Daycare waiting lists force parents to craft action plans early

August 24, 2009

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My kids are both in school, or at least they’ll be back in school in 13 days (but who’s counting!!!!), but that doesn’t mean my daycare worries have ended.

Every parent in British Columbia knows about daycare waiting lists. Those of us who work, either by choice or necessity, have to have some kind of child care, and while family care or nanny care is an option for some, it never was much of one for me. I had some part-time nanny help when my boys were under 18 months, but from that point on, both my kids were in group daycare.

I was lucky. Someone told me to get on waiting lists when my oldest was just under six months. I thought I was being pro-active, getting on lists a full year before I needed care. What a joke. I was back of the line for every daycare I checked out, and a couple months before I really needed a place, was looking at not having one at all anywhere. But then one centre, a good 15 minute drive from home but still close enough, said they’ll have a space for us. Seems with my son being born in April, we lucked out with the back-to-school thing. You might not thing back-to-school matters when you’re talking year-round care, but when five year olds leave their centre to go to kindergarten, it opens up spaces for the 3 year old to move up from toddler care, which opens up spots in the toddler centre. So we were lucky that we needed the spot in September or October. And weeks before he was due to start at the only centre that offered us a spot, we got offered another spot in a centre closer to home. So we got in, and the second kid got in automatically on the sibling policy.

Of course, once the older one was due to start kindergarten, and I’d sorted out the lottery for french immersion (that’s a whole other blog post!), I then needed kindercare (to cover the rest of the workday that the 2 1/2 hours of classroom time doesn’t) and aftercare. This time luck had nothing to do with it. I researched centres the fall before he would start school, found out the exact date when waiting lists started, and called that very morning at 9:03 am — and still I was third on the list.

I write all this not just to spill my guts, but to remind all mommies and daddies out there that it is never too early to put your name on daycare waiting lists. I knew a woman who put her second child on waiting lists — before she was even pregnant. And remember, it’s not just large centres that have waiting lists. Local family daycares have them too.

Some of the best daycare information for the Lower Mainland can be found at WestCoast Child Care Resource Centre.