Childcare 101 Advice: Childcare centers demystified

Written by: Jay Annadurai

Childcare 101: The real scoop on childcare centers

Maternity leave almost over. New work clothes (for my slightly larger size!) hanging in the closet. To-do list of back to work tasks ready to go. Childcare for my 2 month old- wait, WHAT!?

To be honest, looking for childcare for my son was almost enough to make me completely re-consider this whole going back to work thing. Thankfully, with great advice from friends and a few terrific recommendations from the NPN Discussion Board, I figured things out.

After my own stress-filled search for childcare, I could definitely relate with the more than 60 parents-to-be who came to our Expectant Parents Childcare 101 seminar to get the scoop on childcare options right from the experts.

Child care centers were a hot topic of conversation- how do you find the right center, what does tuition run, are there part-time options available, what’s the deal with waiting lists, and on and on…Luckily, we had JoAnne Wales, Center Director at Bright Horizons Children’s Centers in downtown Chicago, to set us straight on the do’s and don’ts of finding a great child care center.

You know you need child care…now what?

  • Find possible centers close to your work or home. Search the internet, rely on word of mouth or speak to your employer/co-workers.  Visit or two great resources that list childcare centers by city with contact info and directions.  Check out the discussion boards at NPN  for recommendations right from other parents.
  • Learn more about each center. Get busy! Set up appointments to visit each center. Ask the right questions- adult to child ratios, group size, caregiver qualifications, staff turnover, accreditation, illness policy, the enrollment process, holidays, vacation/sick time, security and curriculum.  
  • Plan ahead!Many childcare centers will have wait lists of up to 1 year- so start early.  The center director can lead you through the registration and enrollment process.

So, how much is this going to cost me!?

  • Most childcare centers bill weekly or monthly.  Costs vary depending on where you live, the age of your child, and whether you need traditional hours, flexible hours or part-time options.  Additional costs may include meals, diapers, enrichment programs, and field trips. 
  • In most childcare centers, you will have to pay the tuition regardless of vacation, sick or holiday times. 
  • Not all child centers are not operated the same way- prices may vary greatly!
  • The normal range for care at a Bright Horizons center is between $1,500 and $2,000 per month.

Why choose a childcare center instead of another type of childcare?

  • Key advantages of choosing a child care center- formal, structured environments and curriculum, regularly inspected facilities and closely supervised caregivers, usually more than one caregiver per classroom and a director overseeing the entire program. 
  • Childcare centers offer clear cut policies and procedures.  They are equipped to handle medical situations and other emergency situations.  
  • Staff members at child centers are usually trained in early childhood education- they know what to expect from your child developmentally and can nurture your child’s growing skills accordingly.  Childcare center directors complete fingerprinting and background checks, written and phone references on caregivers.  Transcripts are evaluated and health examinations are required.  The center’s licensing representative and local health departments also review the employee records during their visits.

Above all- don’t panic!

I’m not going to lie- finding the right childcare for your family is a HUGE decision! But don’t worry- there are tons of great options in the city, from day care centers to nannies to au pairs to babysitting coops. With the right research, you’ll be sure to find the right fit for your family.

Questions or want more info: contact us at Jay@npnparents.organd save the date for our next Childcare 101 panel- Thurs. May 5th evening- details coming soon.


Special thanks to Bright Horizon’s Family Solutions and JoAnn Wales, Center Director.

Bright Horizons Family Solutions is the world's leading provider of employer-sponsored childcare, early education and work/life solutions with a depth of resources unparalleled in the field. In Illinois, they operate 30 child care and early education centers, some sponsored by leading employers such as Northwestern, Northern Trust and Cook County/City of Chicago.  They are presently enrolling at their centers.  You may locate the center closest to your work or home by visiting www.brighthorizons.comor by calling 877-624-4532.

They offer full time, part time, and back up care options and the cost of tuition is based on the age of a child and the type of schedule that is needed.  The early education centers are open year round other than major holidays so there are no concerns about availability of child care to accommodate most schedules.

 They provide unparalleled training and professional advancement opportunities for faculty members. They also offer a compensation and benefits package that exceeds the national average. Bright Horizons Family Solutions provides each employee with the opportunity to actively participate in a caring and diverse culture where they can feel proud of what they do each day for the children and families they serve. They are proud to have been honored by Fortune magazine as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work for in America.”  Bright Horizons is also the only company in the industry to have been recognized by Working Mother magazine as one of the “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers” — a distinction enjoyed four years in a row.  

Posted on March 08, 2011 at 7:21 PM