It’s no easy task finding the right childcare fit for your family’s unique needs. We’re here to make that just a bit easier for the families of Champaign, Urbana and beyond.
Finding the right childcare for your family can be a daunting task. There are so many scenarios in which you might find yourself needing childcare. From traditional daycare (center-based or in-home) to drop-in care to parent’s night out to in-home babysitters to after-school care, we have information for all kinds of childcare needs for the families of Champaign-Urbana.
Finding a childcare center in Champaign-Urbana
Everyone wants “the best” childcare for their family. But the truth is, there is no “best” one-size-fits-all childcare solution for every family. That’s why it’s important to do your research, network with other families, and ask a lot of questions of any childcare center you might consider. Finding “the right one” for you and yours is a better way to look at it than finding “the best.”
Most traditional center-based caregivers in the Champaign-Urbana area operate on a five-day-per-week schedule, with hours generally 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. A newer option in the community is Lodgic Kids Camp, which offers childcare in the evenings and on Saturdays.
Most childcare centers will offer tours for prospective families while allowing them to observe the classrooms; meet/interview staff; and ask a lot of questions. How to know which ones to call? If you’re new to the community, ask your colleagues at work; your neighbors; and anyone involved in a faith community. If you’re new to being a parent in the community, rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends, but always check out the options and do your research.
Tips for finding a home daycare
We get a lot of questions about how to find a home daycare in the Champaign-Urbana area. We understand why — it’s a big decision for parents to make with many variables to consider.
If you are new to town or don’t have any recommendations from family or friends, your first call should be to the Child Care Resource Service at the University of Illinois. CCRS helps families every day find the best daycare match for their children in the area. CCRS manages a database that includes hundreds of home daycares in Champaign, Douglas, Iroquois, Macon, Piatt and Vermilion counties.
Dottie Squire, a team manager at CCRS, shared with us some important questions to ask when looking for a home daycare in the Champaign-Urbana area and beyond. While this list doesn’t include every question parents should ask, it’s a good start when considering home daycare options.
- How long has the business been providing care?
- Does the provider have any education (not necessarily in childcare) or taken child care classes?
- What kind of activities do the children do throughout the day?
- Are there books visible and accessible to children?
- How clean is the house? (Clutter doesn’t mean it’s dirty.)
- What is the layout of the home? Does it have a separate space for diapering, sleeping, etc.?
- What is the outdoor space like?
- What is the number of children? How many young children are there? (Typically, licensed daycares can only have five children under 5 years old and out of those five, only three can be under 2 years old.)
- What do food and meals look like? Is there a menu posted?
- Who are their references? Always check with them.
Finding backup childcare
In spite of your best-laid plans, every working parent knows all too well how stressful the inevitable scramble to find backup childcare can be. Sometimes it is a sick child, bad weather, or simply a last minute change in schedule that you find yourself navigating.
Knowing how important it is for you to have not just one backup plan, but several layers of backup, we’ve put together eight tips for finding backup childcare in Champaign-Urbana. These tips can be used for Champaign-Urbana parents but are really universal. In all these suggestions, the goal is keeping kids safe, so you will want to do some due diligence first, no matter the option.
On to our eight tips:
- Share some of the childcare burden with friends. It takes a village, right? Find another school or daycare parent you trust to share the burden. Perhaps you can work in the morning, while s/he takes over in the afternoon. Or if it looks like more than one day will be out, trade days.
- Network with friends and neighbors who are home during the day. Whether they are staying home with kids or working from home, discuss with your friends or neighbors if they would be available to take in your children for the day. In return, you could offer childcare for his/her children at a later date (or bake lots of brownies). There may be other ways to barter.
- Look into drop-in care at a local childcare center. That’s where Champaign’s Lodgic Kids Camp can fill a gap, as a pay-by-the-hour option that is fully licensed and cares for children from age 1 to 12. Be prepared by heading to Lodgic and filling out the registration paperwork and providing any info needed about your child, so all you need to do is show up. Other centers may provide this as an option for school-age children; pre-registration requirements are common at most centers, so regardless of what local childcare center you choose, call them and ask how they address drop-in care – and if there’s any paperwork you might need to file in advance.
- Check out home daycare options in your area. Find a suitable home daycare in your neighborhood that might be willing to take in extra kids. Especially in the case of snow, not everyone is able to travel as far, so the home daycare may have capacity. Negotiate a rate in advance so you’re not surprised.
- Seek out an older child (high schooler preferably) who also is out of school. Perhaps there is a reliable high schooler in your neighborhood who has babysitting training and/or experience. Ideally, you would try out this sitter before the event of a snow day. As one person wrote, “their parents would be grateful for them to have somewhere to be …” Again, prepare for this kind of arrangement.
- Check with your employer about your options and childcare benefits. If it’s an option for your role, make sure to have the conversation with your employer well in advance about their policies for working from home. Though not common, more and more employers are now offering backup childcare resources for their employees. This includes major employers such as Starbucks, Best Buy and Target.
- Don’t dismiss retired folk. Perhaps you know of a neighbor or member of your faith community who is retired but interested in taking care of children on a drop-in basis, or would be willing to come to your home. Be up front about arranging a payment or compensation plan.
- Find a backup sitter who is in college; University of Illinois or Parkland students can be an invaluable resource. We have a plethora of backup sitters in our midst with flexible weekday schedules: University of Illinois or Parkland students.
You may also secure backup childcare utilizing local resource Nannyville, LLC. They can help you find a nanny or sitter to fit your family’s needs. The Champaign-Urbana Childcare Connection group on Facebook is a platform supported by Nannyville, LLC that connects local families in need of childcare with willing childcare providers in the Champaign-Urbana community.
There are a number of reasons you may be looking for after-school care for your child and, in Champaign-Urbana, we have an extensive list of options. While many schools have their own aftercare options and many families find this to be the best fit for their children, a variety of other options exist throughout the community.
- No matter where you go — whether to a public or private establishment — you’ll pay extra for this service.
- You may be able to choose certain days of the week on which your kids will participate, and pay less accordingly.
- Some programs also offer before-school care, also for an extra fee.
- All programs should offer not only supervision, but enrichment activities as well.
- All programs have strict on-time pick up policies.
Looking for after-school childcare in a home daycare setting? The Child Care Resource Service at the University of Illinois offers a database the public can search to locate home daycare options in the area (you will need to create an account to do this). Getting your child to the after-care location is the biggest challenge with this option.
Several local daycares offer after-school care for elementary schools with the benefit of bus service to pick your children up from school and bring them to the center. Centers pick up at different schools, so your child’s may not be on any given place’s route, but your child’s school bus may drop off at the center. Some of the schools we know of that offer this currently, or have offered this in the past are The Caring Place, Chesterbrook Academy (both locations), KinderCare, La Petite Academy, Little Hearts and Hands and Next Generation.
Are you looking for information on finding a babysitter?
We have info on how to find a babysitter (and how much the “going rate” is around Champaign-Urbana, too) in this post.