“I don’t want to leave my baby!”
How many times over the last decade have I heard that! How many times lately have I heard that? A LOT. I couldn’t begin to count.
I’ve had over a decade of experience working with children in a corporate childcare setting. I started young as the infant teacher, went through training and state credentialed programs to move all the way to the Academy director. I’ve seen it all. More than my share in fact. I’ve seen the good. I’ve seen the bad and the ugly to be cliche. I’ve laughed. I’ve cried. I’ve been fit to be tied.
I’m also a parent. I’ve been a parent with a child “raised” in the center and I’ve been a parent who’s had the opportunity to be a stay at home mom. I’ve helped family members and friends find the “right” childcare center for them.
The childcare industry is tough. Being a parent trying to find a center–equally as tough.
So, I thought I’d bring what I know to you. Maybe it will help you find a center, run from one, find a job or humor you in the very least if you’re a teacher/director—maybe even help you improve in your classroom or facility.
Not only will I bring you what I know, but you’ll get to hear from some other professionals in the business. Respectable ladies some with more years on their belts and some with less, but all with great insight!
Finding childcare is scary! Especially in the times we’re in and with everything we see on the news. What’s a good fit for you? In home? Mom and Pops? Corporate?
How do I find a good childcare center? The telephone tour.
First of all, as a “green” parent inquiring of childcare, make phone calls! What does the person answering sound like? How many rings does it take to answer? Is she friendly? Is she hurried? What do you hear in the background? Is it quiet? (it won’t always be if you call while the director’s watching a class or cooking) Noise can be good and it can sound loud. Question is who’s louder the adult or the children? You can tell the difference between happy noise and unhappy. If she’s busy with kids, she may ask to call you back. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t care. It means she can’t hear you and she’s smart! Nothing is more frustrating than trying to ask questions about the most important step you’ll be making only to hear, “What? Huh? Say that again? Johnny, honey go play I’m on the phone.”
Get the name of who you are talking to, their position, and ask a few questions. Most teachers don’t answer the phone—management does, but occasionally it will happen. I usually designated the infant teacher to handle a call if no one was available but me and I needed to run to the restroom. Believe it or not, the infant room really is the quietest! I also trained her in what to say and how to retrieve information so I could return a call. (BTW, if you don’t receive a call back by the end of the business day unless specified that the call would be the next day don’t bother touring. There’s no room to forget to call a customer who needs the greatest service ever. That’s my personal opinion.)
As a parent be curious to how teachers interact with you over the phone, but remember teachers aren’t always as informed as the director or management. How they tell you that makes a difference. No one wants to hear this, “Could you tell me what you charge for an infant?”
“Uh, no. It’s expensive though. Want me to have someone call you?”
NO! Hang up!
“Could you tell me what you charge for infants?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t have that information in front of me. Could I please take your name and number and have my director, (name) call you back.”
When you do get a hold of the director she may ask you to come and see the facility—at a scheduled time. This is okay. She wants to be able to spend time with you and your child! She’s not necessarily “hiding” anything. Childcare directors wear many hats. They stay running all the time! Sometimes, when a teacher calls in, the director wears the teacher hat and touring you isn’t going to happen at that moment! Even if you pop in unexpectedly and she’s in a class, she may ask you to come back when she can be free to give you undivided attention. This is okay too. Been there…done that!
However, ALL centers should have an open door policy and popping in is okay to do after the initial scheduled tour (or anytime, but you can’t be guaranteed the time and attention you’ll get if you schedule a tour). I encourage you to do that—pop in later! What’s going on when everyone DOESN’T know you’re coming?
Make a list of centers you’ve called with the questions you’ve asked and answers. Some good questions to ask over the phone is:
- Do you have childcare availability?
- What is the state teacher/child ratio? Do you follow that ratio or do you keep a lower ratio? (Some centers especially non-profit keep lower teacher/child ratios. It’s a plus but it doesn’t mean a state followed teacher/child ratio isn’t as good.) How many children are in the classroom and how many teachers or caregivers?
- What is your full time rate? Part time? Does this include meals/snacks?
- What curriculum do you use? (If they charge big bucks…they better give you a bang for it!)
Let me make a note here…good schools use curriculum. It’s a learning center. If they don’t use curriculum and they simply say, “We teach them stuff.” It’s not a learning center. If you just want a place for your child to play then this might appeal to you. But most parents want their children to learn something while they’re gone all day!
These few questions will give you an idea if you want to tour or not. Write them down and compare answers with other centers. (All ratios should be the same as it’s a state mandate unless they specify they use lower.)
Schedule your tour. Good directors will make appointments and add you can come anytime though. They want you to feel comfortable popping in, but want you to be aware that they also want quality time to spend with you.
Have you had any nightmare stories when making phone calls or really great experiences? Teachers, Directors…any other advice to offer parents on the “phone tours?” Have any questions about phone touring that wasn’t covered? Just ask!
Next blog…what to look for when you visit the center for a tour.