Finding the right daycare or preschool is tough business. First, you want to find a good preschool or daycare so you can finally enjoy some time to yourself, whether that means working to pay the bills or simply enjoying a couple hours of self-care. But the process itself is anything but pleasant: You need to find a place that you’re comfortable with; A place that’s clean and organized, where the people running it are awesome with kids and generally have their sh*t together; A school whose teachers you can trust, who have fun activities planned, and whom your kids will grow to love (and who will grow to love your kids). And then of course you have to struggle with the guilt of having placed your baby in daycare or preschool. There's really nothing simple about the process of finding the perfect preschool, or transitioning your kid into going there.
And it’s so great when you finally find the right place for your child. But what happens when things go wrong? What happens when your kid ends up being the kid with the verbally or even physically abusive care takers? Or when your child is neglected? Sadly, many of us have encountered facilities that fail to meet our standards, ranging from merely subpar to outright unacceptable, during our long search for the right place. Many others of us mistakenly trusted the wrong people only to find our children traumatized for days, weeks, or even years.
I recently had to pull my own son out of his new preschool after just a few days when I realized how much he was hating it there. The red flags began to go up when I saw how overwhelmed the teacher seemed, and then moreso when I witness a child rolling on the floor crying and screaming and being completely ignored. The final straw was when my son came home with a scrape and bruises and no teacher bothered to inform me of how it even happened. Nope! Sorry. Bye. If you’re in the process of finding the right preschool for your child, here are some cautionary tales you might want to read so you know what to watch out for:
Ani has 3 kids, all of whom she waited to place in school until they were verbal enough to inform her of what was going on while there. She was lucky enough to have worked in some and have friends with children in others that could vouch for the programs, but did have one bad experience:
My child with allergies was exposed to an allergen in an after school program and we immediately removed her from the program as it was run by different caregivers who did not meet my standards. I perceived this as negligence.
Christina started her daughter in preschool at age 2. She was in one preschool at first which she loved but had to switch. Then she had to enroll her in her current preschool, which she does not like. When asked what kind of red flags she saw there, she says, “The dolls had no clothes. The play areas were falling over a bit. There were giant flashlights (like you might use in an emergency), open with wires out.”
Many years ago, I put my daughter in daycare when she was only a few months old so that I could work and add income to the house. Frequently when I picked her up, her diaper was soaked through because they rarely changed her. Then one day they told me they fed her a heavy platain-based soup and she got extremely ill; fevers and diarrhea for days. I never took her back there.
Katie visited 2 facilities before choosing a place for her 2-year-old. She was mainly searching for a place that focused more on play and less on academics, and chose one that was also very diverse. She says apathy among the teachers would be her biggest deal breaker.
The [school] we didn’t go with, you had to get buzzed in. I know that kind of security is reassuring to some, but I don’t like it. The school we enrolled at has a completely unlocked door.
Rachel has visited many centers in her search for the perfect place for when her little one is born. She’s looking for an affordable and clean place, mostly, though she mentions a facility that is too cold would also be a deal breaker.
I visited one in-home daycare where the husband was majoring in Geology and they had a half a dozen glass cabinets with precious stones. That would’ve been fine if the cabinets were secured to the wall, but they were not.
"I’ve been to two places so far that didn’t have proper security. One place, I parked in front and walked right in. I could have been anybody. The second place had the front locked and no one came when I rang the doorbell several times. A girl [who] was going to pick up her sibling saw me and escorted me around back. We walked right into the playground (no locks) and up to the door, which also was not locked, while the kids were sitting right by the door for circle time. I left immediately because it didn’t feel like a safe place to leave my toddler."
Vivian visited four different facilities before choosing a daycare for her 8-week-old baby.
My child was changed into costumes for portraits I did not consent to (although I had signed a photo release form when she enrolled). They often mixed up my child’s feeding schedule, as well. One time, an employee told me they don’t sterilized the tethers they use.
And as if that weren’t enough, she had more to add:
One day, I arrived and my child was asleep with her head hanging forward in a swing and a bar of garbage behind her because they had started cleaning the room. State guidelines state children must sleep in cribs.”
She also said she once her a teacher raise her voice at an infant saying, "Give me that, that’s mine, not yours!" and also witness an employee prop an infant bottle with a blanket. “Ultimately, I pulled my child from daycare because I was able to stay home with her. I called and reported all the items listed above to the state regulation office."
Beth has been to five different preschools to find the right place for her 10-month-old child.
There was one tour where we brought our kids (because getting childcare to go on a tour of a childcare center is ridic, right?), and we literally got lectured by the daycare center providers about how we should have paid more attention to the information.
She also shares this:
We finally left [one] program when we came in in the morning to 17 children between 18 months and 5 years being managed by a single assistant because the lead teacher was in a conference. When we pointed out that not only was that unwise, it was illegal in our state, and that if this is what we were seeing when we were there, what might be happening when we weren't there, we got a sorry/not sorry response that told us that we had hurt their feelings by saying that their child care was substandard.
K.K. has an 18-month-old child and only visited one preschool. The worst she witness was a strong smell of diapers, as they were piled into a trash can by the front door. Her biggest complaint, though? “My child was bit twice.”
I dropped in on a preschool to check it out and see if I wanted to enroll my son. It wasn’t bad but the director did mention that a lot of the kids were having biting issues. When I asked about cameras, she said parents aren’t allowed to view them and not to worry because many cops had their children at this preschool, as if that were supposed to make me feel better. It didn’t. We went elsewhere.
Kristina visited 4 schools before placing her 6-month-old son in care. She says this about one place she visited: “The infant room was a small, dark room. The caregiver had left her cell phone on the floor and one of the babies started sucking on it. I did not enroll my son there.”
Kristina also shares this story:
At one point at my son's daycare, they had lost the lead teacher and her assistant. It took about a month for them to find a new head teacher and in the [meantime], there was a lot of instability in the classroom which lead to a lot of biting/hitting with some of the kids. Mine included.
When asked what the weirdest things she ever saw at a preschool, Kim tells me, “Children were napping in closets. They were larger closets, but...still closets. I did NOT enroll there.”
Kim has a true horror story when it comes to the preschool she’d placed her then 7-week-old daughter, though:
I found out my child (among with several in her class) were being physically threatened by the teachers — threatened with belts, locked in bathrooms during time-outs, yelled at, called names.
See? I told you it was hard to find good childcare.