– How extensive are the center’s policies? Is the facility strict or loose with the rules?
– How do you sign-in and sign-out your child?
– How do teachers handle emergencies? Illness? Injuries?
– Do they accept children without immunizations? (This applies to people on both sides of fence.)
Procedures: Consider the way a daycare operates
– What calendar does the center follow? Will the center close on traditional holidays? Does it follow the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School calendar?
– What are the visitation policies once your child is in the center?
– How does the center address babies and children with allergies? Special needs?
– What kind of communication can you expect? Daily photos, emails, notes, video monitoring?
Let the search begin.
Follow Vanessa Infanzon on Twitter @morethanVMI.