It’s a magical moment when you finally hold that urine-soaked stick and it tells you that you are wonderfully, amazingly pregnant. But after the brief blip of elation, the reality sinks in: you have only just conceived this human but you already have to start thinking about its day-to-day care when you return to work. Here are a few tips in hunting for the perfect daycare in the Metro Vancouver area.
Start Now (or At Least Soon)
Westcoast Childcare Resource Centre in Vancouver recommends that you should start registering on daycare wait-lists at least 12 months before you need childcare. Says Linda Wheeler, Westcoast’s information advisor, “I would look a year in advance for sure. Centres will let you know if you’re calling too early.” Daycare staff however may suggest you start even earlier. “Get on the wait-list as soon as you find out you’re pregnant,” advises Tina Wight, executive director of City Hall Childcare Society in Vancouver. “I get 10 to 20 calls a day from people looking for childcare,” says Wight, whose wait-list currently lists 230 hopeful candidates. Wight confirms that there have been parents in the past who asked to enter the wait-list even before conception. “Now, we ask for a due date,” she says with a tone of amusement.
Before you panic though, keep in mind that daycare demand may vary according to the city you live in. Some suburbs such as Langley, have actually reported a recent decrease in demand for daycare spots.
Turn On Your Computer
Kick off your research online.
- The Ministry of Children and Family Development has a handy searchable database of all daycares in British Columbia. You can search by your location and check specific needs such as hours of operation, type of daycare, age group, and language preferences.
- Another online resource is the newly launched The Shorty List www.theshortylist.ca (full disclosure: I own and operate this site). This website lists licensed daycares and offers search and mapping functions, as well as parent and staff reviews of daycares in the Metro Vancouver area.
Pick Up The Phone
After bumping around the internet, get offline and call the Child Care Resource and Referral office in your area. They will mail, email, or fax a list of daycares in your neighbourhood. This service also advises you according to you and your child’s needs and can refer you to appropriate facilities. You can find contact details for your local office at www.childcarechoices.ca.
Call and Visit
A few simple questions by phone can be followed by one or more visits to the daycare centre. In tomorrow’s follow up to this article, you’ll find a list of questions to keep in mind when evaluating a daycare.
Get an Inspection Report
Another piece of information that parents find important is a facility’s inspection report. Daycares are routinely inspected every year by the licensing offices of the Vancouver Coastal Health or Fraser Health units, examining aspects from health and safety issues to appropriate interactions and activities for children. You can call the licensing officer at your local health unit and request that the most recent inspection report be sent to you. Or another suggestion is to request the report directly from the care provider who should have a copy. “Asking for their inspection report is a good way to start building a relationship with the care provider,” advises Rika Lange from Vancouver Coastal Health.
Go With Your Gut
One last simple suggestion is to listen to your instincts. “Go by gut instinct,” says Sue McInnis from Childcare Resource Referral Service in Langley. “If you don’t like it yourself, you probably won’t feel comfortable leaving your child there.:
Your happiest day may be the time the little pink cross popped up on the pregnancy test. Or the day Young Miss or Little Sir put in their first appearance. But coming up close behind, in terms of pure elation, may be the day you receive that phone call from a wonderful daycare. Do your research, do the legwork, and listen to your instincts.
Finding great care is is one of the most important steps in making sure you raise a happy and healthy child.
Karen Young Chester is the owner of The Shorty List, the Metro Vancouver website that gives parents the scoop on daycares, preschools, and elementary schools.