This is post 1 of 3 about our child care search. The first step on a treasure hunt is to draw a map and gather tools.
Today's post is another blast from the past. I'm remembering back to our search for day care for my return to work 8 months ago. It was around this time last year that it started to set in that I was returning to work and that I needed to get searching.
When beginning our hunt for a day care provider, what I was really looking for was a second home for my child. Hubby and I felt that a home day care was the best option for our family. We liked the idea of little E being cuddled and loved and given the utmost attention in a home setting - just the way Mommy did for his first 12 months. I also wanted someone who shared the same passions and values as me. Active living, healthy eating, importance of reading and educational games and toys - just to name a few. That was ALL they needed to fit the bill. Easy right?
When little E was 9 months old I started my search. I was constantly being asked if I had day care set up and it wasn't something I wanted to think about during the holidays. The busy Christmas season was now over and a new year had started.
There was a buzz about playgroups. Mom's were swapping day care providers contact details and sharing their interview stories. Some great, some horrible. There were many of us searching for the same time frames and in the same neighbourhood. It almost felt like a rat race!
I went to a workshop called Child Care Options at the Ontario Early Years Centre. I learned about the child care system and regulations, but most importantly I learned not to worry about finding a day care. For some reason mother's in Ottawa believe that they have to register their children in day care as soon as they are born. There is a myth that suggests that there just isn't any space. Wrong! There is tons of child care out there - you just need to find it. I was not confident that I would receive a call from the Centralized Waiting List (and I never did) after hearing of so many unsuccessful stories and it was suggested that I take matters into my own hands. And that is what I did.
I contacted the Child Care Providers Resource Network (CCPRN). At the time, I emailed them and they sent excel spreadsheets listing all the home child cares in my area and surrounding areas. It was important for us to find one close to home (some find it more convenient to have one near their workplace). Note: Now, their service is much more user friendly and within a few clicks on their website you can bring up a list according to your postal code. The CCPRN did not keep tabs of who had spaces available or any specific details so I began going down the list and calling each one with a first draft of quick questions.
Question #1 - Do you have space available for a 12 month old?
If they answered no, I moved to the next one on the list.
Question #2 - Can you tell me a bit about your day care? I was looking for an idea of their typical day including schedules and priorities and also got an idea of their personality on the phone. If I liked what I heard then I asked them to set up a meeting and to visit their day care. If I didn't like what I heard I thanked them for their time.
My initial cold calls were quick and to the point. There was no messing around here. Of the approximately 25 providers on my lists, 7 had available spots and I narrowed it down to a top 3 that I wanted to interview.
I used this checklist on CCPRN's website as a starting point to draft my interview questions. With that, Hubby and I compiled a list of questions that were important to us including healthy and safety, routines and activities, and discipline. I was calm and cool and took my interviews very seriously. I had constructed interviews in my career many times before - but I knew this would be much tougher. Whomever we chose was to care for our most prized possession.