Advice on navigating the local daycare scene?

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Ak reached out with this question:

I need some help with childcare. I am a full time graduate student and I am having terrible luck with daycare. Everyone is on a waiting list. and it seems the ones with openings are not up to par. Please help!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm located in the Troy area. But I am a full time student in Albany. So anywhere in those regions. My son is 5 months old and I have been in multiple waitlist since I was pregnant. Including Samaritan, ualbany kids and Albany med. ...
Im definitely worked about who can care for my child especially this being my first child. I've been relying on family but am looking for something more consistent and stable. It would be great if you could post this. Thanks so much!

We've had daycare questions in the past, including one a little more than a year ago and there are some thoughtful suggestions there.

The thing that struck us about Ak's question is that if you're a new parent -- or new to the area -- it might be difficult to get a handle on how the daycare scene here works. Like any complicated (formal or informal) system, even if you're willing to put the time in to search and research sometimes you're still left with the question: Which (literal or figurative) line should I be standing in right now?

So... If you have a a suggestion for Ak about a specific daycare, great. But we're also hoping some parents with young children might be able to share some advice about the best way to navigate the daycare scene here. A few sentences on that could be a big help.

Comments

I'm not a parent but I've worked in several area daycares and, without getting into specifics, I would recommend 1) look for non-profit centers, avoid the for-profit ones and (relatedly) 2) looking for a daycare that has a low employee turnover rate.

The Capital District Child Care Council is a great place to start your research.

I found the Council a bit overwhelming 6 years ago when we were in the market. If I saw other parents of multiples I would ask where they went. Asking at work and school. Asking on here is great!!!

I've heard great things about Albany Med Kids, Club Fed, the one in corporate woods. We ultimately went to Ohav Shalom but not until the kids were 3.

Wish I had a 'here is an easy way to find it," but we also really struggled. Good luck!

Hi there, I would narrow it down to five centers that you can tour, work for your commute, and your budget. I would tour each of these regardless of their waitlist times. I would select at least one or two that has an opening now. If you are desperate for daycare, then you can chose the one that is open now, and stay on the waitlist for the one you want the most. I had chosen one daycare that was my #3 choice, but both my #1 and my #2 choice ended up have space way earlier than they initially thought. So, pick your favorites, get on the waitlist by paying the deposit, and keep calling to ask about the waitlist. Maybe I would call every 4 weeks or so just to check-in. Good luck!

I feel your pain! I paid to be on one wait list at a place near my work. Put my name in for nearly a year in advance. Six months in I went to follow up (I was paranoid it would fall through) they avoided me and avoided me then said they actually wouldn't have the availability. In the end they did, but it seemed so disorganized that I said never mind.

There are two places that I know of (I'm sure there's more) that you fill out a registration form and then meet with the daycare and you put a deposit down to reserve your spot. There may be a wait time in that they are currently full, but at least you know on this date they will have a spot for you. One is Victory Daycare in downtown Albany, a friend has her two kids there and they love it.

The second is Executive Woods Daycare right off Everett Rd (I actually got the recommendation off the last All Over Albany daycare thread) where I currently have my 7.5 month old son. He started around 4.5 months when I went back to work and we love it.

In fact, it was the only place we toured, it was so serene when we took our tour, everyone was so pleasant, the kids all seemed happy, the facility was nice and they were very organized. We took home the paperwork and decided after being on like seven other wait lists that there was no point. We put a deposit down the next day. I found both of those places were also comparatively priced.

Another place that wasn't originally on my radar was the Albany JCC. I didn't realize they take kids of all faith and it's apparently a very diverse group. The downside is I found they were more expensive then most of the other places.

Hope this helps and good luck - I found this process to be one of the most anxiety producing aspects of having a child!

I second the vote to start with the NYS Child Care Council. You will be able to research the history of any places you're interested in, including complaints and violations, and any place they have listed is licensed so you don't have to worry about verifying that on your own, if you look at in-home day care. There are many to choose from and of course hours and cost are part of that process. I began by using their guide, calling those I was interested in and comparing prices and hours.
That said, my son did first attend the employee day care at Albany Med and transitioned to pre-K with before and after care at Samaritan. I highly recommend Samaritan. The employees were affectionate and engaging care givers, they play outside at the playground next store, do little field trips, and the food is healthy and delicious. Best of all, if you're in the Troy area, you're likely to connect with parents near you and your baby may make some friends that will last through elementary school.

My son is 17 months old and we are on our third daycare, so I totally understand your frustrations. It has been a very long (and at times, difficult) journey to finally find a place that both we, and our son, truly love. We are at Childtime in Delmar and really love the teachers, the director, the program and the classrooms - I believe they have a waiting list, but spots sometimes open unexpectedly and the director is great about letting her waiting parents know.

As the previous poster mentioned, look for places with a low turnover rate for employees. We also kept tabs on the NYS Office of Child and Family Services website (http://ocfs.ny.gov/main/childcare/ccfs_template.asp) to check out local places, any violations, and the center's responses. Get on waitlists for places that you like, and then call the directors every month or so and check in. I've found that making sure that centers know your interest helps.

Good luck to you!

The best piece of advice that I was given (and that worked for me) is once you are on a waitlist call consistently to check on your standing. For me that was about every other week. I was told that some daycares centers give the next open slot to the most persistent parent, not necessarily the one who is next on the list.

My son has been at Samaritan in Troy since he was four months and we love it. Many of the teachers there have been working in the field for decades, and were such a resource as I learned to navigate new mom stuff.

As far as your question about the scene I think there are two systems - the formal system of big centers (ClubFed, hospital centers like Samaritan and Albany Med, Campus Kids, WeeCare) that have a more formal system set up, wait lists, age-specific classes; and the more informal, home-based care scene, which some of my girlfriends chose for their kids. Home daycares can be more word of mouth, and I have usually heard about them from facebook moms groups. Samaritan has been right for me and my kid, and I made sure to call and ask more about the waitlist since kids move up all the time, and you never know what the status is. Right now they only have two infant rooms, which might add to the longer list. [psst- I recommend the Movers room! Such loving, wonderful teachers.] Anyway. Get thee to a moms group. It's cheesy but it' where you get all this info.

This isn't a daycare, but what about the Susan Odell Taylor School in Troy? I believe they have a highly regarded preschool class there and offer summer camps too.

We are currently on the search with our 8 week old. Virtually everywhere listed here is on a waitlist (I have spent last few months calling MANY places). If you start with Albany County Child Care Council they can send a long list of places (centers or in-home) to chose from which yielded a few more results I didnt hear of. Also no-one mentioned "Care.com". We actually setup a post and havee gotten several great responses from qualified candidates looking for their next job. This may tie you over until a center spot opens up (college students looking for summer work is a large number of my responses - some are stellar!). The last piece of advice is to put a post up at St. Rose college (online). We just did that and received a candidate that seemed good that we wont be using! Best of luck!!

JCC has been really wonderful for my 16 month old daughter. She loves going, and we love the staff and teachers. She has music classes weekly, does crafts all the time, and they make a big effort to go outside when the weather allows. They also do part time without having to find another child to fill in the day you don't need so there is flexibility if your schedule changes.

We have found daycare help through Care.com. It does take some time to look through profiles and to interview, but we have found truly fantastic people. Many college students and teachers open profiles for the summer. I am also in a Facebook group called "Bethlehem area mom swap" which happens to cover more than just the Bethlehem area. There are many posts related to daycare and a good source of information for when spots open up or to ask for recommendations about specific daycares.

From the few daycares I did tour, I would recommend asking about the hours that the director of the center keeps. That can tell you a lot. We found out a director at one center would never be present for an 8am drop-off or 5pm pick-up. Also if you tour during a busy time, like morning drop-off or pick-up, that can give some extra insight as opposed to midday.

Go to as many places as you can and go with your gut.
The Albany JCC is amazing. My daughter absolutely loves it. Not cheap by any means but you get alot, they have tons of extras. Swimming lessons, music, gym/playground, all included. Think of it as an investment. It's well worth it - and if you qualify for a subsidy, they accept it.
Also, avoid Capital Milestones in Harriman Campus at all costs.
Good luck!

Between our two kids, we've used a bunch mentioned here. Club fed sas God for babies through 1.5 years, but the 2 yo room was riddled with turnover and chaos. Corporate Woods is nice, but crazy expensive. JCC is good, especially if you're looking for part time. And we have really liked campus milestones. Lots of diversity, great facilities and caring staff.

We used the council website that other commenters mentioned. We got really lucky and were able to get in with SmartEarly in Clifton Park bc we needed part time and the days we needed allowed us to get in without a wait. Full time would've been a wait. We really love this daycare - they have live stream cameras in every room that you have to pay a fee to access, but I have loved having it. Really put my mind at ease going back to work. And I get to see how the teachers really care for all the babies in the room. Their system is all through a website so I can also check in through the day to see how many bottles he's had and when, length of naps, diaper changes, and conversations with his teachers. I also get text alerts when he's checked in and out for the day. The directors are really great and you can tell they care about all the kids. I love all of it.

I so feel your pain, we were just in this exact situation. I echo other commenters' suggestions to tour a lot of places and get on their waitlists... and then CALL and follow up regularly. It's a total pain, and you'd think there would be a better system. Also a bummer because some waitlists require deposits, so it can get expensive.

I'd definitely recommend contacting the Capital District Child Care Council-- give them a call and talk to a real person. They have an online search tool too, but we ended up getting super lucky and someone from the Council knew we were looking for care and called us to let us know a spot opened up at a center. A lot of it was luck, and weird timing because the Center usually has a looooong waitlist but didn't have anyone in the queue for this exact time and our son's exact age. But, if you can get on their radar and enlist their help, they can absolutely help navigate the system. I was shocked by how complicated the daycare scene is here and how long the wait lists area EVERYWHERE.

We're at Club Fed (8 month old) and love it. I've also heard great things about Albany Med Kids and Mercy Care at St. Peter's. We toured Bright Horizons and thought it was great too.

Good luck!

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