"These days, many parents are so intent on getting high-quality care for their kids, that they are signing up at popular child-care centers at the moment they know they are expecting a baby—or before. Some child-care centers don't even offer applications, but merely hand parents a wait-list form. That means some kids spend the first two years of their lives on a day-care wait list.
"With more women than ever in the work force, many of the country's roughly 11,000 nationally accredited child-care centers are full to capacity. The rules governing wait lists are roughly the same for all of them: Slots are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Infant care usually has the longest wait lists. Siblings of children who are already enrolled typically get first dibs on openings, to keep families together.
"Even so, the decision-making process behind filling these coveted slots is complex.
"Directors must match up age groupings so classmates' napping and eating routines are similar. And they must coordinate children's admission to match the unpredictable "graduation" dates of older children.
"To secure a slot, directors advise wait-listing your child at least a year or more before you expect to need care. Jessica Cavens put her baby-to-be on a child-care wait list last August, as soon as she got the results of her home-pregnancy test. The child-care center director got the good news even before the baby's grandparents. Now, one year later, Ms. Cavens's baby, Peyton, has been promised a coveted slot in August in the infant-care room at Primrose School at Stapleton, Colo."Some child-care centers allow parents to wait-list children not yet conceived. At centers franchised by Goddard Systems Inc., with 362 schools in 37 states, directors generally accept a wait-list entry before conception as long as parents pay a refundable deposit, usually of about $200, says Joseph Schumacher, chief executive of the King of Prussia, Pa., company.
"Other directors accept wait-list entries with no questions asked. "I can't do a pregnancy test," says Vallerie Tribble, director of Innovation Station Child Development Center, Alexandria, Va., owned by Bright Horizons Family Solutions, Watertown, Mass.
"Alyssa Soper, director of Bright Horizons at the Prudential Center in Boston, where wait lists are about a year long, says she gets wait-list requests from families who say "they're trying or thinking about" having a baby.
"It pays to enroll all your kids at the same center. Even signing up an older sibling for after-school care or summer camp at your target center may be enough to earn his or her younger sib a slot."
HT: Benjamin Kay at UCSD