6 Dirty Secrets Your Childcare Provider Won't Tell You

In a recent post at Quara, a user asked: What are harsh realities daycare and preschool providers tend to not tell parents?

The answers from childcare providers were disturbing, to say the least. They ranged from workers dishing about kids that are complete brats when their parents are away to stories of what could only be called child neglect at daycare facilities. Some of these descriptions are simply terrifying.

Here’s what six childcare providers had to say about life at a daycare center:

1. Childcare Providers Get to See the ‘Firsts’ You Miss

One childcare worker shared about the close bonds children form with their caregivers:

  • Sometimes we are there for your child’s milestones. We see their first steps, hear their first words. Then what we do is say, “oh little Johnnie is so close to walking now, he really looked about to take a step today” and then congratulate the parent when they come in beaming the next day about how they saw Johnnie’s first step.

  • Often your child calls us “mummy.” Every time it happened it used to break my heart a little bit, but you say “I am Shelley, darling.” Sometimes when your child: spends eight/ten hours, five days a week with me; eating their main meals with my family; having their forehead stroked by me as they fall asleep in their cot and so on .. sometimes it just seems inevitable they will get confused.

  • We love your child. It is never spoken because it is not always appreciated. But, when they start with us at nine months old and we teach them all we can, from animal noises, to songs, to dressing and toilet training, to counting, to riding a trike, when they then leave at three years old because you think they need to go to preschool to learn, we miss them, we are sad that we are no longer considered enough for them. We remember your children and the bond we had. It might be nice if you gave more than three weeks notice!

2. The Apples Don’t Fall Far From the Trees

One man who owned and ran a drop-in daycare with his wife for three years wrote: 

We know how you treat your kid(s). We know what you say and how you act when you say it. We know this because we see them imitate you with other kids. When a toddler puts his hands on his hips, wags a finger in another kid’s face and says “you better straighten up or I’m’onna slap the sh** outta you…” Well, we have a pretty good feeling she didn’t learn that from My Little Pony.

Ouch. That’s going to leave a mark.

He said they can also see why children behave the way they do.

Mom comes to pick up, “come on Junior, time to go.” Then she starts chatting up the staff. A few minutes later “Junior! Let’s go! Ugh! He never listens!” And continues chatting. A few minutes later “Junior…. Time to go.” Junior (wisely) ignores mom, since mom has trained him to do that. It’s happening right in front of our face right now, mom!

For bonus points, mom gets frustrated and goes over to Junior to pick him up and carry him out. Junior runs! What a fun game! Catch me mommy! Haha! (For future reference: No. Stop. Junior come here. No? ‘Ok, I’m leaving. Have fun.’ Don’t stop. Don’t turn around. Don’t wait. As soon as Junior believes that you really will leave, he will come sprinting.  Now do it consistently, so Junior knows you always mean it).

Man, other favorite is the “I’m going to count to one… You better do what I say Johnny….Two… Johnny…come on…Two and a half… Two and three quarters… Two and seven eighths… Johnny don’t make me get to three! Two and fifteen sixteenths…”

I learned this very important lesson via dog training twenty years ago: if you tell a dog to sit sit sit three times before you make him do it, you teach him that he is supposed to sit when you say it three times. Say it once, then physically demonstrate what you want. For a toddler, that means taking his hand or picking him up or redirecting him after you say it once.

3. High Turnover Rates Mean No Consistency for Your Kiddos

A former childcare educator wrote about the high turnover rates:

Here’s one for you. I could be the nicest sweetest teacher. I might form a real bond with your child. We might do some great learning activities and social and behavioral growing. But there’s a very good chance that in less than a year I will have left the daycare center.

Forget about consistency.

Early childhood education has one of the highest turnover rates nationwide. The National Association for the Education of Young Children estimates it to be around 31% but some estimates go as high as 40%.

These compassionate, hard workers are underpaid. Despite the fact that more and more states are requiring degrees and raising teacher standards, assistant teachers make an average of $10,500 a year and teachers make $18,000 a year. (Also according to naeyc.) People that fix your car are probably paid more.

So when the talented, experienced teacher can’t live on their pay anymore, they’re replaced by recent high school graduates.

4. Individual Attention? Nonexistent.

From a woman who provided childcare in her home for four years:

If you are placing your toddler in a 7:1 toddler to teacher situation, there will be absolutely no individual attention (7:1 is the max here in Washington state for child care centers — not home day care); all attention is group attention except in cases of misbehavior (oh, all right, there may be an occasional moment on the playground — but positive 1:1 attention is rare). There can be as many as 14 toddlers in one room as long as there are 2 teachers; but at diaper changing time (which will occur at least 3 times a day over an 8 hour period, and most kids are there longer than 8 hours), the ratio in such a room is more like 13:1 — because one of the teachers is engaging in 1:1 with a child who needs diapering or potty training — but we are not talking about quality 1:1; she’s also keeping an eye on the rest of the room, yelling at kids who are getting out of the other teacher’s control.

A 7:1 toddler to teacher ratio guarantees that the day is all about not getting behind schedule. It guarantees that toddlers (toddlers!) will be harassed into lining up and made to sit at tables in order to try to contain their behavior (getting them to sit at tables with nothing to do but wait involves repeatedly replacing the least cowed ones back in their seats); singing and engaging in finger plays can somewhat ameliorate the situation; but that’s something that only people with a reasonable amount of experience and training ever seem to come up with — and as stated previously, turnover and being short handed is a major problem; and toddlers are not supposed to be sitting at tables for 15 minutes to half an hour at a time just to keep them from being annoyances).

5. Preschool = Germ Central

Anonymous discussed the problem of teachers (and students) coming to preschool sick:

As a preschool teacher of 6+ years with a degree in Early Childhood Education, who has just spent the last week with a severe cold and still working because we are short teachers, and having worked in 3 different preschools, I can attest that this is all too common. Teachers get sick more often because kids are brought in while sick. Kids are less capable of learning while sick, just like you’re less capable of working while sick. It’s the truth. Learning is their job, and it takes a lot of energy.

She also brought up the problem of turnover:

I’ve gone through so many co-teachers, and I’m not sure I’ll be a teacher much longer, either. Many teachers leave to become better paid house cleaners, customer service agents, or a tip-earning service worker. (Tips are a great way to abuse workers, too, but that’s another story.)

 And she talked about what happens after you drop your kids off:

Stuff happens while you are at work. We deal with really messy bodily functions. We have to figure out how to understand your children’s unique pronunciations as they are just learning how to speak. When your child cries, we are there to empathize. We teach your children how to socialize with other people. Some of us are trained to do this, or rather, seek the training ourselves. Few employers offer real in-depth training on any of this.

It has been said that the first five years of a child’s life are the ones filled with the most rapid changes in neurons. Your child is learning every second of every day. (90% of a Child’s Brain Develops in the First 5 Years of Life.)

In the worst of environments, I’ve been bitten, hit, screamed at, left by myself over-ratio (over 10:1), not given a break, refused overtime that I have worked, and paid less than living wages. In the best of environments, I still can’t afford to have my own children, and certainly not enroll them in my school, sometimes I still have to come to work sick, and some people equate what I do with babysitting, even asking me to babysit evenings and weekends. Would you ask an elementary teacher to babysit?

6. And the Baby Room…Horrifying!

Another anonymous user says she worked at a daycare for 5 months in the baby room “until I could take no more of the things I was seeing.” She said, “After working there, I no longer saw people the same and I don’t trust anyone.” Here are some of her reasons:

1. Once you leave your crying baby (everything will be ok he/she will stop crying the minute you leave or so they say)  your baby is put down on the floor or in a cot and not picked up for quite some time,  sometimes hours.

2. Your child is allowed to sleep for however long it wants,  however this will be lied about if you ask

3. Your baby is quickly force fed any foods given. If it vomits this is scaped up and fed back in. I’ve seen spoons bashed off teeth and lips and gums and babies crying and just shhhh shhhh shhhhh. The kid soon learns there’s just no point crying.

4. No stimulation whatsoever, for hours.

5. Diaper not changed unless absolutely necessary. When it is changed no interaction, just onto the changing table, diaper off, new diaper on, clothes back on, back into cot.

6. Staff are cold and uncaring and not loving towards your child. I’ve seen rattles, toys, etc. snatched out of babies’ hands to give to another crying baby

7. Every staff member gossips about the parents of the children and they make nasty comments about marriages, family situations, etc.

8. I’ve seen toddlers left standing facing the wall crying their eyes out for 55 minutes at 2 years old. The toddler room was below ours and I’d pass it on the way in or going to the bathroom. I’d ask why this was the case. No response.

9. 10 minutes before you arrive you child is cleaned up,  diaper changed, report about the day is lied about completely and your child is handed back.  Staff change from cold and harsh to “Oh look there’s mommy he /she was absolutely fine.” All happy, all fake.

She said that the daycare she worked at has since shut down and acknowledged that perhaps not all are like this, but said she has heard stories of other daycares with similar problems. Her advice: “Spot check over and over. Show up when they least expect. Or leave your kids with family members. That’s all.”

Sounds like great advice. Parents also need to check references and, with kids who are old enough to talk, ask lots of questions.