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Interviewing day care providers/Finding Good Child Care Sticky

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
The search for daycare has started. I'm going back to work when my baby is 10 weeks old-and I've been told that waiting lists for daycare here where I live are really long. So I feel that at 35 weeks pregnant, I'm actually starting late. But I am in denial of the day when my maternity leave will be over....

My first interview is this Friday. I have some stuff that says what to look for-and I am likely going to drag my friend who has worked as a daycare provider. However does anyone have a list of questions that I should ask?

I also really want someone who will do things like wear my baby, make sure he only gets my BM, be supportive of CDing etc.... I'm only looking at home based daycares. I wish we could afford a nanny, but unfortunately it's out of the question budgetwise.

Any suggestions?
post #2 of 22
I would ask about:

- safety issues: baby proofing, ages of other children, who else might help to watch the children, carseats, outings, etc. Having read protecting the gift I would also ask if the provider is willing to provide a police report, ask if the provider has ever hit or abused a child, ask about other caregivers or adults that might be in the house, older children, etc. (I asked everyone I interviewed if they had ever abused a child and I was awed at how much you can tell from the response... no one had ever been asked that before either, not even our daycare/Montessori where I asked if any staff had ever hit or abused a child there.)

- the best question from de Becker for discipline stuff is - I forget the wording but something like "tell me about a situation where you had to discipline a child and what you did" - what the problem was will tell you as much as how it was handled

- daycare policies (what happens when people are sick - your child, the provider, the provider's children, etc.; lateness; feeding; diapering; etc.)

- overall approach it sounds like you've covered, but questions around will the baby be held/worn, naps, etc.

I would also ask some questions ahead like how the provider handles it when the baby starts walking and exploring and throwing food.
post #3 of 22
don't feel bad about being late -- i didn't start till postpartum -- also denial/anxiety about the inevitable return to work. miraculously we have 2 good choices in a similarly competitive envt. advice i read and liked: a good tour is when the dcp stops to respond to interruptions by kids. i personally like a little mess/chaos/creativity -- but i'm all about play.
post #4 of 22
Ask to speak to references...other parents that have used the person for child care. Much of what you like and don't like will be by "feel" or "gut" in addition to the questions. Ask the person to describe their philosophy. Some dcp's like to do a somewhat structured program (i.e. circle time, etc.) others utilize free play all the time and so on.

One of my informal rules when pregnant and searching for day care is: if you feel like crying when you walk out because you will be leaving your baby there, the answer is 'no.' If you feel excited and a sense of peace, the answer may be 'yes.'
post #5 of 22
I haven't totally read this thread, but we need a sticky about this! How many times have we answered these questions for moms heading back to work????

I know you said you are looking at only home-based care, but this might change. You never know. . .

My 2 cents:
Check out ALL the age-groups, NOT just the infant care. I basically chose my DDs' school based on the infant room and the toddler room. Now DD1 is in the 3-4 yo room, and I'm having trouble with it.

Make a list of your personal priorities (my list would include):
> Breast Milk storage and experience including do they make the bottle from frozen milk or do you bring in ready-to-serve EBM in bottles)
> Cloth diapers. They cannot legally refuse, but if they have a horrible attitude about it, they will give you grief and it isn't worth it. Find people who are at least positive about trying it.
> TV exposure. Are there TV's in the classrooms? When do they watch it and what do they watch. Most centers around here have a big room where there is a TV and it is used for early and late kids (before 8:30 am and after 5pm).
> Nap conditions. Do they turn off the lights and close the blinds? Do they provide mats or do you?
> Do they use an on-demand schedule for infants rather than expecting them to eat, nap, and play by the clock.
> Do they have a solid, yet flexible schedule for toddlers and up in order to provide structure, yet allow for individuality.
> Will they give you grief about waiting until 6 months to start solids? What do they expect in this area? Can you send home-made pureed food frozen in cubes? Do they want only jar food? Will they give the kid (I'm talking a 6-7 month old baby) a big slice of sweet potato if you provide it?
> Can you drop in at any time?
> What are their sick policies?

> And my all-time #1 priority, do they LOVE the children? This outranks any amount of pretty new toys and hand-washing regimens in my book.

Our daycare has some cracked tiles in the floor, the A/C goes out on occasion, the playground equipment is old, BUT my DDs are happy to go to school every morning and almost never pitch a fit. They love their teachers and their teachers love them.

Good Luck!
post #6 of 22
When I was at a simlar point in the selection process, I had it narrowed down to two choices, an in-home arrangement (licensed) and a small facility.

Both were supportive of exclusive breast milk and I had a comfort level with both, the deal breaker, so to speak, was the mixture between age groups.

The in-home facility had infants, toddlers, and pre-school aged kids all in one room with a flimsy divider for the infant area. It was so loud when I was there, it turned me off. Nothing out of the ordinary, just toddlers and kids being themselves. A baby was playing in the little enclosed area right next to toddlers tumbling around on the floor. I felt if I was stressed in the environment, an infant would be too.

This is why I chose a facility with a dedicated infant room and dedicated infant providers.

So in summary, I would pay attention to the inter-relationship between all the children and how will that impact your child.
post #7 of 22
I totally agree we need a sticky on this topic. My search function is not working this week for some reason....

If anyone can find one of our old threads and bump it up, I will make it a Sticky and/or combine it with this one.
post #8 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much for the advice. I am supposed to interview someone tomorow but have decided to change the appointment to another day because there will be no kids there on Friday. I'm realizing that I need to see her in action.

This has been extremely helpful!
post #9 of 22
Originally Posted by expectantmami View Post
I wish we could afford a nanny, but unfortunately it's out of the question budgetwise.

Any suggestions?
Can you do a nanny-share? Or au pair? An au pair is even less than a nanny, but you need to have room in your home for them.
post #10 of 22
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by mamasaurus View Post
Can you do a nanny-share? Or au pair? An au pair is even less than a nanny, but you need to have room in your home for them.
Possibly a nanny share-an au pair is out of the question. I spoke to DP about this a while ago-and we really just don't have the space for it..... Thanks for suggesting it though!
post #11 of 22
If you cant be there at pick up time, ask to speak to another mother or two. I hung out at dd's former daycare and spoke to a few mamas at pick up time (drop off is too hectic) and found out that there where families who had put multiple children through the program. It says alot if people stay!
post #12 of 22
All of the above..

But, also, watch the other children. Are they happy? Do they like each other? Are there enough toys for the kids to play with?
post #13 of 22
Originally Posted by sweetest View Post
I hung out at dd's former daycare and spoke to a few mamas at pick up time
I had a daycare provider once suggest to me that I come by at drop off or pick up time and randomly talk to other parents. I found this to offer such a sense that she was genuinely convinced her program was great and that I would not find an unhappy family. I think it is so important to talk to other families, as others have mentioned asking for references, but there is a difference between talking to a reference and randomly asking. Either way- talk to other families.
post #14 of 22
My search function still won't work so I am going to make this thread the Sticky. Bring on the ideas so this is the "master thread" of day care finding suggestions!
post #15 of 22
Originally Posted by lauren View Post

One of my informal rules when pregnant and searching for day care is: if you feel like crying when you walk out because you will be leaving your baby there, the answer is 'no.' If you feel excited and a sense of peace, the answer may be 'yes.'

this is wise :
post #16 of 22
i am looking at day care ctrs. they have formal tours, but i always tried to overstay the tour or show up early and conveniently have to nurse dd for a long time so i could see the real deal. today i returned to a play i had liked on the first go around (the formal tour) and didn't like it so much. i told them i had to see it again to give myself a sense of peace and since they wanted our $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ (we had already been admitted) they said yes. i found a very different situation once it was not showtime.

i also ask if they have sought naeyc certification and if not why not and if they have and didn't get it what was the sticking point(s). this question revealed that a very non-elite place had the cert but didn't advertise it!

one mom on a tour made the director go through the seniority of each and every employee, to show turnover. a good move, imo.

i also ask where they take the kids to play out of doors and since they are public parks i go observe there: formal nature walks on a rope are very different to my mind than free play on a playground. (again, that's my bias, but that turned me against some montessori places.)

i also always ask the actual providers rather than (in addition to) the director questions about feeding on demand, naptime, etc. the director knows how to tell parents what we want to hear whereas i feel like i am getting the real deal from the folks on the ground. of course if the director espouses something i don't like/can't live with, that is a huge red flag because i then feel like i can't go to her if there's a problem.
post #17 of 22
PiePie - Your comment about playtime reminded me . . .

One thing I NEVER thought to ask about was rainy days. Where do they play? What do they do?

I found out the answer one rainy day when my nearly 3yo starting doing something akin to jumping jacks and talking about exercise. They were using the large nap room to dance to music and do "exercises!"

I was quite happy to find this out. A lot of places just add another movie to the schedule for the day. And since in Houston, rain often means a week of non-stop rain or at least muddy ground unsuitable for small children, knowing what happens on rainy days is very important.
post #18 of 22
Sleep was a big one for me, and helped me to see the general attitude and skills of caregivers:
How to you help a baby (or toddler) nap? Scheduled or on demand? How do you deal with the other children and babies when you're helping another to nap?

And I cried when I walked out of the daycare that we chose for DD, but it was tears of relief that I had found a place so wonderful and caring where I knew I would feel safe to leave her.
post #19 of 22
I work in a daycare... and accepted the position because it was the daycare we had decided to enroll at once I have my baby. Before working at the daycare I was a preschool teacher. I worked both for the local public schools and Head Start. My basic philosophy is VERY child-development oriented. I love allowing and assisting children to learn through play and direct experiences (and really can't stand rote memorization and ditto sheet learning)...

Anyway, one suggestion I would make is to look for centers that are NAEYC accredited or are in the porcess of obtaining their accreditation. The center I work at is going through reaccreditation this year and it is so extensive. NAEYC really focuses on developmentally appropriate practice and a center really has to work to prove that they are up to NAEYC standards. You can check out the NAEYC website to get a local listing for daycares that have the NAEYC accreditation. NAEYC also offers resources for how to choose a quality daycare center.

Another suggestion that I would give is to ask if the center has an open door policy. If a center isn't confident enough to allow a parent to drop in at any given time without notice, then I would not enroll there. And if they do have a drop in policy, then once you have done your formal tour, drop in at some point and just walk the halls. Sometimes just walking around listening to what's going on in the classrooms (when teachers don't know you're there) is the best way to get a feel for what really goes on during the day.

The last thing I want to say is that even the best centers will have a teacher or two that you will be unhappy with for one reason or another. So once you feel good about a center and have enrolled there, continue to research it. Find out what's going on in other classrooms. Listen to how the teachers talk to the children. Get to know other parents and their opinions on the program and it's teachers (but also know what their parenting philosophy is so that you can make a better judgement on their opinion). From working at the center I'm at, I have a first hand view of each teacher and how they interact with the children. And I can tell you that there are one or two that I ABSOLUTELY do NOT want for my child's teacher. On the other hand, there are several who are completely wonderful. So I have a pretty good idea of the track of teachers that I will be requesting for my child.
post #20 of 22
Well, there are the basics like ensuring they're accredited, etc. and checking with the relevant city or state agencies to see if there have been any violations/complaints, etc. Important to know what the ratio is -- no matter how good someone is there is a limit to the quality of care they can provide when they're spreading it over many children.

I would recommend trying to be there at drop off or pick up so that you can meet and hopefully speak to some of the other parents. You're likely to get more candid responses that way. If that isn't an option ask for both current and past references. Ask about the daily routine, how care is different as the baby grows and develops. A good day care will do more than just babysit - they should be providing the right acitivies to stimulate and engage a child at all stages of development. I'm curious why you are only looking at home daycare. Is it a budget consideration?

Then you should ask them very directly the questions that you want answered - for the infants: will you wear my baby in a sling? How do you respond to a crying infant? Are they held frequently? Are they left to cry in a crib? Once they start crawling, etc., how is that encouraged (are they stuck in a swing or other device to keep them from 'getting into trouble' ; what sort of foods are offered to older infants/toddlers, are children read to frequently, what kind of outdoor activity if any is offered, is music or art introduced, etc, etc. Just make a laundry list of things you want to know and ask them. They should be prepared to answer them.
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