Busy baby needs a place to chill out
July 15, 2013 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Seattle, WA-Mom has obviously totally screwed up her day care search. Help please!

There was a previous AskMe that inspired this question: I can't find it now, but it involved a woman whose toddler son had some sort of behavior problem, and one of the answerers said something like, "If his day care does xyz, then you should start him at a new place ASAP" and I like, "It must be so easy if someone's giving that out as advice! What am I doing wrong?!")

I have a nine month old little buddy. We live in Seattle, WA. I looked for day care throughout the pregnancy, but got a little distracted after his birth, and then started up again earlier this year. I am a student at UW, and receive a grant to help pay for child care.

Everyone told me that looking for day care sucks and is impossible, and IT'S TRUE! I've used Child Care Aware of King County as my main source of finding places (and a list from the Student Parents Office at my school, but the lists are completely overlapped). I'm looking at both centers and home day cares. I'm the first in my social circle to have a kid, so I can't turn to friends are advice.

We are on the wait list at about a half-dozen places, and there are many more places that aren't even taking more names on their wait lists, which I call every month or so to see if they have space. I've also recently learned, much to my disappointment, that some of the wait lists I got on early are about to be worthless, because I got on the infant wait list (I didn't realize! This is the kind of advice I am looking for), and my little guy will probably be ready for the toddler room before he gets off that waitlist. I have spent a lot of money just getting on waitlists, and am started to feel that because, I didn't make a plan early on, I have just screwed up beyond repair.

But it's not all my fault! There's also a fair amount of flakiness--places saying I'm on the waitlist, then not having record of it when I call back to see if I've moved up; in addition, there are places that don't return phone calls or e-mails. Including one place that looks so perfect on paper!

For those of you who have navigated this world before, please tell me the best practices. ESPECIALLY people who have done this is a big city where demand is greater than supply. We are able to cobble together care through various sources now, but once fall quarter hits, it's going to be very difficult. In addition, I really want to start being consistent with his care.

I'm also looking ahead at pre-schools--any advice for this application process?
posted by Ideal Impulse to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: GOOD NEWS!

There is usually more room in toddler classrooms than infant classrooms because the teacher:student ratio is reduced slightly.

Other than that, I don't have anything specific to tell you about WA, but if you have a grant to help cover childcare, I'd consider going through care.com or sittercity.com to find a nanny until you can find a daycare that's appropriate.

To me, it sounds like you did everything right, except you didn't start soon enough. So, just keep doing what you're doing in the meantime. Something will happen. I was in a similar position this time last year for my older child. It finally worked out, but it was a really harrowing six weeks before it did so.
posted by zizzle at 11:23 AM on July 15, 2013

+1 try care.com or sittercity.com -- I found my sitter there in less than 24 hours.

I also have quite a few friends with babies/toddlers in Seattle, if you memail me with your specific requirements I can ask them for ideas.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:36 AM on July 15, 2013

If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through work this is the kind of research they're great at. You can feed them your criteria and a person there will give you a report with options, details about waitlists, etc.
posted by Coffeemate at 11:49 AM on July 15, 2013

Best answer: In our major city where the desirable daycares have HUGE wait lists (like years in some cases) we had luck and landed two spots by calling frequently (places where we were already on the list) in late July and into August when others were on holiday and spaces opened up as classes shifted for the new school year. Many families are also moving during the summer. My only other hint is that it helps to know another parent who can put in a good word for you. Amazing how you can jump up a list when this happens...
posted by Cuke at 12:00 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you live near a great elementary school or church or playground? I met a lot of great day care moms over the years through those. Talk to other moms at those places for recommendations or ask the school office/church office. You may be able to meet some that way. I met mine at a community pool. I got to observe her with kids there and liked her. She worked for us for 6 years.

And if you find a home daycare - only go with licensed and inspected ones. And have a contract. The good ones will have all of those things, and will not be insulted to be checked on.
posted by maxg94 at 12:02 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think you've screwed this up. Daycare in Seattle is a hot mess and expensive, and every mom I know struggled to find a daycare spot or carer for their kid. Are you specifically looking for a spot around UW? I live in NE Seattle and those daycare spots are probably the most in-demand in the city. (Lots of kids in the area, lots of workers with kids, lots of money.) If you are able to, expanding your geographic search may offer more possibilities for you.

Probably what you need to do is start your search from scratch. Call up the centers and say you have a nine month old, you are looking for care that starts on whatever date, do they a spot/waiting list/etc. When I was looking for day care, it looked like to be in a toddler room the child had to be at least 15 months, but this varied from place to place. So ask each place what room your kid would be in, ask about the lists.

If you can use your grant for a sitter, you could try doing a nanny-share. Do you know about the NE Seattle Moms yahoo group? It's an active list and lots of moms try to set up nanny-shares through it.
posted by stowaway at 12:06 PM on July 15, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all the comments so far:

For care.com, sittercity.com, nannies, etc--those places don't qualify for our UW grant. Only licensed homes and centers do. We are registered with those sites and one of those on-call nanny places, but they are a last resort for the fall.

We currently live close to the UW, but will likely be moving to the Central district by the end of the summer. Our search is now focused on the Central district, but we're really looking at anywhere south of 85th (and not in West Seattle or Ballard).
posted by Ideal Impulse at 12:13 PM on July 15, 2013

Hmm. Yup, you are looking in a pretty tight circle. I don't even think there are that many home daycares north of Montlake and south of 85th anyway. Depending on where you live in the Central District, I'd look at First Hill daycares (I am pretty sure there are at least a couple of licensed facilities up there due to the hospitals), Capitol Hill/Madison or possibly Rainier/Beacon Hill. Rainier/Beacon Hill likely has a lot more home daycares. Something like that could be temporary while you wait for a spot at one of the UW-adjacent centers. Keep working your lists. It is really hard - I think the only thing to do is work the lists aggressively and tell everyone you come in contact with that you are looking for a spot at a licensed center or home. You never know who knows someone who works somewhere ... good luck. Let us know how it works out!
posted by stowaway at 12:29 PM on July 15, 2013

Best answer: My only other hint is that it helps to know another parent who can put in a good word for you. Amazing how you can jump up a list when this happens...

+1 this. We got into our daycare/preschool faster because some friends were already there. Name-dropping helps!
posted by bijou243 at 4:04 PM on July 15, 2013

I just wanted to point out that you may have a much harder time in the CD/First or Cap Hill/Belltown area. That part of the city has the smallest percentage of children by population in the whole of Seattle. Ballard and West Seattle have more hits because, well, more kids. Good luck.
posted by fireoyster at 5:18 AM on July 16, 2013

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