Whatever you want to call these places - daycare, childcare, school, child center - the differences from one place to another, regardless of location and price, drastically differ.
Below, I impart what I've seen so far from some of my dayscares to dreamcares (without naming names, of course):
- When we're talking about daycares, franchises aren't all bad. You see consistency and stricter guidelines implemented at each that provide some reliability and assurance of quality.
- More money does NOT necessarily mean more quality or peace of mind and vice versa.
- Infant rooms MUST have clean floors. Clean means no outside shoes allowed, no wet substances and no food.
- Location, location, location. I will be bringing two infants to daycare. I don't want them to be in the first room from the front door (that is also coincidentally NOT locked or attended by anyone).
- Show Me Organization! It goes without saying that you probably don't want your child sleeping on someone else's linens but how about eating your hard earned breastmilk? I don't want to see mismatched and disorganized food bins and fridges as much as I don't like to see strewn bags of belongings all over hallway floors.
- ABCs. I'm not talking about learning them. I'm talking about the credentials backing up the people I will be paying to watch and care for my new additions. I want to know that everyone is educated in childcare, certified in CPR and experienced in working with infants.
- Ratios. You never thought you'd have to know this math stuff after school was over, right? Well, brush up on your ratio know how. I'm not entirely comfortable if they tell me that they are always maxed out with the number of infants that the state allows and short on the number of caregivers consistently available at any given time.
- Open Door Policy. If I'm nearby, I'd like the option to stop by anytime to check in on my babies. I can understand if they'd like notice of a visit though. All in all, most places where you would be bringing infants have this policy in place.
- Schedules & Feedings. What time is drop off? What time is pick up? What is the feeding schedule? Now, to each facility's credit so far, each had fairly flexible pick-up/drop-off availability and tried to match your feeding schedule as closely as possible.
I'm not rushing or worried about not finding "The One" (yet) but we'd like to be prepared and check this off of our list of things to do.
"A goal without a plan is just a wish." ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery