by Sheena Helgenberger
When I found out I was going to have a child, I immediately began creating “to do” lists in my head around the kind of pregnancy experience I wanted to have: researching midwives and pediatricians, interviewing friends who were already parents, attending pre-natal yoga classes, and staying on top of work responsibilities while planning for maternity leave…
Searching for childcare on top of all of this was overwhelming. The thought of leaving my baby with strangers when I returned to work after twelve weeks post-partum made me break into a sweat.
If you’re an expecting parent and also feel worried about this last task, make a cup of tea and put your feet up. I have just the thing for you!
1. Start early. Many places often have waiting lists for infants.
2. Make a list. (I love lists.) Spend a few minutes writing down what you want from child care. For example, some parents want a location near their home and others want something closer to work. Do you want a breastfeeding-friendly provider where you can feed your baby before leaving for work? Think about those “must haves” that are important to you. It’s different for everyone and that is OK.
3. Ask around. Get recommendations from your friends and co-workers who have gone through the search before. Consider posting on social media for referrals, too.
4. Research online. Read reviews on Google, Facebook and Yelp, and bookmark this page to check for the negative action reports that the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services publishes on the state’s child care providers.
5. Set up tours. It’s one thing to read about a program on a website, but you won’t get a complete view of the facility, staff, philosophies and curriculum until you see everything in person. Notice how you feel during and after the tour. I had places where I felt immediately comfortable and other locations where I couldn’t picture my baby spending her time.
6. Check with Step Up to Quality. It’s a program from the Nebraska Department of Education that helps families find child care providers who go the extra mile in demonstrating their commitment to early childhood education.
The entire Step Up to Quality website is a great resource for parents on what to look for in a child care provider. It has a helpful resource section, but what was most important to me was the listing of child care providers that are going through the program.
I went through the exact steps I listed above, and found that the child care provider that I was leaning toward was in the program, and at a step three! Just being enrolled in the program would have been enough for me, but to find they were advancing through it was icing on the cake. It was incredibly validating and gave me (and still gives me) peace of mind.
I wanted to find a place where my baby would obviously be given the necessary basics, but I also want more for her. I want her to be in a place where she’s loved and cuddled, where she’s challenged to hit developmental milestones, and where I feel a partnership with the teachers, and Step Up to Quality helped me find that. My sweet Harper is my whole world, and knowing she’s safe and cared for and learning new things every day is priceless.