When I was in college one summer and then for a year after I graduated from college (thanks, recession), I worked in day cares. I worked for one not so great place over the summer, and then for a really awesome company after college. I also had the not-so-awesome experience as a mom of finding day care for my daughter, as I went back to work when she was only 6 weeks old (Thanks, employers who unenrolled me from short term and long term disability once you found out I was pregnant so I’d have no choice). Finding good providers is really hard, but there are some really amazing resources out there. I’ll give you my 2 cents first, and I’ll also link a bunch of things to this post to help you sort through your options as well.
First of all, if you’re looking for a space for a newborn, start calling early. Because Minnesota has strict 1:4 ratios for babies in centers, those spaces for good centers fill up quickly. For home day cares, the rules are a little more confusing; the limits on the number of children under the age of 1 depends on the type of setting and the licensed capacity.
Second, make sure you go visit the places while kids are there before you put your name on any waiting list. I’ll link to other resources below, but some things, I feel, are VERY important.
- Is the place clean? Are there spills and stains all over?
- Is there food from previous meals all over the floor?
- Are there toys all over the floor, to the point that it’s impossible to walk without tripping on them?
- Does everyone have a runny nose? (Yes, I know kids get sick, but TRUST ME– that’s a sign that toys and surfaces aren’t cleaned properly or often enough.)
- Is it loud? Chaotic? With lots of fighting? That’s no good. Chaos equals injuries, sad kids, and sick kids.
- Do they have the babies sleeping in safe surfaces?
- What do they feed the kids for meals?
- Are the babies held when being given a bottle? (Bottle propping a really, really big no-no.)
- Is the TV on?
- What do they do for older kids to sleep? Do they rock babies? Do they rub backs for older kids? Or do they expect ALL kids to fall asleep on their own?
Third, make sure you check references, and, in the case of in-home providers, call the county licensing department to find out what kind of complaints they have on file. Here’s a list of things you should be asking.
Minnesota has some really amazing resources out there for families. Child Care Aware Minnesota has a checklist, including a pdf of the checklist, that’s very detailed that you can use to help you make sure you’re asking all of the relevant questions. To locate options, there’s Parent Aware.
It’s important that you make sure you are totally at peace with your choice. I can tell you from my own experience that there’s nothing worse as a mom to find out that your child hasn’t been well taken care of. Hopefully these tools will help you dig through the options and you can find the right fit for your family.
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