It’s no secret that it’s very challenging to be a working parent during COVID-19. None of us expected to be in the situation we’re in now, and recently my wife, Jenn, and I were presented with yet another tricky situation: finding child care for our 1-year-old daughter.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. From the beginning of Jenn’s pregnancy, finding a great child care spot for the future addition to our family was one of our top priorities. We spent hours researching and calling different providers in our area and being put on their waitlists. And then, once our daughter was born, after I called the grandparents, uncles and aunts to give them the good news, my next calls were to the providers who said to call after the baby was born.
Miraculously, we were able to secure a spot at our #1 choice of providers. We were all set to go!
Then we decided to move to a new city. During COVID-19.
Everything we took for granted the first time around was no longer an option. Instead of having almost two years before her enrollment, we now had two months. And as for going into the center to tour the facilities and meet the teachers? We now can’t step foot inside of the center. For parents like us who have only once left their child with a family member while they went out for an hour, finding complete strangers to trust all day every day is incredibly anxiety-inducing to begin with — and these new protocols are definitely not helping.
In this article, I’d like to share my experience with finding child care during the pandemic. It’s my hope that providers can learn from the successes and failures in my search in order to better connect with families, providing parents with much-needed reassurance and helping to boost their enrollment numbers during these trying times.
No Virtual Tour? No Thank You.
In the pre-COVID world, although things might vary slightly from center to center, the process would usually look something like this:
- Put our name on a waitlist.
- Book a tour.
Now, however, things were surprisingly very different depending on who we spoke to.
While we understand that we are not allowed inside to tour a facility, we still would have liked a way to better understand where we would be sending our child. The first two providers that I spoke with made this seem like something that would not happen now.
The first provider had a brief phone conversation with us about fees and availability, sent us a parent handbook, and that was it. When I asked about a virtual tour, I was matter-of-factly told, “no, we don’t do virtual tours.”
The second provider was a very similar experience, only this time when I asked about a virtual tour, the person responded, “…um…we have a website?”
We were already feeling anxious about sending our daughter to daycare (as I’m sure any new parent can relate to) that the idea of sending her somewhere that we have never seen — and is unwilling to show us their space — was out of the question.
Partial Virtual Tour…Getting Better.
Thankfully, there were some child care providers that were willing to do more to give us a better sense of what we would be signing up for.
One provider sent us a “recorded video tour,” which sounded great in theory but in reality, was just a one-minute video slideshow. While this was better than no tour at all, it did not seem overly professional or reassuring.
The next provider we spoke with took a hybrid approach. The first portion of our call was a Google Hangouts video chat where we got to speak with the director as though we were there in her office. After this meeting, she began a PowerPoint presentation that walked us through their programming and some pictures of their facility. While this was very thorough and professional, we still did not actually get to see anything beyond what was in the pictures.
Full Virtual Tour!
The best experiences we had were with the providers who gave us a full virtual tour. Using just their phones to host a Zoom call, we started off in the Directors’ offices, similar to the last provider.
What really set these centers apart, however, was what happened next. The Directors picked their phones and actually walked us through their facilities. We got to see the entranceways, hallways, kitchens and, most importantly of all, the rooms where our kiddo would actually spend her days! We saw what toys she would play with, where her crib would be, and everything else that we would otherwise be left imagining.
For providers who are looking to provide the most reassuring and close to the real thing experience as possible, I definitely recommend walking parents through your center in a video chat. In fact, this may work even better than going in person because it can be so challenging sometimes finding a time that works for our schedule!
BONUS: Video from Victory Early Learning Academy
Although this was not technically part of my search because it’s in a different city, I just had to share this video from our blog contributor Missy Knechel’s center. This video is so informative and inviting that I’m not going to lie… Jenn and I were wondering if maybe we should relocate so our daughter could go to Victory 🙂
Trying to find child care can be overwhelming, anxiety-inducing and exhausting, especially during these uncertain times. If there is a silver lining, however, it is that this situation has allowed the Directors with the most empathy to shine. I feel like it is fairly obvious that a parent would be anxious about sending their child to a center that they cannot visit in person, and those who do whatever they can to go the extra mile to welcome new families give parents more confidence when making this important decision.
What have you been doing to reassure new parents at your center during these uncertain times? Please share in the comments!