Day Care: What Every Parent Needs to Know

Daycare seems the perfect option for those families who need someone to watch their children during the day, but beware your conception of your child’s daycare may be totally wrong!
I have personally worked in the childcare industry for the last six years. I have worked in four different centers, including Kinderopvang Leiden and I am here to expose the dirty secrets day cares use to attract you and your money!

The Tour: Your first tour of you child’s new daycare is your first and lasting impression of their business, so naturally center directors make a huge deal out your walk-through. They will fill you with promises of caring staff, beautiful classrooms, and all of the children smiling. In fact, your tour is so important to them that most center directors will tell their staff exactly when they are going to be bringing a family through and this is when daycare staff turn into some real fine actors! The second the day care staff hears the word tour they whip into a frenzy-they clean real quickly, spray some Febreze, and pretend they are engaging with the children.

So when you walk into a classroom it looks clean, smells nice, and those staff are so caring with the children! It seems like all the things the center director promised you were coming true. Well, most daycare staff should win an Oscar because in reality the day-to-day operation of a daycare is nothing like the tour. When parents are gone most of the staff is preoccupied talking about their favorite television shows rather than spending time playing with your child! Pay is so low for daycare a worker that putting all of their effort into consistently clean and beautiful classrooms is not even worth it! Every staff member knows this fact and trust me your child’s experience reflects that.

Parent Rapport: So, you’ve decided that the latest center you’ve seen is exactly what you have been looking for! You start shelling out of the hefty bucks for “quality” care and your child’s first week begins. When you meet your child’s teachers they are so warm and accommodating you swear they were heaven sent. Well, here is where the staff turns into great actors again. Before your family enters the center for the first time as paying customers the director coaches the staff on exactly what to say to you that will make you happy. Example, if you asked a question about quality of food at the center, the staff will make sure to comment how delicious they think the food is. Your child’s teacher will tell you exactly what you want to hear even if it is unquestionably false.

Enrichment Programs: Most centers these days will offer their families enrichment programs that their children can participate in during the day like music class, Spanish class, or phonics class. Each program will cost you around fifty dollars a week and let me tell you will teach your child absolutely nothing. Staff members who are earning commission on how many students they get to sign up, but no other compensation for their trouble often perform these programs. This gives them very little motivation to actually teach your child during this time. For example, many of the music classes are simply putting a CD on, giving the kids some rhythm sticks and letting them dance around. Many times, the teacher will shorten the classes from thirty minutes to fifteen depending on their mood that day. These programs are designed simply for revenue and in reality your children are gaining very little from them.

Staff Turnover: Hands down, the most popular question from every parent is about the percentage of staff turnover a particular center has. In simple terms staff turnover is how many teachers quit after what period of time. Certainly no parent wants their children to fall in love with a teacher just to have them leave three weeks later. Most directors will fill a parents head with all these stories about staff who have been in the business for twenty years and younger staff who never plan on leaving. To keep their staff from leaving many directors will hire low quality staff that will never quit because they simply would have no where else to work.

This allows them to claim low turnover when in reality all of the quality staff is leaving for higher paid offers. This cycle is referred to, by staff, as a MoneyMove. The best example I have of how far directors will go to ensure low turnover is a disturbing one. I was working at a daycare in suburban CT a few years ago with a woman who violently shoved a child into a wall in front of another parent. The parent complained and the woman, who had been at the center for a year, was sentenced to only re-training. The director covered up the incident and three years later that same woman still works in that day care claiming low staff turnover.

It is important to note that not all the staff at daycares are horrible people in fact, the majority of them are loving souls who really enjoy the presence of children. However, working in daycare is stressful and low paying therefore, many of the staff simply do not have the motivation to really focus on the children in their care. Also, childcare is relatively easily field to land a job because of turnover so despite background checks the staff may be less than what a parent is looking for.

So, what can you do to ensure that you receive quality childcare? I have a few tips that will help you choose an appropriate daycare:

First off, always check the Better Business Bureau or other reviewing sources to make sure there have been no complaints against the center. Also, when having a tour take advantage of being a walk-in. Do not tell the center you are coming in, the element of surprise will help you get a better look at how the center actually operates. Lastly, to get quality childcare you may have to shell out a few more bucks. A daycare that costs over five hundred dollars a week will pay its staff more and therefore, ensure higher quality. While a center that only costs you three hundred dollars pay its staff stingy rates.

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