By Go-To Mom J Garner, Midlothian, VA

After being a stay-at-home mom for several years, I decided to return part time to the workforce. I had six years of experience working in a daycare and had also been a teacher for five years. I was fairly confident that I could choose a daycare center that would nurture my children and make the time away from mom a learning experience for all of us. What happened was anything but that.

My oldest son started having accidents at school. My youngest son started crying as soon as we turned into the parking lot. What I learned is that what you see is not always what you get – and that it takes a very thorough inspection to find a place that meets all of your needs.

Stop by the facility at the times you normally would be coming in and picking up your child. I worked at one facility that staffed the front desk at these crucial times. There was always someone that I could speak to about problems we were having. Another facility had a front desk person only from 8-4 – times that totally missed my schedule. They had a book at the desk that you could jot down notes for the staff, but I felt uncomfortable jotting down notes that everyone could see. I wanted a person to talk to about my child, not a notebook.

Also, look for the teacher-to-student ratio. Some facilities save money by letting staff go when the numbers dwindle down, which seems very logical. But the first daycare that I used after returning to the workforce grouped all the children into one big room until 9:00, which meant my skittish 3-year-old was grouped in with big, boisterous school-age children. It was a mystery to me why he kept having accidents until I realized that he was too scared to ask to go to the bathroom.

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