Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Are You Paying Too Much For Daycare?

The topic of rising daycare costs is a hot one among parents. As a daycare provider and as a parent, I see both of sides of it.  Part of the reason I started my daycare was because of the cost of daycare. A center in our area ranges from $200 - $250+ for full time care. I felt like I was going to work to pay for daycare. When I opened my daycare, I wanted it to be affordable with (nearly) everything provided. I wanted parents to be able to drop their child(ren) off in the morning and not have to worry about if they forgot to pack a lunch or bring a special snack for the day. I wanted parents to know that their kids were going to be getting good care plus activities and fun.

When I opened my doors six years ago, I charged $25 per day per child (there has since been a slight raise from that but nothing too dramatic). In that fee was some big perks: two meals and two snacks included, all crafts and activities covered, wipes, creams, lotions, etc. all covered (I was already buying them for my kids, why would I put the pressure on myself to worry about which wipes belong to which kid?), and no paying for days the child(ren) isn't here. That includes sick days, vacation days, days that parents have off and want to keep their kids. I've maintained this simple rule for six years: if you're child isn't here, you don't pay.

Parents already have to worry about finding care and paying for care on days that I'm sick or off. Why would I charge them if they're already having to pay someone else for a day I'm not working? I know most other daycares have a flat fee and/or charge regardless if a child is attending that day or not. For me to run my business this way was an ethical and moral issue for me. I would never feel right about making a family pay for a week of vacation time for myself, while they would still need to pay someone else to watch their kid (or use their own vacation time off of work).

I try to make sure the only things my daycare parents have to worry about are having clean clothes for kids to change into (in case of accidents, messy meals, or messy playing), formula/baby food if needed, and diapers/pull ups (if needed). Everything else is completely covered, as I feel strongly that it should be.

 Now, I will share that my rate is for ages all across the board. If you have a child that's six weeks or a child that six years old, the rate is the same for both. I know many child cares that have various rates for various ages. For one, that would be one more thing for me to keep track of (I'm pretty sure I would constantly question if I'm charging the correct rate or not). But mostly, bigger kids eat more, they do more arts and crafts (in 2016 I spent $96 in new markers because caps constantly kept getting lost), and harder on toys (but I enjoy buying new toys, so this one isn't a problem!).

As a parent myself, I hear what some daycares charge and it makes me sick. I recently found out numerous before/after school programs in our area are charging nearly as much as I charge for full time care (five days a week). We're talking about school age children who need care for 4 hours a day tops (two hours before school and two hours after). That seems insane to me! Then I also hear the reports (and do my own math) of what daycare providers make hourly and it's next to nothing, considering the job consists of (usually) long hours and no true breaks and a hazardous work environment (I'd totally consider diaper blow outs and being accidentally headbutted several times a day a hazard).

So the question stands: are you paying too much for daycare? I urge you to take a look at what you are getting with your rate: good, quality care? Toys to play with (are their new toys? Are their a variety of toys? Are the toys age appropriate and safe?)? Do meals and snacks include healthy options (fruits, veggies, and other food groups being met? On this one I urge parents to look at the entire week and not just one day....there are many days where the kids beg for granola bars and crackers and other days that are 95% veggies)? Do you get a daily report of what your child(ren) did that day (also make sure that the provider/center is able to give a brief summary of your child's day consisting of moods and behaviors)? What is covered in the daily/weekly/monthly fee? Are snacks and meals covered, or do you have to bring your own? Are activities covered or do you find yourself needing to bring items (example: t-shirts to decorate, a new book to donate, etc. Yes, these are things that I've heard other daycares be a requirement if children want to participate)?

I have to admit, even as a daycare provider, I have to side with parents that deem daycare a huge expense. Some places charge waaayyy too much (and in my personal opinion, are contributing to the large number of children with sensory issues, but another post on that at a later date). However, I DO get offended when someone comments on a provider's rate. I feel parents tend to look at the dollar amount rather than what they are getting in return for handing over that weekly payment. Parents, I urge you to go over everything you and your child is receiving and ask yourself, are we getting what we're paying for? Providers, I urge you to look at what you're charging, what others are charging in your area and what is included in your fee(s).  Both sides should/need to look at what is being given/taken and assess before saying "I'm not charging enough" and "I'm not paying enough."