NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s an issue parents everywhere are facing – choosing the right childcare program. Finding the best place to send your kids is stressful and overwhelming.
“It’s very startling when people first get into it, they just think ‘oh well, I’m going to have a baby and I’m going to go back to work,'” said Gina Tek, who is the senior manager for Childcare Tennessee, a program within the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
Some parents may know exactly where they want to send their kids, but it’s not always that simple.
“It quickly becomes overwhelming, and then you start [to] realize that there’s not a capacity there,” Tek said. “Then that’s the next step and you start getting pretty panicky.”
Tek said there is a free resource all parents should bookmark called ChildcareNashville.com. The site makes it easier for parents to find childcare. There, parents can filter by mileage from home or work, age group, specific programs, even the number of stars a program has.
So, you’ve narrowed down which program, but now another challenge emerges: actually getting enrolled.
Amy James with Primrose Schools said parents should start looking early, and in some cases, before getting pregnant.
“I think you should look around. If you’re thinking about possibly adding to your family, we have a lot of people that come and look around and see what they like. It doesn’t hurt,” said James.
James also suggested getting on the waitlist as soon as possible, no matter how early it might be. Some families can be on waitlists for years. Although there’s nothing you can do to jump the line, educators said staying in touch definitely helps.
“It’s helpful when you follow up with the organization on a regular basis, just to remind them that they’re your number one choice,” said Heather Higgins with First Steps. “It’s not that it so much puts you ahead of everyone else, but sometimes we’re filling a spot within 24 hours. So, knowing that we expect that they’ll pick up that call or answer that email is very important,” she said.
Higgins also suggested that when they call, take the spot. Even if you might not be ready.
James agreed, “When they offer you a spot, definitely accept it, because there’s a lot of people that the timing isn’t quite right, right? And they turn it down. But then it’s challenging because then you have to wait for a space,.”
Most schools will give parents 24 hours to respond before they move onto the next prospect. When in doubt, Tek said there’s one important thing to keep in mind.
“What I always say is when you get to the point of going for the interview at a program, just look for happiness.”
That happiness is usually pretty easy to spot.
“What other job do you get to go to where someone hugs you and tells you they love you every day?” said James with a smile.
Childcare Tennessee is a free website available across the state, for more information click on this link.