I’m a working mom and I’ve had Dominick in daycare since he was around 18 months old; I enrolled him once I thought he was old enough and was also ready to quit waiting tables and bartending at night and begin working a normal 9 to 5 job. I researched every place in a 30 mile radius and narrowed it down to two places, making my final decision by price. I was happy for the first couple months, but pulled my son out after he had been bitten multiple times by another child and after I witnessed a caregiver roughly handle a child as she changed his diaper.
The second place I enrolled him was Goddard, and I don’t have to explain how great they are. When I left Georgia to come live with my now-husband, we lucked out in having a daycare right next door. They were fine at first, but Dominick received injuries that were too easily prevented and I felt he was no longer safe; he was cut in the head with scissors, had his hand slammed in a door, and sliced his leg open on a staple jutting out of the carpet. I quickly moved him to a facility right across the street from my former job, where he remained until December 9, 2011.
Initially, the care center across from my building was great. Dominick was happy with the staff and got along with the children. Unfortunately, the turnover rate was quite high and with every new caregiver, there came new problems. My boy doesn’t do well with change and tended to act out when a new person was put in charge of the room he was in. At one point, the director of the center advised me to have my son evaluated for learning disabilities. I had actually done just this when my son turned two years old due to his tantrums and was told after numerous sessions that he is highly intelligent and simply going through a phase. I humored her a bit and gave them a call, only to be told that my son didn’t seem to qualify as someone they would need to screen. I reported that back to the director and that was that.
For some reason, the director, AKA Dragon Lady, decided my husband was “the guy who picks Dominick up” rather than “dad” or some other acceptable name. She developed a hateful; attitude towards my husband and I, a glare plastered on her face every time we’d walk through the door. One of her own employees informed me that she was verbally abusive to the employees and many had quit because they grew tired of her insults and tirades. Still, my boy loved his friends and his current caregiver, so I was reluctant to pull him out just because I didn’t care for the Dragon Lady. She encouraged note writing when my son acted up, which is odd because it specifically says on her website that they discourage note writing and prefer to speak directly to parents regarding any issues or concerns. It got to a point to where we’d get a nasty note so often, we became somewhat immune to them and whatever effect they were meant to have. The bad behavior he engaged in at daycare (spitting, throwing things, etc) wasn’t anything we ever witnessed at home or at any other place where he was under our care, or the care of my mother-in-law, so we were at a loss as to what we could do to help.
One morning before school, Dominick was playing around by the couch, tripped, and hit his head on the corner where a piece of wood was mostly exposed, not having any cushioning in front of it. He didn’t cry or have a visible mark on him by the time we dropped him off, so I thought he was fine. Until I got a phone call.
I was at work and unable to answer my cell phone, but I didn’t recognize the number so would have let it go to voicemail anyway. During lunch, I checked the message and was shocked to hear a voice from the Department of Child Services asking me to give her a call. When I got a hold of her, she informed me that the Dragon Lady had reported that my son claimed to have been struck in the head with a hammer by my husband. Of course, I gave her permission to go to the daycare to check my son out and after a visit there and a visit with my husband, son and I, it was obvious to her that it was a false claim and we were done with it. The relief of our ridiculous case getting quickly closed didn’t eliminate the awful feeling in the pit of my stomach put there by Dragon Lady. The mark on my son’s head clearly didn’t look like anything that could come from a hammer (a small thin pink line, almost looking like a scratch, with no bruising) and the worst injuries I’ve seen on him have occurred under their watch, not mine. The fact that Dragon Lady was so quick to call Child Services on me rather than attempt to talk to me or my husband felt like a total betrayal and a vindictive move. Upon speaking to an employee, I learned that this was not the first time Dragon Lady had called in a false claim.
I should have pulled Dominick out then and there, never looking back, but he loved his friends and one teacher and truly didn’t want to leave. He would also be starting kindergarten soon and I was reluctant to change too many things in his life all at once. His favorite caregiver secured a better job and left, which broke his heart. Three others came and went before he was given a caregiver who was barely an adult and seemed incapable of speaking; he never said one word to either myself or my husband. It was around this time that a bully began harassing Dominick, mostly physically. No one helped and the only child punished was my son once he tired of being pushed and poked and lashed out himself. One day, Bully got in my child’s face and wouldn’t move, and my son threw a chair in frustration. The same thing happened the next day, only this time Dominick ripped a decoration off the wall. Dragon Lady decided to teach him a lesson by throwing his jacket and backpack in the trash can. It took all my willpower and self control to not bust through the doors and rip her a new one. Instead, I challenged that frustration into productivity and visited a new care center.
In the short time my husband and I have had Dominick in the new place, we’ve seen nothing but positivity, care, and pride in the tough job of caring for children. Their director welcomed me with open arms, telling me that she could start my son immediately in order to get him out of the previous place as soon as possible. Nearly every caregiver has their bachelors degree in child care; two have their associates and one has worked in the field for so long that she was grandfathered in and is certified. They all go to training on a monthly basis. Their door is locked until someone buzzes you in. The staff is organized and are experts at keeping kids on track, as well as incorporating activities into their day that coincide with the curriculum at their school. It has been so nice to pick up Dominick and not walk into a room full of screaming children who are being watched by someone with a glassy look on their face. My son is beside himself, he’s so happy. I’m still kicking myself a bit for not moving him sooner, but I’m glad that he’s finally somewhere wonderful and I can relax a bit and not worry my head off while I’m at work.
Being a working parent is hard on the heart. Ideally, I would be able to be home when my son is at home and only work while he’s in elementary school and beyond. Ideally, I would also have enough cash in the bank to support myself while out of work until my son is at school full-time, then be lucky enough to score a job that has hours coinciding with school hours. Realistically, I’m happy as hell to have the job I have now and get paid what I do and not have to struggle or worry about how to pay bills or provide for my family. My husband would love to work from home on his writing and other projects, but until that picks up, he is stuck here with me and Dominick simply has to be in daycare for part of his day. It’s sad that working parents not only have to endure the stress of managing a job plus raising a child or children, but also need to worry endlessly about the people they have tasked to care for their kids in their absence. It saddens me that some families must settle for sub par care because they can’t afford a place like Goddard, which I could barely scrape money together for. It’s horrible that even the best daycare has that one person (or more if you’re unlucky) that seems to have stepped into the wrong field and doesn’t seem to enjoy being around kids at all.
Childcare services are imperfect regardless of where you go and my heart goes out to everyone who has had to struggle with finding a place where their child can be happy. I wish everyone the best of luck and would love to hear any suggestions or ideas anyone out there has on choosing the right care center for their child.