Day Care Centers: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly - What You Need To Know.

4 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

If there's one thing I've learned since having a child, it’s that all day care centers are not created equal. You definitely have the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes the very, very ugly. To be fair, we’ve also had the very, very good too and when it comes to our children, our most treasured possessions, they absolutely deserve nothing but the best. 


We just moved Chickie to a new day care center in early June and in doing so, have experienced some growing pains. This center is considered to be a lab setting and it is also a teaching facility. Students from the University fulfill requirements with their education majors through rotations at the center. It has been a rough transition for us at times because a lab/teaching setting is so different from a traditional child care routine. The theory behind a lab day care is for the children to pretty much dictate the schedule and for them to explore and do what they want to do. 


Chickie’s classroom is set up with stations: Sand/water table, arts and crafts, painting/easel station, computer station, dress up/role play station, reading corner, etc. Aside from group reading time, group lunch, outside play, nap time, and a the occasional group art project, the kids are pretty much left to their own devises to learn how to play together and keep themselves occupied with the teachers only stepping in every so often to engage. I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad setting {after much research, it actually has a lot of positives} but it’s different for us and Chickie. She has always been in a very structured, routine-based environment in traditional child care so this has been a huge adjustment for everyone.


On top of adjusting to a new way of looking at child care, we’ve also had to deal with some not so hot circumstances such as excessive accidents with Chickie, staffing issues, and safety concerns. One of the benefits of this new center being located on campus is that Michael and I can go into the center anytime we want and go into a private observation booth to watch Chickie in her class without her, or the teachers, ever knowing we are there.


Sounds great, right?




It’s amazing the things you will see going on in a day care classroom at any given point during the day. Teachers, in the hustle and bustle craziness of keeping up with children, have a way of forgetting that they have the potential of being watched at any given point during the day. You guys see what I’m getting at here, right? Over the course of a month, we’ve witnessed teachers playing and talking on their phones instead of watching the kids {to which Michael and I talked with the director about this and in turn, a no cell phone policy for staff was created}. We’ve seen our child be denied more milk at lunch time when she was thirsty and wanted more. We’ve seen our child be reprimanded over and beyond what was necessary or even called for. 


It has been a lot to deal with but as one of my friends on Facebook likes to say, “Bitches get shit done.” And get shit done, we have. Over the past month, I’ve become insanely passionate about bringing these things to light and feel that I need to share what I’ve learned with you guys, my fellow moms. If you currently have a child in day care or are thinking of placing your child in a center, please consider the following advice.


{ONE} Accreditation 
You do your research and find the perfect center for your child and to boot, they have X, Y, and Z accreditation. Superb, you think! Not so fast, momma. Let’s peel back this layer to see what you really have…


“Accreditation” is just a really fancy way of saying “We were handed a checklist of things we had to do in order to reserve the right to say accreditation. We also pay a renewal fee every year to keep our accreditation.” So what does accreditation really mean?


Absolutely nothing.


I understand that when a mother sees that a center is “Nationally Accredited” she automatically feels an extra sense of security. I know this because I did too but the reality is that a center is only as good as the product they are providing on the day to day. Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because a center is accredited that they don’t have issues. Some of the very best centers Chickie has been in have had ZERO accreditation of any kind. As I said above, peel back the gobbly gook, feel good language to see what you are really dealing with. Just because a center is “accredited” it doesn’t mean they are providing good child care, period. 


{TWO} Observation Rooms & Cameras are a Must
This is where things get a little tricky. I’m a huge advocate for being able to have access to seeing what my child is up to and what her teachers are doing anytime I want. Having said that – it means one of two things:


A.   Be prepared to accept that you are going to see things from time to time that you don’t like; you will see your child get picked on. You will see your child get reprimanded, and not always in a way that you like. You will see your child struggle with the oddities of being a toddler/preschooler. This can really just fucking suck.

B. Be aware that it can become highly addicting to have access to your child all the time. 


As a parent watching, it can be very hard sometimes to remember what your limits are BUT there are some positives to this as well. In being able to watch my child, I’ve been able to see what she’s lacking in where skills are concerned so that Michael and I can work with her at home. As I mentioned above, we’ve seen things happening in Chickie’s classroom that were completely unacceptable and needed to change. We would have never known about those things if we hadn’t had access to the room. It’s true that we can’t always have our eyes on our kids but when you know that you have access to them, it helps. 


{THREE} How are Obstacles, Accidents, and Issues Handled by the Leadership?
When you feel you have concerns about your child’s safety and well-being and voice said concerns, how is the information received by the director or teacher of the center? Is there a genuine response of concern or are you made to feel crazy for making your voice heard? Any center you decide to place your child in should always have an open door policy with the director. If your center’s director is never in her office, or even in the center for that matter, that’s a red flag. When issues are brought to their attention, are they quick to find resolutions and get back to you? A director who does not communicate or who is not willing to be transparent about their center, policies, and expectations is a no go in my book. Make sure you have an open line of communication with your center’s director and document, document, document!!! Keep a running list at home of every interaction you have in case you have to go over the director’s head. Having precise and accurate notes on everything that has happened will only make your case stronger when severe action needs to be taken.


When accidents happen are you made aware of them and are reports filed properly as they should be? If not, get the hell out of there. Centers are required by law to document any and every accident – even something as small as stubbing a toe and you should receive a copy of the accident report. Keep these at home in a file that you can refer back to if need be. 


{FOUR} Be “That Parent”
Let’s be real – day care centers are not cheap but more importantly than that, when you entrust your child’s care into the hands of a center, you expect nothing but the absolute best in care. I’ve struggled recently with feeling like I’m being that nagging parent and not wanting to be a bother about everything but at the end of the day, your child’s well-being is non-negotiable. 


Be “That parent.” Be the one to question anything and everything you feel isn’t right or need clarification on. Be the parent who is involved and not just the parent that the teachers only see when you drop off and pick up. The teachers know that when I walk into Chickie’s school, I mean business. It basically boils down to this: Don’t fuck around with my child and if you do, I’m going to ride your ass like Tonto. I will be all over you like white on rice and really, that’s what these teachers need. It’s a horrible way to say it but at the end of the day, they need to be reminded who’s really the boss. Be “That parent” and be involved. 


And last but certainly not least…


{FIVE} Is Your Child Happy?
When your child is stimulated, challenged, and in a good environment it shows, plain and simple. Does your child seem excited and eager to talk about their day when you pick them up or are they a crying mess ready to tear a B-line straight to the door? Do they seem excited and happy to talk about their friends at school or do they seem timid and reserved?


While every child is different and each has a bad day here and there, your child should exude an aura of happiness with their surroundings. If they are consistently in the dumps or maintains a less than thrilled demeanor, there’s a problem. Talk with your child and their teacher to find out where the disconnect could possibly be. It could be something as simple as changing their activities or fixing boredom or it could be more but find out!  Either have the problem fixed or move on. Your child’s happiness is not up for debate.


I hope this information helps if you are a mom considering day care or if you’re a parent already in a child care situation and needs help.


I’m always interested in hearing what other parents have to say. If you are a parent currently using day care, what are your steadfast rules and tips for finding the perfect day care? 


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