Yesterday I had a man show up at my school and stand at the door looking at the coded lock, trying to figure out what to do, reading the “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” sign to see if that would help. I opened the door, and he said: “My wife sent me here to get the registration.” I said (bamboozled): “You must have the wrong school; we don’t give out registrations here.” (What I meant was : “Wait, who are you? We are full! We require an observation and a meeting before we would give out an application! Are you at the wrong place? I don’t know what to say!”) He left, even more bamboozled. I felt really badly for him, so I am writing this.
If you have a kid, you might want daycare some time (childcare, preschool, PreK). If so, you might want to go visit some local places. Instead of going through the phone book, or asking your friends, you might want to start by talking to childcare Resource and Referral for your area (Google that, and you will get something.) Resource and Referral will tell you: what programs there are in your area, who is half day and who is full day, who has 24 hour care, if you need that, what ages they take, what kind of licensing they have, who they are affiliated with, who is bilingual, who takes state subsidies, who is Montessori, Reggio, Waldorf, and, very importantly, who has openings. This will save you a lot of time and hassle.
In some places, you need to get on a waiting list when you are pregnant/waiting for adoption. Really. My program is generally full the spring before the school year starts (March). So it is good to explore this earlier than you would think. Baby/toddler care is harder to get than care for older children, so consider that as well.
When you get your list, you can contact schools/daycares/programs to go observe. If they won’t let you observe, run away. Ask what the criteria are for observation; many will not want you to bring your (mobile) child. It is much harder to observe if you are watching your child, in any case. You can arrange a separate visit with your child, if you want to pursue enrollment.
The next part is my opinion. Many people seem to think that it is important that their child “like” (help pick out) the program. I understand this, as you would think that your child liking the program would make his/her adjustment easier. However, unless your child is over 6, I would say their input, in the decision stage, is not very helpful. Remember how they are about which bowl to have their cereal in, or which side of the car their car seat is on- is that rational? What if they are having “princess day” or “Star Wars” day at the day care that you think is horrible. Too late! My advice is to vet every part of the program that you care about, then announce it to your child(ren). If you feel good about it, your child will come to, as well. Follow up with the director by email or phone or both. They are busy, and sometimes they space something out. Ask to be on a waiting list if you are willing to/can. An opening may appear the next day!
If you have an emergency situation, go to Resource and Referral. If they cannot help you, you may need to join a local mommy/parent internet or Facebook group to find someone who could keep your child, maybe short term, in their home while you wait for an opening. If you have a University/College near you, maybe the Student Employment program can help you out. Maybe the local OB/GYN office or midwifery office will have some information.
P.S. Since I wrote this, I discovered Indeed (http://www.indeed.com/hire). It is a free site for hiring qualified folks. I did a search when I first heard about it and found about 3 local folks to whom I would love to talk (had Montessori experience, had cool references.)