After deciding that daycare was the way for us, the next option was to actually choose one. Now if you live in a small town, there may not be much of a choice, but I live in a big city and there's a myriad of options. So here's how I went about finding the best daycare for us:
- Location: I need a daycare because I go back to work soon. Between work and home is a 20 mile 45 minutes commute; so the question is do I want a daycare close to my work or close to my home. Close to work means that I can pop in and see my sweeties on my lunch break. It also means that I may have to drive 45 minutes in rush hour traffic after a horror day at work with two cranky babies or if I get called in to pick a sick baby, I'll be faced with same 45 minute drive because my pediatrician is close to the house. I chose a daycare close to home.
- Shortlist: Armed with my location, I went to the government website where I can search for licensed daycare centers in my zipcode. That is the state's Department of Family and Protective Services.The Texas site has a lot of options to put in your search criteria. I searched based on my zipcode and the zipcode I would drive through on my way to work. I got a list of 36 centers with full permits.
- Inspection and Compliance: Clicking on any of the 36 centers on the DFPS website gave me their data including their compliance with state regulations. Their standard deficiencies were classified and listed under High, Medium-High, Medium, Medium-Low and Low. I eliminated from my shortlisted centers, anyone that had a high deficiency that I could not live with for example not doing background/criminal checks on staff. After checking the compliance of all 36, I ended up with a shorter list of 6
- Phone Call: I called all six centers on my short(er)list and asked them a few questions on infant to teacher ratio, monthly fees, sibling discount, do I have to schedule a visit or can I drop in, waitlist and availability of space for twin infants. I listened closely to the person that answered the phone and how helpful/knowledgeable they were. At the end of this exercise, my list was down to 4 daycare centers.
- Drive-by: Next stop was to visit the actual centers and look at the environment. Just from driving into the parking lot, I eliminated 2 more centers that happened to be located in strip-mall type environments and some of the classrooms had tinted glass walls, allowing me full view from the parking lot. I considered this a security issue.
- Visit & Parent Reviews: I visited the last 2 centers and got to peek inside their infant rooms and observed the goings on. I also got feedback from other parents. One center was used by some women in my office and they seemed to like it and gave positive reviews. For the other center, I just visited during closing hours and talked to parents picking up their kids. This is the portion of the process that is 100 percent based on gut feeling.
I would have been comfortable with either of the two centers on my final list, but in the end only one actually had two spaces open for my expected back-to-work date and that's the one I ended up registering for. Next stop, buy the daycare necessities for babies and tissues for mommy. I 'spect I might be needing them