Finding child care shouldn't be this difficult.
Emily McManamy says she’s always been a planner, so when she and her husband decided to start their family, they immediately began searching for child care. They were prepared for the financial hit that child care would pose, and for Emily, it was worth it: “It was a tough number to swallow, but then you remember the care that they're providing... These kids are learning, and growing, and developing in their classrooms. And then you add on the fact that they're cleaning, and bathing, and feeding my child, changing their diapers? Pay them all the money.”
The Starksboro couple was caught off-guard, though, by the sheer difficulty of finding a child care spot to begin with. They began researching sites in her first trimester of pregnancy, and were immediately struck by how tight the market was. Emily found her first red flag on center websites: “I think we started seeing the word wait list on all of the websites, and that was probably our biggest clue. We were like, wait list? I haven't seen that since I was applying for college.”
They continued on, eventually placing themselves on six different waiting lists (at $30-$50 each) and hoping to get any placement for the son they would soon have. Arlo was born in March, and his parents still had no clue who would care for their son when their respective parental leaves came to an end. She laments that she and her husband spent some of Arlo’s earliest days dealing with the frustration and anxiety of their child care challenge. They looked at every angle, but no solution seemed viable: “[Home providers] were wait listed. We did interview nannies, which would've been twice as much… We looked into nanny shares with friends. But, that's tough, trying to get a group of adults and kids all on the same schedule with different careers, jobs, hours, requirements. That didn't work.”
As luck would have it, just two weeks before Emily was due back at work in Waterbury, she heard of a new center opening in Ferrisburgh, and immediately enrolled Arlo. Other than an annual email asking if they wanted to stay on the waiting list, they never heard back about availability in any of the other locations they had applied to.
In the end, Emily regrets that they didn’t have more choice in the matter, but she feels that their current child care home is a wonderful source of support for the whole family: “I think the three of us individually, whether it's at [child] care or at our jobs, are enriched in those environments and as a family we're stronger, because the variety, and the education, and the planning… [T]he resources that those teachers throw together every day exhausts me.”