Parents: How to find your best fit in daycare

(MoneyWatch) For many parents, daycare is a blessing. It can be more cost effective and reliable than a nanny, and the kids get to socialize while you work. But sometimes certain daycare policies can affect how well you're able to get that work done. Here are four crucial questions working parents should ask before signing on with a daycare:

What's your "sick kid" policy?

You need to know at what point your child will have to stay home and if you'll need "proof" that they're well (usually in the form of a doctor's note). "Not asking these questions can result in getting frequent and unforeseen calls from the center, where you undoubtedly need to leave work to pick up your child and/or shuttle them to doctors' offices,"says Selena Rezvani, author of "Pushback: How Smart Women Ask--and Stand Up for--What They Want." Rezvani writes, "This becomes increasingly difficult if the center's policy is on the sensitive side (where every child is sent home at the first sight of a sniffle), the extreme relaxed side (where very sick children frequently get others sick) or if you have multiples!" Some daycares will allow mildly sick tots (with a cold, for example) to be separated from well kids but still receive care.

What's your discipline policy?

Certainly, from a parenting standpoint, you'll want to be on board with the discipline style of the center. But from an employee perspective, you want to know how many "strikes" before your kid's out. "Even some of the most well behaved kids went through a short biting phase as toddlers, which obviously poses a threat to other children," says Rezvani. Unfortunately, if your child misbehaves he or she may be dismissed from a daycare. "The lesson here is that you should always have a #2 daycare center selected that would meet your needs and be convenient to you if your child acts out one too many times," says Rezvani.

What's your snow day policy?

Snow days may make your child happy, and they would make you happy, too, if your office had them nearly as often as most daycares and schools. A working parent will appreciate an early notification, says Rezvani. Aim to find a daycare that notifies you the night before rather than the morning of, if at all possible.

How do you handle a child who misses mom or dad?

If your child is physically ill and needs to see a doctor, you'll always get a call. But if your child is simply being clingy and crying after drop-off, you want a daycare that will work through his/her emotions rather than call you back. "Most [good] centers will take the time to distract the child or get him interested in something besides his feelings," says Rezvani.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Grant Barrett

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including, and and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit