Monday, May 01, 2006

Daycare ponderings

Just got back from our second daycare tour, this one at a locally owned chain about 10 minutes from the house (and between here and D's work). We didn't expect to like it, but figured we'd check it out just to have another basis of comparison. And our expectations were correct: This place is like the WalMart of daycare.

Well, that's not quite fair. It's very clean and seems well run. It's a new facility, much nicer than the highly accredited YMCA daycare we visited a few weeks ago. But there's something about it that seems a little creepy. Perhaps it was the reaction of the manager/tour guide when I asked about their policy on dropping in for breastfeeding. "Well, you could," she says. "We have one mom who does. But we don't have any special place for it; sometimes she goes to use the utility closet."

Yeah, I don't think so. I'm also not a big fan of the fact that they have Gymboree come in every week to do activities with the kids; of course, this isn't included in the tuition, and the parent handbook strongarms you into participating: "Gymboree is an optional program at [daycare] but most choose to participate. Our goal is that the entire class participate in the weekly Gymboree class."

And then there was the answer to D's question about whether this place is pursuing accreditation. "Not at this time," the manager said. "The owner is really focusing on franchising right now -- she's got a lot on her plate."

So they're too busy finding ways to make more money to focus on getting accredited. That is not music to my ears. Another warning sign: There's no waiting list at all. Another issue I have here is that I have met the owner of this place, in circumstances I wish I could share, and just wasn't very impressed with her. And on this one I am going to trust my gut.

We still have to visit the home-based daycare in our neighborhood; it only accepts kids up to 2 1/2, and the woman who runs it prefers to have kids part-time. She's also flexible about adding extra days here and there. A neighbor of ours -- who happens to work for a child welfare research institute affiliated with the local university -- takes his daughter there and raves about it. It's not any cheaper than either of the centers we've toured, but I like the sound of it already.

And then there's the latest option: D arrived at work today to find an email from a friend and former coworker of his, who is planning to start a small, home-based daycare of her own in the fall. She is offering us the first spot, which is fantastic. It'd be convenient, and we absolutely trust her. My only concern is starting a business relationship, on such a sensitive area as the care of our daughter, with a friend; I'm not sure how it would go if we had issues with something our friend was doing. And, on a less significant but still important note, I need to find out whether money paid to an unlicensed home daycare is still eligible for the child care tax credit.

So there's a lot to think about here. But at least we have some options.