What Is the Best Child Care Option for Your Family in Des Moines?
Child care is expensive, no matter where you live. In my home state of Pennsylvania, parents spend an average of $10,000 a year per child for daycare. For my friend Jessica who lives in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband and three kids, the cost isn’t the only issue. There is actually a child care shortage in her state, leaving more than half of children and parents without options.
If you live in Des Moines like Jessica or anywhere else in the great state of Iowa, what are the best childcare options?
The Child Care Shortage
We don’t live in the 1950s anymore. Women are no longer relegated to child care and housekeeping and are creating lasting and fulfilling careers before, during, and after starting a family. Child care, both at home and outside of it, makes this possible for millions of parents across the country. In Iowa, recent changes in the child care industry have made it nearly impossible for parents to find options for their little ones.
In the last five years, more than 40% of the state’s child care businesses have closed their doors. Of the 529,000 children in Iowa, there are only enough daycare spaces available for 167,000.
Daycare and after-school care aren’t always an option when there’s a shortage like this. Sure, you can hire a teenager from your neighborhood to watch your kids in the afternoon or even one to pick them up from school if you trust them behind the wheel. However, that isn’t a long-term solution — and they’re not always available if you have to stay late at work or one of your little ones gets sick during school hours.
You can put your name on a waitlist and hope a slot opens up at your local day care center, or you can start exploring other options — namely, hiring a nanny or an au pair.
Nannies and au pairs are similar in that they’re usually female and they provide live-in childcare in return for room and board and a salary. That’s where the similarities end, though.
Nannies are usually local and may have a degree in childcare or a related field. They do this as their career but can end up costing quite a bit more than the other options. In addition to the room, board and salary, you’re also responsible for things like insurance and taxes because you are the nanny’s employer.
Au pairs are young women from Europe who don’t have children or families of their own and travel to the U.S. to provide childcare. While taking care of your children, they improve their English skills, learn about new cultures and even go to school here in the states — something they might not have had an opportunity to do otherwise.
How to Choose the Best Child Care
Choosing the best child care isn’t easy, and it’s not something you should take lightly. Here are a few things to remember when you’re searching for the perfect option for your little ones:
- Trust your gut: Trust those mommy instincts. They’ll tell you if something is wrong even if everything looks OK.
- Interview and observe: Interview the staff and make sure you’re watching how they interact with children.
- Stick to a budget: This isn’t always possible, but try to stick to your budget as closely as possible. Otherwise, you can easily spend a good portion of your income on childcare.
- Check their policies: Make sure policies align with the way you’re raising your children, or that they will make accommodations for things like dietary needs or allergies.
- Visit unannounced: Show up unannounced once or twice to see how things are run when the team doesn’t have time to prepare. If they have a policy against unannounced visits, consider another child care facility.
Of all of these, the most important thing you can do is trust your gut. After all, those parental instincts are there for a reason.
Don’t select the first child care option that crosses your path. This isn’t something you should choose lightly. Be patient, take your time and find the option that works best for your family. That might mean sitting on a waiting list for a daycare center or choosing an au pair to live with you for a year. Whatever you decide to do in Des Moines, it’s important that it is the best thing for your family.
About the Author
Jennifer Landis is a mom, wife, writer, and blogger. She enjoys yoga, tacos, and drinking all of the tea she can find. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.
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