By: Abby Keane
The first thing to do, when looking for a daycare, is to get over the love/hate relationship most of us are bound to have with daycare. Thank goodness it exists, most people these days need it at least part time. BUT, we don’t want to use it, we want to be home with our babies, no one will take as good care of them as we do, and on and on. I will tell you right now, I agree with every argument you’re giving me right now. I hate that my kids have to be in daycare, and I’m lucky in that they only go two days a week. I feel guilty and sad, and I miss them terribly, but that’s not what this post is about. Feel free to email me and we can commiserate that our kids even have to go to daycare at all, but read this entire post first so that you at least pick a good one.
The first thing you need to do when searching for a daycare is make a list of daycares in your area. There are many ways to do this. A good starting point is the website for the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. Starting here will allow you to ensure that the daycare you choose, whether family or center-based, is licensed by the state, an absolute must. The website has a tool that lets you search for licensed family, school age or center-based child care programs in your area. Be prepared, the results can be overwhelming! I narrowed my results down by sticking very close to home, focusing on center-based care (I’ll get more into the family vs. center debate!), and choosing to focus on daycares that had a website, as that allowed me an important first glimpse into what the daycare was like.
I also used local resources, such as the Kidding Around newsletter. This is a free, seasonal, South Shore focused newspaper available both in print and online, which also boasts different content for Bristol County, Cape Cod, and the South Shore. They had recently published their guide to Preschool and Child Care (the Jan/Feb issue), which not only included ads from local preschools and child care centers, but articles from local moms with tips for choosing a daycare, what was important to them, what was important to their kids, etc.
So, how do you choose a family or center-based child care? There are pros and cons to each, and you’ll have to decide what’s best for your family. Family based care tends to be one individual, sometimes with an assistant, who cares for a small group of children in his/her home. This offers a smaller environment, which is usually less overwhelming for both the kids and the parents. The children are usually exposed to fewer germs, due to there being fewer children. There is usually a lower transiency rate for the other children in care with your child, so stronger bonds may develop over time. There’s almost no transiency for the adults, except for possibly an assistant, so your child will absolutely get used to the person caring for him/her.
However, there’s one main provider, so what happens if that provider gets sick? Center-based care has multiple teachers, therefore you won’t really have to worry about teacher illness or vacations, and your child will learn to adapt to different caregivers. However, you will have to worry about the number of other children/germs (sometimes it seems they’re one and the same!) your child is exposed to. But, is it better to have them get used to other kids’ germs early, when it won’t matter to them if they have to miss a few days each month due to illness (but it will likely matter to your employer), or to not really be exposed until they start school and are actually getting behind in schoolwork if they get sick. In a center-based program, there will likely be more children, but they’ll be broken into different groups by age, so your child will have more playmates his/her age to really get used to that social interaction. It really depends on the child(ren) and the family which setting will work best. If you’re unsure, check out a few of each kind!