You may be just beginning to wrap your mind around the idea that in a matter of months, you’ll be bringing a new life into your life. Having a new little someone around is sure to change your experience of life for years to come, and while this reality can be overwhelming, we are here to help you find ways to make it not as complicated as it might seem. While you’re busy nurturing your body for yourself and for the life growing inside you–making sure you are eating well and getting prenatal care–you are no doubt also looking ahead to how best to care for your baby once he or she is here. Of course, you’ll want to spend time together getting to know each other and bonding with lots of snuggles in the early weeks and beyond, but you’ll also need to find care for your baby when you can’t be available or when you have to work.
Just as a puzzle feels, well, puzzling until the pieces start to come together, finding childcare options for your baby is a matter of exploring all the pieces until they come together to create a complete picture of your life with your baby in it.
Because finding quality care can be time-consuming and because you must consider not only your needs, but also a potential caretakers’ care load and availability, it’s best to start considering childcare options before your baby is out of the womb. So, since the best time to start is now, what can you be doing to find care? We suggest four spheres to explore:
1. Ask people you know
Think about the people in your inner circle–those that you depend on for advice and support. It could be trusted family members or friends. You know who they are; they’re the people you can always count on. They care about you, and they’re going to care about the wellbeing of your baby too.
It might seem bold or awkward to ask for help, but if the relationship with those you might ask is healthy, it will withstand your request for help. You might be surprised by a family member or friend’s willingness to help. Consider trading a service you might be able to provide for them or paying them if you are earning money and able.
2. Explore your networks
A network is one level out from people you know well. This approach could mean asking your friends if they know anyone who provides child care. It could include asking people you encounter regularly where they have found childcare. Ideas to consider: the checkout person at your favorite store, your doctor, or your pharmacist. Ask moms you see at local parks where they have found quality care for their children. Consider virtual networking as well: create a social media post to ask your connections for suggestions or post on a site like Nextdoor. Many neighborhoods have people who provide childcare in their homes.
3. Consider Churches, Community Centers, and Charitable Organizations
Some religious institutions, community centers, or charities might offer daycare or childcare services at reduced costs or provide financial assistance for families in need. Your local YMCA could be worth looking into. On their site they say, “We believe that all families regardless of income should have access to systems of early care and education. We work with early childhood educators and families directly to ensure that this happens.”
So, if you live near a church or community center, consider stopping in or making a call to inquire about childcare options.
4. Use the internet to explore federal, state, and local programs
If all of the above paths don’t lead you to a full solution to the childcare puzzle, it’s likely you’ll find a piece that fits your needs through these websites:
Head Start and Early Head Start Programs: These federal programs provide early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. They offer free or low-cost childcare for eligible families. Early Head Start programs support pregnant women and families with children younger than age 3 years. To learn more, go to their website.
Ohio Department of Job Family Services has an online search system that can help you locate the type of early care that meets your needs. You also can learn more about programs’ licensing status, their Step Up To Quality rating, and inspection results. Access it here.
Independent Child Care Sites like care.com allow you to browse and search for a variety of providers to make inquiries and find a fit for your needs.
Local Child care Assistance Programs Some counties or cities have specific child care assistance programs. Check with local government offices, community centers, or social service organizations for information on available resources. Many counties have funding available for qualifying parents to receive financial assistance.
For example, according to the Child Care Assistance page for Montgomery County, in order to qualify for assistance, a “gross monthly income level must be at or below 142% of the Federal Poverty Level when they first apply. You only need to re-apply once a year, and you may continue to be eligible for subsidized child care until your income exceeds 300% of the Federal Poverty Level.” You can learn more specifics about financial assistance for childcare on your county website, such as this one for Montgomery County.
Different phases of our lives often feel like a puzzle with many pieces that have to fit together to reach a cohesive, working solution. You may need multiple childcare providers to arrive at a full picture of all the care you need. And while it may seem more comfortable to put off this important decision until after your baby is born, the truth is that you will feel better knowing you have a plan in place before your baby becomes part of the picture!