The quest for an enchanting day care

Friday, February 8, 2008 | 4:00 p.m. CST; updated 3:35 p.m. CDT, Sunday, September 7, 2008

Editor’s note: Jake Sherlock and his wife Jenny are expecting their first child in March, and they’ve chosen to share their challenges and experiences in this column. Look for it periodically here at

By the end of May, our soon-to-be-born little girl is going to need day care.

Jenny plans to go back to work on May 1, which is about the time I’ll take my time off from the Missourian. I’ll have four weeks at home with the baby, then she’ll be enrolled in day care once I go back to work.

The big question now is: Who can we trust to take care of the most important person to ever come into our lives?

We started our quest to answer that question a few weeks ago. So far, we’ve toured two day cares, but we feel like we need to see some more. But before we get into that, I need to disclose something.

In our hunt for day care, I’ve not identified myself as a columnist for the Missourian, only as an expectant dad looking to get his daughter into a good facility. To be fair to the day cares we’ve toured, I won’t be identifying them in this column.

Both day cares told us to come and have a look whenever we liked, although one told us the best time would be between 9 and 11 a.m., because that’s when the facility is at its busiest. I was glad to hear both facilities had a drop-in policy. I don’t want a dog-and-pony show; I want to see exactly what life is going to be like for my infant daughter. That’s why I chose not to identify myself as a columnist.

Both facilities we looked at were day-care centers with lots of children. But we’re also interested in seeing some at-home day cares. So far, I’ve yet to find one that is taking infants.

The reason? From what I can tell, it’s money and familiarity. One of my co-workers takes her daughter to an at-home day care, and she loves it for just those reasons. Her at-home day care is about $50 a week less expensive than the two centers I toured.

As for familiarity, it seems that’s a staple of at-home day cares. I’ve talked to several at-home day-care providers about availability, and all say the same thing: Once a family decides that a particular day care is a good option, they tend to get baby’s younger siblings as they come along, too.

I’m starting to realize that at-home day cares are kind of like an exclusive country club: It’s tough to get in, but once you’re in you’re set for life.

One of the best pieces of advice I can pass on to anyone else hunting for day care is to take advantage of the Missouri Child Care Resource and Referral Network, which was instrumental in helping us narrow our search. I found the agency in the phone book while combing the Yellow Pages for day-care listings, which was a lot like searching for a needle in a haystack.

The Referral Network was able to help narrow that search by weeding out the day cares that don’t have openings, that aren’t licensed and that are clear across town from our house. This left us with a list of 12 potential day cares. And if we don’t have any luck this month, we can get another list next month.

If not for the Referral Network, I’d have likely spent a week on the phone just inquiring about openings. Not only was the service a real timesaver, the staff provides such essential information as hours of operation, special services offered and a clickable link to MapQuest directions.

Best of all, the Referral Network is free. Considering the price of some of these day cares, that news is especially welcome.

But there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a day care, not just price. What other factors should we consider? What has your day-care experience been like? Jenny and I would love to hear what you think. Please leave a comment below.

Jake Sherlock is a news editor at the Missourian.

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Bob Mitchell February 9, 2008 | 4:14 p.m.

Hi Jake & Jenny,
I personally think that the both of you as parents need to back up and take a closer look at your current matter.
I as a father of four, my wife and I both took care of our own children. Although I know the days and times are different these days, but still the matter is you both need to try and keep you little one at home, and take care of her yourselves. If you have parents that are there in the city, try to see if they can help, and take the time to care for your child yourselves. The reason for my comment is this; Day/Child Care companies are not a family orientated business, and you should never trust the life of your child into total strangers, while they are still young under the age of 2 years of age. Why not have the wife stay at home and see if she can work from the home, that way she's there at all times with the child. One thing that is most important to remember is, when you both choose to make the decision to have a baby, you both choose to do everything to provide for the safety and upbringing for the little one. It's not for others to provide in their place of business to do that. I know that I speak like an old grandpa, but that I am. You should try to use every measure to raise your child yourself. I know that Columbia is a busy place, but there is really no excuse for when it comes down to a precious little lamb, such as your child. Try to perhaps get someone to stay in your home to care for the little one. {that is if you have someone you trust that can stay}.
I pray that you will use very good judgment in your decision on this matter.
My wife just commented on this, and said that the wife really needs to stay home cause the child needs her mother more than anything. Also the most important years of a child/infants life is the first 3 years. If the child sees more of a babysitter than its parents, that sometimes can be hard for a relationship between the child and the parents.
I hope that something has been shared here to help you, and in closing we say to the both of you, congratulations in your first sweet little lamb. May she ever be so sweet and precious, and I hope you both have a wonderful time enjoying your child’slife.

(Report Comment)
Danielle Lacey February 10, 2008 | 9:54 a.m.

I'm not a parent, but I am a child of the day care system. Sure, I would have loved it if my mom (or dad, fathers are just as capable of taking care of a baby as mothers!!) stayed home with me, but for financial reasons, that just wasn't an option. And if I do say so myself, I turned out just fine. I have a great relationship with my parents. I can't remember being an infant in daycare, but I'm sure I spent the day sleeping, not creating life long bonds with the staff there. I grew older, I remember getting the chance to play with new kids and try new things. As a result, I don't think I had as hard of a time adjusting to kindergarten as kids who stayed home. You guys are her parents. As long as you show her you love her when you're with her, no babysitter will take your place.

(Report Comment)
Sarah Monson February 10, 2008 | 4:25 p.m.

As a parent and in-home childcare provider I have to comment. I chose to be a work at home mom for my 2 girls and by running a childcare out of my home, I am there for my girls whenever they need me BUT I also understand that staying at home is NOT for all Moms and Dads. I provide a safe, loving family home for children to come to. I only have 3 other children besides my own that I care for. I only take 1 infant at a time--I currently am taking care of an 11 mos. old. I have a wonderful relationship with the children and their parents. I want the children to feel safe, comfortable, and have fun learning through play. Jake & Jenny, continue to look for that in-home care provider who will take care of your beloved little girl--in my opinion infants do better with a smaller ratio which unfortunately most childcares cannot provide. And......listen to your gut!!If it doesnt feel right don't take your child there!

(Report Comment)
Kristyn Wright February 11, 2008 | 9:53 a.m.

My son has been in daycare since he was an infant. I would love to stay home with him but as a single parent, there is no way I could. I tried an at-home day care provider first because it is less expensive. However, if she was sick, I had to find somewhere else to take my son. Also, I felt like there was no way of knowing what went on during the day. Even though I would talk to her when I dropped off and picked up my son, he was too young to talk and it just made me uncomfortable knowing that there was no oversite or other adults there to witness what was going on. (I had a feeling TV was a big part of the day. I might also mention I tend to be a bit paranoid and overprotective!).
Anyway, I ended up switching my son to Kindercare on Ash. My son and I both love it there. The teachers and staff are wonderful, they keep the kids engaged and learning. Plus, they feed them a healthy menu (which is important to me). It is a stuggle financially, but it is well worth it when my son (who just turned two), is excited every morning to go to school, loves his teachers and is thriving. They do all kinds of activities with the kids that, in all honestly, I would never think of at home.
However, that is just what worked for us. When it comes down to it, every family has to do what works for them. As long as baby and parents are happy, then that is what you do. And if the first choice doesn't work out, you can always do something else. Also, keep in mind that even day care facilities have to have 1 teacher for every 4 kids under two, which is similar to many at-home providers.
Above all, please don't worry about the baby not bonding or developing normally. I stay very informed about child development/parenting issues and agree that the first three years are very important and was very worried about the whole bonding issue, but my son and I have a very close relationship. He knows I love him and will do anything for him and I think that having other adults who care about him can only be a benefit (especially since we don't have family here in Columbia.)
I hope this helps, and good luck finding a good daycare! It's a really hard decision to make!

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