You’ve had the debate with your partner. You’ve weighed the pros and cons and agonized over making the right choice. You’ve waffled over applications and whether or not the kids will be alright. Now you’ve made the decision: you’re going back to work. Maybe you’re a new mom and this is the first time leaving your baby. Maybe you’re a parent who’s manned the home front and finances have encouraged you to go back to the work force. With as difficult as that choice is, choosing the right childcare can be almost as difficult, especially for new parents. With a little bit of time and research, you can find quality childcare for your family. These ten things are lessons I’ve learned in looking for childcare, and keeping them in mind can help you make the best choice possible.
First, you need to have a list of deal-breakers. What are you OK with in terms of adult-to-child ratio? What policies do you want them to have in terms of a sick child? What ratings are your minimum standard? Do you want a more, or less, structured environment for your family? What do you want in terms of providing breakfast and lunch, or packing food yourself?
Know your own mind first, before going to interview or tour different places. You’ll be able to find the information you want faster, and be able to craft your decision based on how well facilities meet your standards.
–Location, location, location
This one may be a bit of a no-brainer, but the location of the daycare in relation to either your workplace, or home, is a big deal. The easier it is to get to, the easier your day will go. You don’t want to fight cross-town traffic at rush hour if you don’t have to. That being said, if you find a daycare that you absolutely love, but it’s not anywhere close by; if you’re willing to make the drive, go for it! (Having troubles? We are here to help! Visit our home page @ www.sgchildcare.sg to locate your ideal childcare using our radius search functionality!)
Any place that is going to take care of your child needs to be certified. In Singapore, Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA, subsidiary of Ministry of Social and Family Development) is in charge of granting childcare operators wannabe the initial 12 months license after a series of stringent checks (including facilities, administration procedures, safety, sanitary features, programme, furnishing/equipment etc). Familiarize yourself with them, and ask to see the facility’s credentials when you go for a tour. They should have them posted in plain sight or within easy reach. Make sure the licenses aren’t expired, and meet the standards set by ECDA. That counts for the employees as well, not just the building itself. Make sure at least a handful of employees are up-to-date on things such as first aid, and child CPR.
Not many parents think of security when it comes to daycare, but it’s important. Do their doors automatically lock? Do they have gates blocking doors to pantries with chemicals? Did someone look at your ID when you walked in? Protecting your child against accidents is important. Ask where they store their cleaning chemicals and what measures they take to keep kids out of them. Check to see if the doors lock automatically when closed. A curious toddler who catches two minutes unsupervised can open a door and be outside in a blink. Also, make sure that not-just-anyone can pick up your child. Do they have an “Approved Adult” list? Do they check to see if you are who you say you are? If they don’t, then that facility isn’t for you. Make sure they conform to safety standards as well. Check for fire extinguishers and smoke detectors.
If you know what your budget is, that makes decisions easier. You can automatically rule out those that will be too expensive. Be wary of those that seem “too good to be true”, because they usually are. You get what you pay for, and a ridiculously low cost might mean ridiculously poor care. Check and see how they prefer payment: a month in advance, every two weeks, every week? Make sure you can meet the schedule of the facility you pick.
One of the things you need to ask about, and observe, is how many kids are being watched by one adult. If the number of children seems too high, then you might want to reconsider. It’s not a question of “if” an over-taxed adult will miss risky behavior of a child, it’s “when”. Do you really want your child able to eat half a tube of glue before their caretaker realizes it? You may see a higher price in facilities that employ more adults, but you’ll see better care for your child too.
–Watch the staff
How the staff interacts with their children is a big indicator as to how much peace of mind you’ll have. How do they talk to the children? Do they play with them, or stand in a corner on their phone and supervise? Do they read stories or plop them in front of the TV? Make sure that their behavior is in line with your expectations before you sign any paperwork. A surprise visit is a great way to get the genuine attitude of the staff when they’re not being “watched”.
You shouldn’t walk into a facility and feel like it could use a good scrub down. Granted, this is a place that takes care of children and ALL children are good at making messes. The underneath should be clean though. Tables shouldn’t be sticky with old juice, or have dust stuck to it because it hasn’t been wiped in weeks. Take a trip to the bathroom. If the bathroom is dirty, there’s a good chance they don’t clean well. If the bathroom is well tended, other areas should be as well. Check and see if they have sani-wipes handy for cleaning toys, and whether or not there are Kleenex within easy reach for wiping snotty noses.
Make sure the hours of operation will work with your schedule. You could find the perfect facility but if their hours don’t mesh with yours, then you’re out of luck. Ask how flexible they are, if they do part-time care, what holidays they close for. Make sure that their availability matches with your needs.
–Consider In-Home Care/Baby Sitting
If you truly don’t like the idea of your child at a facility, look into at-home care. Someone who is experienced in home-care/baby sitting might be a good alternative. The adult-to-child ratio will definitely be lower, but make sure you check them the way you would a facility. Hold them to the same standards and don’t sign anything if they don’t measure up.
–Trust your instincts
If you tour a facility, or an in-home daycare, and something doesn’t seem right, trust it. You know what’s best for your child and have the best sense of what will meet the needs of your family. If something seems “off” it probably is. Don’t second guess yourself. Go find another facility or care taker. Your peace of mind, and your child’s well-being are the two most important factors when looking for care outside your home. Make sure you and your child trust whomever it is you choose for their care.
It’s never easy to leave your child with someone else, but with these tips, you can make a tough situation easier, and give yourself some peace of mind.