I've been a part-time working mom ever since I became a mom, but as I've moved around to different jobs (sometimes by choice, sometimes by budget cuts), I've had several different combinations of work and home life. I've had my kids in an unlicensed in-home daycare. I've had a part-time nanny. I've worked opposite shifts from B and not used daycare except for babysitters for occasional meetings. I've worked three days per week and used a daycare center. The last two are the arrangements I've had since we became foster parents. So, as a foster parent, I went from one parent almost always being with the foster child, to using daycare on a regular basis. My new position started quite recently, so we are still settling into this arrangement.
How do you choose a daycare when you have a combination of biological and foster children? The decision-making started in the spring when I was deciding on this new position that would start in the fall. Rhinoceros is not old enough to start kindergarten yet, so he would need daycare, as well as whoever our foster child would be by the fall. I looked into our state's daycare reimbursement for foster parents and decided I would try for a center if I could find a good fit, as they have a higher reimbursement rate. I contacted a daycare center I had checked out before I had kids. Yeah, they've got a very long waiting list for infants, and in the spring, I didn't know if I would have an infant or a toddler. I found the same elsewhere, or sky-high tuition that I can't manage with my income in my field. Finally I found a nearby daycare center that was not at capacity for infants and toddlers, visited, and liked what I saw. Of course, they could not guarantee that they would have an open spot in the fall, but I registered Rhinoceros and hoped for the best.
Then my future position suddenly had funding to start sooner, in July. So, I added the cost of part-time school-age child care for Dinosaur, and continued to hope that when we got a placement call, they would have space for that specific child. Crocodile arrived, and rejoice, I found out they did have room for him.
That first week, I also put in my application for daycare reimbursement. And waited. And paid for daycare in the meantime. Over one month later, I got a voicemail for my "interview" with the department that processes the applications. So, hopefully soon I'll be reimbursed for some of the cost of Crocodile's daycare. It is definitely just some of the cost. The state has a rate they will reimburse per hour, but I'm paying for three full days of daycare, even though I'm not paid for quite that many hours. And a daycare center's rates are often above what the state reimburses. But every little bit helps, and I'm grateful to live in a state where it's possible.
I am also a little nervous about daycare centers as I have heard stories of foster parents having their kids kicked out due to behavior issues. I know one that prefers in-home daycare for this reason despite the lower reimbursement rate. So far, Crocodile has had no issues at daycare besides throwing toys happily. He does have a hard time when I drop him off, and it breaks my heart every time. He has one of the saddest little cries I've ever known. It's not just daycare, it's also when I leave the house without him and he's home with B, church nursery, or the babysitter we've had once so far. I want to spare him all of that and just be there for him every waking hour, knowing he has enough to deal with. But I also need to take care of myself and our family so we can be good foster parents. It's hard.
So, that's our daycare story so far. I know states and locations differ, but I wanted to share what our logistics and experiences were like. All a part of the little stuff that adds up to make daily life as foster parents.