Best Way to Connect with Home Daycares?

Hi Berkeley Parents Network!

I have been trying to contact home daycares in the South Berkeley area for the past few months. I started reaching out in April when I was 6 months pregnant because I know it can be pretty competitive because of the limited number of spots available. Ideally we would start daycare when our now 6 week old baby is a little over 6 months old. I have tried multiple emails and calls to 10+ facilities and have gotten radio silence from them. I know most home daycares do not have admins and probably have very limited time, but I would like to understand if I should be reaching out closer to the time when we need care or providing additional information. 

Has anyone else experienced this? What worked for you? Does anyone have any advice on the best way to get in touch with home daycares? Do you need a referral? Any help would be much appreciated!

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I remember the time and energy I spent trying to find infant care for my now-3 year old son. Months and months of looking and I was unsuccessful. Covid made it worse. I ended up hiring a babysitter (not quite a nanny) and making it work until we got into a program with a spot for 2 year olds. Not to discourage you, but to sympathize. It's hard. The good news is that I think a lot of parents made alternative plans during Covid with nanny-shares, and I have seen more openings in general this summer than I did the year before. If you haven't already, I'd suggest getting a list of daycares/preschools from Bananas. I got my most comprehensive list from them. You're right about home daycares not calling back. I also experienced not getting return calls from preschools. Several things increase your likelihood of success -- contacting them right when they have openings, having a personal connection if that's possible, and also, fitting the profile they need (they might have room for an older or a younger child, or for a boy or a girl). If you haven't been able to find in-home care and your deadline is drawing near, you could also consider a larger preschool that has infant care. Keep trying, and ask around. A lot of home daycares don't even advertise -- it's all word of mouth. Good luck!

We had the same trouble when looking for a home daycare. Most would not email us back. From my experience, those ones probably aren't worth pursuing if they are not reachable. Try emailing Kidsland. They have numerous locations around Berkeley and Richmond Annex. They are what we use and we love them. Good luck with your search.

We are at a small in home daycare in that area and what we found was these don't typically carry a wait list. We started looking at the 4 month mark and locked down our daycare after searching for a month to a month and a half. 

My recommendation would be to start gathering a list of daycares you're interested in, but not actually reach out until 2.5-3 mos before you need care. Most daycares will have a 1 or 2 month notice period for any kids leaving their care, so you want to get in right as people are giving notice. 

Good luck! It will all work itself out eventually.

I think you are wise to start researching daycares on the early side, with daycare spots so limited currently. I started contacting about 7 months before I needed care. I asked friends and moms in the neighborhood for recommendations and if the daycare they used had openings. A few facilities, I stopped in on a business day and knocked on the door to ask if they had information and an application available.

You may have (much) better luck if you start contacting in-home daycares in mid-late summer, because current kids will be aging out and going to preschool. I also have found that they don't use waitlists because of the admin overhead.

Larger daycare centers usually have waitlists, but some parents I talked to said that they don't trust if the daycares are actually following typical waitlist protocols. (Those waitlists are also like 20 kids long...) They told me that if you really want a particular daycare, to keep calling them to ask about open spaces. Daycares usually know a month out if there will be a space, and you have to be willing to take it right away.

I lucked out -- we were planning to move from SF to Alameda, and found a well-reviewed in-home daycare in Alameda that would have a space immediately. We jumped on it right away! This was in July, to start in August.

We are in South Berkeley too and I probably contacted all of the same daycares that you are not hearing back from! We gave up and went the nanny share route because I couldn't handle the uncertainty. In-home centers don't keep waiting lists and typically only know about an opening a couple of weeks or maybe a month or two ahead. If you wait, you will find something, but it may not be your favorite place, or it may not be close by or have the best hours, etc. If you have any constraints (e.g. we wouldn't consider any childcare we couldn't walk to), you may want to consider other options like larger centers (they keep waiting lists and are more organized) or a nanny share. I have heard of people having luck going through someone currently at the daycare you're looking at, so you could try to find current families and see if they can help you out.