Like most parents, I want what is best for my child. One of those things is daycare. The benefits of daycare are well-worth the cost, which include developing social, emotional, and academic skills, providing supervised physical activity, and taking some of that responsibility off of a parent’s plate. But it can be a struggle to afford daycare, especially if you are a single parent, one-income household, or have multiple children. According to Michelle McCready of Child Care Aware America, a childcare advocacy group, “it’s the highest single household expense in most regions of the country.”
As I added up the numbers, I realized that three days of daycare a week for my son would cost me as much as a month’s rent. Some daycares cost even more. I became very discouraged that I couldn’t give my son the daycare and education I knew he would benefit from because I wasn’t making enough money. As my search continued, I discovered a program called Head Start.
According to their website, “Head Start promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families through agencies in their local community.” There are two programs: Early Head Start serves infants, toddlers, and pregnant women; Head Start primarily serves three and four year olds. Together, these affordable programs support a child’s development from birth through age five, addressing mental, social, and emotional development.
You can learn more about these programs on their website, including locations, how to apply, and how much funding the state provides for the programs. Having gone through the application process, from initial research to acceptance, I can offer some tips to help you pick a program that fits your and your child’s needs.
Take the time to research everything you can about the program you wish to enroll your child in. I found Yelp quite useful. The reviews are honest and most are directly from the parents.
Update your child’s information
Make sure your child’s doctor appointments are up-to-date, including their shots, dental visits, and anything else.
Plan a visit
Most Head Start programs will allow you to bring your son or daughter to sit in for a half day at the facility. This is a great opportunity to check out how the place is run, how the children act and most importantly, to see if it’s a good fit for your child. Observe and ask as many questions as you need to in order to make the right decision.
Timing + Pricing
Once you select a program, there may be a waiting period, but it might be quicker than you expect. I called a few facilities and was told I could bring my son the following week. The Head Start directors will ask you a variety of questions, including your living situation and monthly income, to help give you the best monthly fee they can. In my opinion, it is extremely affordable compared to a daycare and worth looking into.
Are you already using the Head Start program? Tell me about your experiences in the comments below.