How big a role should the neighborhood play in a daycare choice?
September 21, 2011 12:28 PM   Subscribe

How do I interpret the crime statistics on a given neighborhood in my city? And is it then appropriate to make a judgment call on whether or not it's safe to put my child in a daycare there using that information?

I'm attending a technical school in January and will be putting my then 16-month old into daycare. I don't drive, so I can't exactly have my pick of any daycare in the city. That said, there are lots along my bus routes. I can choose one close to our home, or close to my school. My preference is that it be close to the school so that I can get there fast if there's a problem. Otherwise, it will take about an hour on the bus to get to her. But the neighborhood isn't as good as the one we live in.

I am NOT concerned about my daughter or myself being the victim of a crime. What I trying to figure out is more the socio-economic status of the area, since I think (mistakenly?) that an area of lower socio-economic status could mean poorer care. Please, please, please correct me if you think this is wrong. The only info I can find, though, are crime stats. So here are the crime stats for the neighborhood for the last 60 days:
  • Assaults: 6
  • B & E: 8
  • Homocide: 0
  • Robbery: 2
  • Sexual Assault: 0
  • Theft from Vehicle:7
  • Theft of Vehicle: 4

    By comparison, my quiet residential area had 3 assaults and 8 thefts from vehicles over the same period.

    Do you think this info should have any bearing on my decision? If the neighborhood has a higher crime rate, would there be any correlation to the quality of care my daughter receives at a daycare there?

    I'm sure to have more daycare questions over the next few months, but I'm starting with this one. Thanks!
  • posted by kitcat to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
    Instead of assessing the quality of the daycare through a possible correlation with socio-economic status, can't you just visit the daycare and assess the quality directly?
    posted by pizzazz at 12:33 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

    Response by poster: Of course, but I'm hoping that this will help to narrow down the number of visits I have to make. And more importantly, not having experience with daycare yet, I'm afraid of what I might fail to see, especially in a short visit where staff are aware they're being observed.
    posted by kitcat at 12:39 PM on September 21, 2011

    You're doing this wrong. Go to the the daycare and see what they're doing. That's the only way to judge what your kid will experience. I mean, think about it: What on earth would theft from or of vehicle have to do with her daycare? She's not driving, you're not driving, sounds like you don't even have a vehicle!

    I'm sensitive to this because my kid went to the World's Best Preschool which was in a semi-shitty neighborhood. The care there, the education there, were absolutely wonderful and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Even though I wouldn't want to move to the neighborhood.
    posted by BlahLaLa at 12:39 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

    Response by poster: my kid went to the World's Best Preschool which was in a semi-shitty neighborhood. The care there, the education there, were absolutely wonderful and I wouldn't trade it for anything

    There - this is very helpful. Thank you!
    posted by kitcat at 12:42 PM on September 21, 2011

    Just based off the comment you just made -- so what you're really asking is: "How do I effectively judge potential daycare situations for my kid?"

    First of all, look for recommendations. Ask mommy friends, neighbors, family. Or ask fellow students in your program.

    Start visiting these places. What's the vibe? What's the educational policy? What is their ____ policy -- fill in with anything that might be important to you. Do they have a TV? (Mine didn't, which I loved.) And the number 1 for me: What is their drop-in policy for parents? For me the only possible acceptable answer was, "Parents may drop-in at any time." To me that says they're utterly confident that the quality of care is high at all times, not just during official visiting times.
    posted by BlahLaLa at 12:43 PM on September 21, 2011

    Best answer: Trying to stare at a few numbers and extrapolate quality of daycare is a very iffy use of data. Drawing such conclusions would require a statistically sound use of data, including a proper time frame, perhaps a large, random sampling across the country, and a very thorough look at qualitative questions (are these crimes targeted gang violence or random, are they seasonal in nature, etc.) Keep in mind some great universities are in poorer neighborhoods of cities.
    posted by msk1985 at 12:52 PM on September 21, 2011

    You might check with the governing board of the daycares in question (in WA it is the Dept of Early Learning). In my case, I was able to go to the DEL website and look at any daycare's history to see if any complaints were made or if the DEL itself had cited the center for any issues or noncompliance.
    posted by sugarbiscuit at 12:53 PM on September 21, 2011

    I would have thought what you are implying a few years ago, but I currently live in a neighborhood where all the stats you listed are "0" (I just looked them up).

    When we looked at daycares in our immediate area, they were all terrible--the caretakers had horrible grammar, the equipment was rusty and falling apart, and the animals were unkempt. So, I don't really think it makes a difference.

    That being said, we have an amazing, award-winning school in our worst neighborhood!
    posted by TinWhistle at 12:53 PM on September 21, 2011

    Best answer: So look. Crime statistics get tortured in bad ways. Using them is probably a bad measurement. How do you think police districts get measured and show improvement? Crime Statistics... TAL had a great piece on the manipulation of crime statistics in a *very* bad district. I'd also point out that good and bad neighborhoods under-report crime.

    Measure a daycare based on curriculum, care, and (optionally) cameras. If they don't have a curriculum that the kids are working through, they may not be engauging the kids. Talk to other parents who have kids at the daycare. They will be able to tell you what concerns they may have and what the quality of the care and curriculum is. Any daycare should feel comfortable providing a few current clients as a reference for their services. Lastly, some daycares have (secure) web cameras, sometimes its nice to see what the kids are doing during the day.

    Things we were concerned with:
    Price - this is the reality of daycare
    Curriculum (our Son gets homework which we all do together as a family)
    Part-time Policy - We only have him in for half a day three days a week.
    Cancellation Policy - Appointments, sickness and whatnot have us canceling semi-frequently
    Closed Policy - They notify us for snowstorms, illness outbreak, and what have you.
    Time-out policy - He gets time-outs at home, we needed to make sure there were consistent time outs at daycare.
    Potty-training assistance - We aren't quite there yet, but many kids his age are. We planned ahead.
    Biting Policy - Our Son bit once at daycare and we got an incident report that day. A co-worker of mine's daughter bit enough kids at her daycare that she was asked to take a week off.
    Sick Policy - This is similar to closed policy.
    Progress reporting - We get the standard state mandated progress report. We meet with the daycare provider every 90 days.
    Daily reporting - We know what he ate, the number and type of bowel movements, we know the subjects that they discussed in class, we hang his projects on our fridge.
    posted by Nanukthedog at 12:55 PM on September 21, 2011

    What I trying to figure out is more the socio-economic status of the area ... The only info I can find, though, are crime stats.

    Things to search for are "zip code demographics," which return lots of web pages that will show you Census demographic information for zip codes, or "interactive census" or similar.

    Leaving aside the question of their utility for day care research, there are resources out there.
    posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:57 PM on September 21, 2011

    And is it then appropriate to make a judgment call on whether or not it's safe to put my child in a daycare there using that information?

    It isn't inappropriate to use whatever stats you want to make yourself feel better.

    In my experience, when looking at a daycare, it would be better to look at the toddler on toddler violence statistics.

    Talk to parents and see they deal with that. Otherwise, you might have to go up to a parent and threaten to do to them what their kid did to your kid if the biting doesn't stop.
    posted by hal_c_on at 1:04 PM on September 21, 2011

    Nanukthedog has it, btw.
    posted by hal_c_on at 1:05 PM on September 21, 2011

    I used to live in the the neighborhood with the highest crimes against property rate in St. Louis county, or the six surrounding counties. So naturally you would assume my house was broken into like once every six months and my car was stolen seven times, right? In fact it was an upper middle class neighborhood with very little crime on the streets. It just happened to have the most active mall in the area where about 99% of said crime (petty shoplifting) occurred.

    Drive through the area and see what you think of it.

    What I'd really try to do is talk to other parents who uses said daycare and see what they think.
    posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:08 PM on September 21, 2011

    My wife works in daycare. Daycare quality is predicated on two things, the quality of the management of that particular center, and the quality of the teachers that work there. Obviously, those two tend to be strongly correlated, and they can change fairly quickly. The only practical difference is that in the lower income areas most of the parents will be getting some sort of govt aid to pay the bill each month. Of course, that fact itself tells you nothing about their parenting skills. Otherwise, the chain daycares will be running pretty much the same programs at all their centers, regardless of the income level of the neighborhood the center is in.
    posted by COD at 1:20 PM on September 21, 2011

    Response by poster: I think maybe daycare works differently here in Western Canada? Daycares aren't 'schools'. Teachers don't work there; generally it's very low paying and the workers need child care certifications like first aid. Preschools are a different story (and my daughter is too young to be in one). But daycares don't generally conceive of themselves as learning institutions. As far as I can tell (and it's hard, because websites seem to be the exception, not the rule), they don't have curriculums. I haven't seen any chain daycares either.

    Oooh, the anxiety.....
    posted by kitcat at 1:32 PM on September 21, 2011

    I live in Los Angeles, and send both my kids to a daycare near my work, not near my house. I live in a nice, low-crime neighborhood, but the kids daycare is in an area of town that is not as nice, and within a mile has gang issues. My kids daycare is amazing. Amazing. Wonderful standard of care, run by an amazing woman who employs staff who all have Child Development education, all are loving, warm, patient people. She cooks home made food for the kids, it is just a great place for them to be. I visited a bunch of other daycares on my search, including some much fancier daycare centers in nicer areas. I found the daycare centers to be more interested in getting their hands on my money, then providing warm, personal care to the children. Anecdata, but I guess I'm providing data in opposition to your thesis, to try and say that in my experience, the neighborhood does not make the daycare.

    Just go visit all the daycares within range, and trust that you will know whether its a good place or not, just by gut feeling when you visit. If its your first daycare experience, then you will second-guess yourself like crazy, especially on the first day you drop your kid off, but overall, you should be able to easily tell the good from the bad, just by visiting. I strongly agree that parents should be free to drop in at any time. My daycare asks that we do not drop in at after-lunch naptime if possible, but that seems reasonable to me. Ask about their policies, and you will find the right fit for you. If you have access to recommendations from a local parenting list, other college-going parents, co-workers and so on, then that can help tremendously.
    posted by Joh at 1:34 PM on September 21, 2011

    Best answer: Really, visiting will tell you so much more than anything else. We screened dozens of spots when we went to place our son, then a few more when that one didn't work out. You WILL know if you are comfortable or not with the facililty, how the teachers interact with you, etc. I really strongly recommend going to see the center when there are kids there and unannounced. It will tell you how well things run, and what carers are like when they don't know that someone will be watching.

    Some of the things that set off red flags for us:
    clearly bad neighborhood, in home daycare with ongoing construction in child areas, religious beliefs by carers that they were very up-front about and that just didn't jibe with ours, tiny spaces with little ones taking naps right next to where older children would be playing, and in the placement that didn't work out: being very rigid with care, poor communicator and dismissive about what I knew about my own child. Really, I would say that the biggest lesson we've learned in all of this is trust your gut.

    Things we loved about our current placement: it's in a family home where the kids get lots of stimulation and interaction from a variety of loving and consistent members of the family. There a places that are set up to be clearly for children: a well-stocked playroom, toy bins in common areas, and nap rooms that are quiet and away from the rest of the play areas. Consistent schedule, but flexible as needed. Calm and consistent with discipline, and give clear communication about what your kiddo is doing well and when they're running into trouble. Fun and age appropriate activities. Lots of affection, etc. etc. etc.

    I really could go on and on and on with how much we love our providers, and it was something I could really just tell when I met them (though I did continue to check in, just to be safe).
    posted by goggie at 2:02 PM on September 21, 2011

    You should also be aware that statistics do a really poor job of telling you how serious the alleged "crime" really is. In my jurisdiction the common robbery people think of involves someone taking property from another by force or threat of force, e.g., pointing a gun at the cashier and making off with the loot. But the law is nuanced (or at least, that's one way to put it) such that robbery can now also include things that are a lot different. For example, where I live, if you shoplift a CD and the security guard tries to grab the CD from your hands as you flee, by jerking the CD out of his hands you've just elevated your petty theft to a robbery. A neighborhood with a Target or Wal*Mart with only 2 such "robberies" sounds pretty sleepy to me, and I live in the "good" part of town!

    The same is likely true of the other statistics you see. It's hard for you to draw the kind of meaning you want from them.

    If you are worried about your kid going to daycare in an episode of "The Wire" I'd be more worried about lots of certain kinds of homicide (e.g., non-familial, gang related), lots of graffiti everywhere, an epidemic of drug sales and prostitution. Your best indicators are to both visit the neighborhood. Do all the doors and windows have bars on them, even in residential areas? Are all the walls tagged?

    Look at economic factors like the cost of housing and the rate of ownership vs. renters. What's unemployment like? Also, what is the median income for the neighborhood?

    The next thing I would do is call the local constabulary. Ask questions about which neighborhoods the officers think are good or where they would be willing to live, or have their kids schooled in. They might not know the statistics, but they usually know what's happening on the street in the neighborhood where they work and get daily reports on trends affecting their work. They'll be better able to tell you which places to worry about.
    posted by Hylas at 5:13 PM on September 21, 2011

    What I trying to figure out is more the socio-economic status of the area, since I think (mistakenly?) that an area of lower socio-economic status could mean poorer care. Please, please, please correct me if you think this is wrong.

    I think this is wrong. Why would you assume that people who live in lower income neighbourhoods would provide a lower level of care when you admit yourself that child care is poorly paid?

    Like others have said, the only way you are going to know if a place is good is to go visit it yourself. You can narrow those visits down by calling and talking to people first. Another thing that will narrow things down? Lots and lots of them won't have space, particularly since if it is licensed home-based child care (licensed family child care), they can only have 2 kids under 2. Many of them will likely have waiting lists. Seriously, finding child care can be brutal.

    I don't know which Western Canadian city you are in, but when I was looking around for child care for my daughter in Vancouver 7 years ago, I called--literally--every single day care, centre and home-based, that was registered with the child care registration place. None of the centres had spots, and all had looooong waiting lists (long = people get their kids on the lists while they are still in utero). Of the home-based licensed child cares, most were full, many with waitlists. Of those that weren't, some of them I just didn't like the vibe of the woman (and they were all women) running it when we talked on the phone. Others couldn't take a 1 year old because their infant spot was already full.

    I visited five places, all within walking distance from my home (I don't drive, either) or on the transit route to work. A couple of them were just depressing. One was fantastic, but then at the last minute, the care giver decided she just didn't want the hassle of an infant. Another only had care four days a week. When I had absolutely lost hope, I called the very last place on the list, and lucked out. She had a spot, and she was just around the corner. When I brought my daughter over a couple days later, it was literally love at first sight. I mean my kid and the caregiver. She gave me the numbers of the parents of all four kids, and they all raved about her. My daughter was with her five days a week for four years and it was an absolutely fantastic experience.

    Why the long story? This place was in a crummy neighbourhood, if you looked at crime stats. (Commercial and Hastings, if you know Vancouver.) Cars regularly had their windows smashed up and down the block. And she was operating out of a two bedroom apartment that housed her family of five. But she was the most loving, competent, kind and gentle-but-firm care giver I've ever seen. She had early childhood educator certification and knew first aid. She took the kids outside every day, sometimes twice a day, and on outings to the science centre, the aquarium, etc. The play area was stuffed with awesome toys, many of which came from the toy-lending library, so there was a steady rotation of new toys in and out. Parents and kids alike adored her. (And after a year and a half, they bought a nice big house with a big yard and an amazing vegetable garden the kids got to explore in.)

    Basically what I'm saying is that if you haven't started calling around yet and are just looking at spots on a map and crime statistics, you're focusing on the wrong things. If you're wondering about what some other things to consider are, you can find some checklists here:

    Things I looked for were cleanliness, what kind of toys were there, how the other kids interacted with the care-provider, what the other parents thought, access to outside, variety of activities. And then that mysterious thing of chemistry between the kid and the provider, and how comfortable I felt with her, too.

    Finding child care can be totally daunting! But the only way to do it, is to just plunge in there with both feet. Good luck!
    posted by looli at 12:51 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

    I see from your profile you are in Edmonton. The Government of Alberta posts the results of its child care inspections here. Not a lot of detail provided, but you can at least look up if any of the places you are considering have a lot of past violations.
    posted by Urban Hermit at 9:42 PM on September 22, 2011

    Also, as others have pointed out, the socio-economic factors you are considering are likely not relevant, but if you want that information for interest's sake, it can be found here.
    posted by Urban Hermit at 9:48 PM on September 22, 2011

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