Finding and keeping good childcare is at the top of every working parent’s list. There is so much said and written about the warning signs of bad day care centers that the process can be overwhelming. Rest assured, this city offers many places where you can feel comfortable leaving your child in the hands of trusted caregivers. In an effort to guide you through the potential minefield of selecting a daycare center in the Big Apple, CBS New York has some tips on how to choose a good day care. (For a list of our picks for great NYC day care centers, click here).
To begin, consider the following questions:
What is your budget? Did you know that according to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), the average amount spent in New York for full time day care for infants was around $13,676.00 in 2009? New York has many great day care options, but first you have to decide what you are willing to pay.
What Are Your Goals? Do you crave structure for your child in the chosen day care curriculum or would you prefer more of a child-directed, free flowing play time for your little one? Some private day care centers offer a variety of structured programs from as early as 6 weeks while others exercise a more relaxed structuring of their day.
How far are you willing to commute? Sometimes day care rates are less expensive in the outer boroughs of NYC. However, you need to weigh your savings against the extra amount of time and energy that it will take each day shuttling your child back and forth. Also consider whether you want a center near your home. As an alternative, do you want a spot that is nearer to your or your spouse’s job/ the babysitter/etc.? Before you make your final pick, be sure to think about the logistics of your potential childcare situation.
Next, locate great sources of center referrals. We are providing our top picks on this site, but we also recommend the following
– Trusted family and friends are the best source of information because they will be the most honest with you. If they have a daycare that they constantly praise, ask them about it!
– Local family periodicals are another great option. Advertisements are a good source for your initial list. Editorial is even better because it is less biased.
– The Day Care Council Center of New York, Inc. is also a great resource for referral lists to peruse. Simply submit an electronic request for information. They are known for their immediate responses filled with multiple options.
– The NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) oversees contracts for centers citywide. (You definitely want to make sure that the day care center that you choose is certified!) Their site also has an eligibility wizard where you plug in your income in order to determine if you qualify for subsidized care.
Once you have narrowed down your search to your top options, it is time to check out the centers online and in person.
Be sure to check the Bureau of Child Care to make sure that there are no violations on file for your proposed center. If everything is clear, perform an onsite visit with your personal checklist in mind and/or in hand. (The NACCRA’s website has a really thorough checklist that can be found and printed out here).
Olivia Johnson-Coleman is a blogger with Mom in the City (www.mominthecity.com).