so since matt and i both had off the friday before the 4th, we decided that would be a good time to tour some daycares and start making some decisions. yes, it's early. but we live in a big suburb outside of a huge city. daycares fill up quickly, and we didn't want to risk finding a daycare we loved only to be told there were no spots available. there were 6 places that we wanted to see, and 5 of them were able to see us that friday. so we spent our day off driving around and touring daycares.
based on some posts on hellobee and also a checklist on one of the daycare's websites, i came up with a standard list of questions that we would make sure we asked or got the answers to at each daycare. once we saw all of them, we put everything into a spreadsheet to compare. here is the list of questions we used:
- what is the cost per week/month?
- what are your hours? how much do you charge if i'm late to pick up my child?
- what is a typical day like?
- what is the adult to child ratio?
- does each child have their own cubby? crib?
- how often do you sterilize changing tables and toys?
- what is your policy regarding sick kids? when do you call us and when do you send them home?
- do i have to pay for days my child is sick or on vacation?
- what holidays are you closed?
- can i make unannounced visits? is there a place for me to nurse?
- what are your security measures? how will my child be checked in and out?
- does the staff have first aid training? infant and child cpr?
- does the staff go through background checks?
- do you do cloth diapering?
we found a few questions had pretty standard answers, especially if the program is state-certified and a member of the keystone stars program. for example, state law mandates that in infant rooms, the adult to child ratio must be no higher than 1:4. it also mandates that all staff have first aid training and that at least 1 in 5 staff have cpr training. it also mandates that all staff have child abuse clearances and fbi criminal history checks. we still asked at every daycare, because some go a step further than state law and certify all their staff in cpr, and also include fingerprinting in their background checks.
we saw 5 daycares on our day off and had a definite front-runner, though it was more expensive than we expected, at $273/week ($1092/month). our 2nd favorite (program-wise) was only $4 cheaper per month, but we didn't get a great vibe from the staff we met. the 2 others were either out of our budget ($1118/month) or more affordable ($1044/month) but really inconveniently located. the only one that was more in line with our budget at $245/week ($980/month) was also our least favorite of the bunch - it is in a community center, so there is literally no security - the doors are open to the public all day long. it made me very uneasy. we were able to work out a budget so that we could afford our top choice, but it would have meant making some sacrifices (which is totally fine) and it still would have been tight some months. but we had one more place to see on thursday evening. i had gotten a really good feeling just from my phone conversation with this place, so i was feeling very hopeful.
turns out, that last place was the winner. when you line them all up and compare them all, it would be our 2nd favorite, but it is the least expensive of all of them at $225/week ($900/month). we only met 2 staff because it was 6pm and most of the kids had gone home already, but they were both really nice (plus the one i spoke to on the phone, who was fantastic). it is education-focused, which is what we wanted. they run a before-and-after school program and provide transportation to and from what will be our child's elementary school. they take field trips with the kids starting at age 3 (this week, they went to the aquarium!). and their late pick-up policy was the cheapest around, too - $0.50 per minute after your scheduled pickup time, and $1/minute after closing. most of the other places were $20/15 minutes, starting at a minute late. oh, and they also do cloth diapering, which most of the other places won't do.
i plan to call on monday to start enrolling the baby there. if you live in the abington area and have questions about our experiences, please feel free to email me - i'd be more than happy to send you our spreadsheet or answer any questions. it was a daunting process, and i'm so glad we found a place that meets our financial needs as well as the baby's needs. i think this will be a great place for baby ike to grow up in!