When to Start Looking for Childcare

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Nannies/nanny shares and day care(5 responses)
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When to look for infant daycare

Sept 2005

I will be seeking daycare for my then to be 3-month old in January, preferably in the Oakland/Rockridge area. Does anyone have any recommendations for childcare centers that take infants, or thoughts about when I need to start interviewing or putting his name on waitlists? Thanks very much! rrmom

You mentioned that you need childcare for your infant who will be 3 months old starting in January. You'll find only a small percentage of daycare centers (or at-home daycares) take infants. You can go to Bananas to get a list of those that take infants according to geographic location -- I urge you to call and tour them NOW because the demand for infant spaces is high and there is very often a waiting list (especially at the good ones), and you will want your name on the waiting list many months ahead of time. There is no penalty for being on the waiting list although some will ask for a small deposit. If your name comes up and you don't need the spot yet, it gets moved to the top of next month's list.

If you are interested in hiring a nanny, you can start now casually by scanning the BPN Childcare Digest to get a sense of what others are looking for to help you think about about what really matters to you. Then come up with a job description and figure out what you are willing to pay, vacation/holiday policies, etc. I wouldn't start your actual search just yet because people who are available now are looking to start work as soon as possible. We found starting the nanny search in earnest about 2 months before you need care works well. Especially since late December is holiday madness, if you start in early November you should be able to to have a hire by mid-December to start in January with a little buffer time built in. Start in late Oct/early Nov by posting on the BPN childcare digest and contacting potential nannies who post there and see where it leads you. Count on taking a few weeks to interview candidates. Then, you can set up a few days of paid ''training'' before you start work so you can train your nanny and make sure it's going to work out.

Another tip-- if you know of any friends in moms' groups, especially mothers of toddlers, get the word out now that you're looking for a nanny starting in January--- even if they or their friends have a great nanny now, they may be starting their toddler children in pre-school or daycare in January and will be letting their fabulous nanny go. Best of luck! debC

Hi! Bananas has a great workshop on choosing childcare that I found really helpful in answering this (and many other) questions. I noticed their next one is coming up on October 12th. It's free and they'll help you get started looking through their ''database''. I was a serious procrastinator when it came to looking for childcare. I went to this class when my baby was about a month old. If I recall correctly, though, they recommended that we start intensively looking for care about 1-2 months before we needed it since a lot of daycares don't know about openings much farther in advanced. Good luck! Sofia

It has been my experience that many quality childcare centers in the East Bay that accept infants have very long waitlists. Some waitlists take months (even a year!) to clear. If you are looking for childcare in January, I would begin looking immediately. anon

You need to start looking into daycare as soon as possible. I highly recommend AOCS in Oakland (on Brookdale off Fruitvale). It is the only accredited child care center in Oakland and is truly an amazing, special place -- low child- teacher ratios; low teacher turnover and teachers/caregivers who have been there for years and years, and aloving, caring philosophy based on treating each child as an individual and respecting each child's unique needs.

I'm also new at this and will be looking for infant care for my son who will be 4 months old when I go back to work in January 2006. I've signed up for a session at Bananas (the local child care resource and referral agency) on how to choose infant care, scheduled for October 12 from 10 am - 12 pm; you might want to check out this session.

I didn't see the original message, just the responses, so I don't know if there's a particular type of infant care you prefer -- day care center vs. home day care vs. nanny (shared or not). The question of when you should look is highly dependent on what type of care you want. I've heard that if you want a day care center, you need to look many months in advance, i.e. pretty much as soon as you know you're pregnant (of course, that advice doesn't help us adoptive parents much!). I called one day care center about 4 months before I would have needed care, and was told it was full. Other than that, I focused on nanny shares or home day cares.

I started looking into nanny shares about 4 months before I needed care and found this was way too *early*. Most nanny shares offered seem to be for immediate openings or one that is coming up in the next month or two -- if you call about a nanny share now, they may not be willing to wait till January to fill the space. Based on my experience, I'd say that 1-2 months in advance is plenty of time to join an already existing nanny share -- if you're planning to hire a nanny yourself, shared or not, I still wouldn't do it much more than 2-3 months in advance (see the BPN Childcare Digest - most nannies who are looking for a job are hoping to start ASAP).

I eventually decided that I couldn't afford a nanny share, and looked at home day cares, a mere one month -- or less -- from when I was going to need care. I found several with openings (through BPN or Bananas) and eventually chose an absolutely wonderful family day care just 3 weeks before I needed care.

I think a lot of home day cares don't know more than 1-2 months in advance when they'll have openings. I have a good friend who runs a family day care, and I know that's the case with her (she had one woman who called her when she was just 4.5 *weeks* pregnant -- the woman was upset when my friend told her it was too early for her to be looking).

So, based on my experience, I'd say that 1-2 months is plenty for a nanny share or home day care situation. You only need to start as early as possible if you want your child to go to a day care center. Of course, the experience of others may be different, but that's mine.

Good luck! Diane


I found that I needed to have started looking about 1 month before I did. That means, to find adequate infant daycare in Berkeley, you need to start looking TWO months in advance (rather than one, as I had previously heard recommended). Several of the centers I called did not have openings for the next month, but did have some for two months ahead. (This makes it really hard to judge what sort of child you'll have by the time you need care, since a 1-month old can be quite unlike the same child at 3 mos!) I ended up cobbling together care for May (a friend, and my mom), and took a center slot for June.

I also looked into creating a nanny-share arrangement with another woman, though we both decided against it, due to cost. You can list your requirements with Bananas, and hope that people will call.

Also, one should call the places that Bananas has listed, even if the card says they're full. Openings seem to come and go much more rapidly than they update the cards. Dawn