Personal Finance

Kat’s Money Corner: Don’t sign up for day care without asking these questions

Kat’s Money Corner

Don’t sign them up for day care without asking these questions

Kat HnatyshynChoosing the right day care for your child takes time, research and a great deal of trust. It’s especially daunting when it’s your first child. While there are a number of factors you’ll want to consider in terms of safety, there are also quite a few questions you’ll want to ask regarding cost. From snow day policies to discounts for multiple children, be sure to include these expenses in your day care assessments.

The Initial Search

First thing’s first: Don’t consider a day care that’s not properly licensed and regulated. Even in-home, one-person day cares have rules to follow concerning fire drills and continuing education. You don’t want your child in an unlicensed facility.

Then decide: Do you want your child in an in-home, smaller day care or in a larger center with a staff and more children to interact with? We went the route of a center because we wanted consistency of care. We knew we wouldn’t want to rearrange our schedules if a caretaker was sick or on vacation.

Don’t forget about: Cost. It’s a huge factor when considering where to enroll. Everyone wants the best for their families, of course, but if you don't have a kiddo in day care, you may not realize how pricey it is. With two kids in day care it is by far our largest single expense each month – almost double our mortgage.

Narrowing In

Once you’ve identified a few good candidates, arrange for visits at each location so you can see the environment firsthand. Do the children seem happy and engaged? Does the setting seem safe? Are hands regularly sanitized? If the answer to any of these questions is no, keep looking.

If your child has special needs, you’ll also want to make sure the center is prepared to meet them, and find out if it will cost you more.

What to Ask

Eventually, you’ll find a promising prospect. Now is the time to break out your list of questions. Don’t worry – child care providers have heard it all and shouldn’t be offended.

How do costs break down? What happens if you need to be late picking your child up, or want to drop them off early? Do you still have to pay on days when your child doesn’t attend? What are the policies for holidays?

What’s the provider-to-child ratio? Also, how high is staff turnover? (Any center will have some turnover, but is there a staff that has longevity? Jack and Pete are four years apart, but they still had the same infant teacher.)

What qualifications or certifications do staff members have? Will you be able to touch base with your child’s caregiver each day?

What happens if a child is sick? Under what circumstances can they attend?

Is there a structured daily routine? What do planned activities consist of? If your children will be taken to the park or on field trips, how is safe transportation provided?

Don’t limit yourself to these questions. Ask about anything that will affect your family. Because we made a choice that fits our lifestyle, day care has been a huge blessing.

The kids love going to school and being with their teachers and friends. It is an environment of education, support, social interaction and love. Our day care also has offered free parenting sessions.

All in all, we couldn’t be happier with our kids’ experience and as Jack transitions to kindergarten this fall, we look back and know that all the money was worth it.

Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens or visit http://communityamerica.com.

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