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The day will come that every working mom dreads. The day you return to work from your maternity leave. Just the thought of leaving our Faith in someone else’s care was enough to bring tears streaming down my face. But, we had to do it. So, how do you choose a daycare that you’re confident will provide top notch care for your little one?
We were fortunate. When I initially returned to work after all most 4 months of maternity leave, Faith stayed with a family friend. Mama Lil, as we affectionately call her, volunteered to keep Faith for us when I returned to work. So, even though it was difficult to leave her, I knew she was in good hands.
Mama Lil kept Faith for 6 months. Then it was time for us to send her to daycare. The transition to sending her to daycare at 10 months old was probably much easier than it would have been if I had to leave my 6 week old baby. It helped that I didn’t have to go through the separation anxiety of leaving coupled with the guilt of taking her to daycare.
Benefits of Daycare
I felt guilty that as a mom I couldn’t stay home with her. I really wanted to, but it just was not an option for our family. My husband and I both need to work. But, I also believed that if we found the right daycare, there would be benefits. Faith is not an only child. She has two older sisters that do not live with us. And even if they did, they are 17 and 18 years old. Going to daycare would offer her the chance to socialize with other kids around her age.
Finding the right daycare provider is crucial. You must feel confident that your child is being cared for and loved while they are away from you. Faith has grown so much while she has been going to daycare. They were completely on board with potty training her (she has been trained now for over a year).
Not only does she know her colors and ABC’s, but she can count to 20, knows her days of the week and months of the year. She can identify all the letters of the alphabet, spell her name, and is practicing tracing her letters and numbers. Did I tell you she is just 2 ½? We work with Faith to help her learn, but I know that she has progressed so much more because of daycare. We are so grateful to have found such a wonderful daycare for Faith. It makes leaving her there easy.
The Special Needs Child
Finding a good daycare is a top priority for any parent. But it is especially important for a parent of a child with special needs. There is an additional amount of patience, understanding, and ability to care of a child with a special need.
Faith has an ileostomy, which means she wears a bag. Whoever cared for her would need to be willing and able to care for it. In a search for a child care provider we attempted to find a private person that was willing to care for her instead of putting her in daycare. However, two people that we talked to about it politely turned us down, and in part, it was because they were nervous about taking caring of her bag. So, a licensed daycare was our only hope.
Prior to Faith starting daycare, I showed the owner how to change her bag. I provided her with written instructions found here on what to do to keep in Faith’s file. Then, on another occasion, I allowed her to change the bag with my assistance. To be honest, I was not fully confident that she would know how to do it if Faith had a leak at daycare and needed a bag change. After all, it took us weeks of practice to get it right. But, I did feel confident that she was not afraid of touching it or cleaning it daily while Faith was in her care.
Faith has been attending the same daycare center for about a year and a half. There have only been two incidents where her bag needed to be changed while at school. The first time, I left work and went to the center to assist in changing it. The second time, the owner felt confident to change it herself. While it was not the best bag change, and it needed to be redone when Faith got home, I am grateful that she attempted to do it, and it was good enough for Faith to get through the rest of her day.
But how did we find our daycare? Well, it was a process. But here are a few steps to get started on finding a daycare that is right for your child.
Ask your friends.
If you have friends that have young children, ask them for recommendations. Where did they send their child? What were their experiences? This was not really an option for us. At 43 and 47 years old, most of our friends were checking out colleges, not daycare!
Check your state government website.
Here you will find programs in your state that will help pay for child care costs. These programs are usually income based, but provide free or reduced cost vouchers for daycare. You will also find a list of all licensed child care facilities in the State. The list for my state offers valuable information, such as capacity, ages accepted, hours of operation, and compliance history.
Check Head Start your area.
Many Head Start programs also offer the Early Head Start program for infants up to toddler age 3. This program is primarily a need based program, but it is still worth contacting them. In my area, early head start also accepts children with disabilities, and can accept a certain percentage of children from families over the income limit.
You can google daycares in your area. Most have a website or a Facebook page where you can see pictures of the facilities, read a little background information, and even find out the fees.
The next step is to contact the daycares on your list for pricing and to see if they have openings or a waitlist. If this is your first child, or you haven’t had a baby in awhile you may be surprised at the cost.
We live in a rural area where the cost of living is low compared to many other areas. When we called around to find a daycare for Faith, the average fee was a little over $100 per week. Trust me when I say this is cheap. I have talked to other parents who pay twice this a week for childcare.
If cost is not a concern for you, then that is wonderful. And you can just go to the next step which is setting up a time to take a tour of the facility. However, if cost is a concern, you may need to do some more research to find centers that are in your budget. There is no point in visiting a daycare that cost twice as much as you can afford to pay.
Take a tour of the facility.
This is a no-brainer. You want to see what the center looks like, meet the teacher, and see how the room your child will be in is run. We took Faith with us for visits. It was a great idea too, because she felt at home from the moment she got in the door of her daycare.
Discuss your child’s special needs.
This of course does not apply to every parent. But to those of us that have children with special needs, this is highly important and a source of high anxiety.
Do they have any experience dealing with children with special needs? If so, anything similar to your child’s needs? Do they seem open to the idea? Do they have enough staff to accommodate your child’s needs? The list of questions can go on and on.
Pay attention to the staff’s responses to your question, and how they respond. Do they seem hesitant or reassuring? We had to explain Faith’s ostomy and how to change it if needed. Our daycare provider never had a child with an ostomy, but was very open to learning to care for Faith.
It will be okay.
With the right daycare, your anxiety of leaving your little one will decline. I still wish I could stay home with her. But for us, daycare is a wonderful alternative.
I would love to hear of other experiences with daycare. How did you find yours? And do you have any tips to share?