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.
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.