The first barrier many adoptive parents face in finding childcare can happen before the child is even born. In many areas of the country, good childcare centers have a waiting list, with parents-to-be signing up for a spot for their child before they are even born. If you are adopting, it can be hard to snag a spot if you can’t say when the child will be arriving. The first step in these situations is to identify which childcare centers are your top choices. Visit the centers and explain to them that you are waiting for an adoption opportunity and are not sure when the child will be born. Some centers, if they are familiar with adoption and are adoption-friendly, will allow you to put down a deposit to get on their waiting list. The question then—once your child is born, and you know when you are returning to work and when the child will need to start—will be whether or not they’ll be able to make a spot for you. You might have to put deposits down at several places to hedge your bets in this circumstance, though occasionally a childcare provider who is particularly adoption-friendly will say not to worry about it, that when your child arrives and it is time for him or her to start, they will find a way to make it work.
If you are thinking of having a nanny or someone who comes to your home, if possible, interview them and make your selection before your child is born. You might want to wait until you are matched or until you are close to the child’s due date, but it is also very possible you could get a “stork drop” situation (I did!) where you are “matched” after the child is already born. Talk to your candidates and see what kind of experience they have in terms of working with diverse families, particularly if you are adopting transracially. Get references and background checks. Make sure they know all the possible variables that will go into caring for your child. Will you need them to also care for pets? Would you like them to do the baby’s laundry? Do light housekeeping or meal prep? For example, prior to our daughter attending preschool, we had some wonderful part-time caregivers who came to our home (we have four geriatric pets), so we had to find people who were pet-lovers and who would be okay with having to let our dogs out multiple times a day.
Make sure you are clear in your expectations and also understand that it is possible that your first choice might not be able to wait for you and might have to take another job before you are ready to fully hire them. Much like with childcare centers, in this situation you may want to have a few “backups” that would be acceptable but maybe aren’t your top choice. If possible, you can utilize one of the 2nd or 3rd choice caregivers until your first choice is able to give proper notice to their current employer—which may mean you need to offer them a rate higher than what they are currently receiving. Also, look into nanny shares. If there are a number of parents with young children in your neighborhood, workplace, church, or friend-group, consider pooling your resources and doing a nanny share. This way, if you are unsure of when your child will be arriving and when you are returning to work, you would still know that the other parents and the nanny have agreed to make your child part of the plan as soon as he or she arrives.
If you are already parenting and considering returning to work and looking for childcare—in addition to the concerns of cost, a convenient location, and the other logistic variables—consider talking to other adoptive parents in your area and see who they have used for childcare. While a very small childcare center or in-home daycare might seem like an appealing choice, will your child be the only adopted child there? The only child of color there? Are the caregivers and teachers diverse? If so, you might want to consider in-home care or a larger childcare center with more diversity. Of course, you’re under no obligation to disclose to your childcare provider how your child came to be a part of your family. Those of us who adopted transracially don’t necessarily have that option. The cat was out of the bag, so to speak, as soon as my husband and I walked into our daughter’s preschool, and it was obvious that she was black, and we were both very, very white. However, we chose a very diverse preschool for that reason. The preschools in our area that many of our friends’ children attend were not an option for us because of their religious affiliation being different from ours. Additionally, our daughter would have been either the only or one of very few children of color in attendance. At her current preschool, there are children of all races and a variety of family structures: single parents, children who live with grandparents, children who are biracial, children who have stepparents and half-siblings, children of LGBT parents. I’m not sure if we are the only transracial adoptive family at her preschool, but since there is so much diversity in general in terms of both the races of children who attend the school as well as the makeup of the parents of kids, no one batted an eye.
First and foremost, you need to find childcare that works for you economically, with caregivers who you trust and who are a good fit for your family’s needs. However, it is also important that you find a childcare provider who has a positive opinion of adoption and understands that however your child came to you, you love him or her just as much as all the other parents who send their children there. Talk to your potential caregiver about adoption in general. Do they have a positive opinion about adoption? Do they use adoption-friendly language? Remember, these people will be caring for your child for a good portion of the day. If they think negatively about adoption or say negative things about birth parents, who knows what they will say around your child. I have a friend who was adopting and met with a childcare center director who asked her “Why she didn’t want to have children of her own” and told her she would “pray for her to conceive her own child.” As you can guess, she ran out of that place lightning-fast and never went back. Some people still have the incorrect and antiquated notion that adopted children are all “disturbed” in some way. Would you want to have someone who thinks that way caring for your child? That’s a hard pass for me! Talk to other adoptive parents, look up reviews online, and make sure your game plan includes some backup options. It may take some time, a lot of Googling, and more than a few interviews or visits, but once you find the right fit for your family, you will be glad you put in the extra effort.