WWNO's Listening Post project asks questions about local news in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast and reports back on the community's response. This week the Listening Post explores how people handle childcare in New Orleans.
It’s not always up there with topics like crime and education, but childcare is a big issue in New Orleans. According to a study by the Data Center, 67 percent of single mothers are working and in 66 percent of two-parent households, both parents work. Well over half the children in New Orleans are being cared for by someone other than a parent during business hours.
Some people, of course, just rely on their family pets to help out.
But if you don’t have a reliable dog on hand, you have to either hope your family members will help out, or that you can afford daycare. If you’ve got a thousand dollars a month to spare, and are lucky enough to get off the waiting list, you can send your kid to a place like Abeona House.
Nicole Foster is the curriculum director at Abeona House. She says controlled chaos is an important element of Abeona's childcare philosophy.
"Messy. We’re very messy here. They are allowed to have full-body experiences with almost every material we offer and that’s something that’s really important to us, and they love too.”
Abeona House was one of the first daycare centers to open up in New Orleans after Katrina. Now there are a few more places to choose from again, if you can get in.
“I’m constantly surprised at how many children are on the list versus how many spots are available. And I imagine how stressful it must be for parents trying to find quality childcare in a city that doesn’t offer a whole lot of childcare options in general," Foster says.
Foster sees this high stakes daycare drama play out all the time.
“I feel like the thing that’s striking is sort of across the board that there is a quiet desperation undertone with a lot of families,” she says.
Click below to hear more of our conversation with Nicole Foster.
We heard about a lot of not so quiet desperation when we asked you about childcare. Here’s what you told us:
What was your daycare/after school care when you were a kid?
“I walked to & from school with my friends. No parental car pool. Mom didn’t work outside home until I was 12. When she started working, I was responsible for watching little bro & sis after school and during summer”
“Girl`s Club and when older,Latchkey kid”
“School and home alone after.”
“I was taken care of by my parents and family members.
“Nice old lady named Wilma!”
“Nice old lady named Wilma!”
“Stay at home mom.”
“I did not have any experience with that.”
“I went to Head Start for a while”
“I didn’t go to daycare before I started kindergarten. Mostly my after school care was my grandmother. I was lucky.”
“I was involved in after school activities like band, debate, and theater.”
“Nanny @ home”
“My old sister”
“Grandparents were the main source for me as a kid and now that I have kids grandparents are where it’s at again! I can’t see how we have this system thy expects both parents to work 40 hour weeks in order to pay someone else to watch your kid for a health chunk of that. But if you’re not working 40 hours you’re not full time so no benefits for you! So instead we work until 5 (classic 9-5 at least, not accounting for anyone who has to work an even more unconventional schedule) while are kids are out of school at 3. If your working 40 hours a week, that’s roughly 10 hours where you are working just to pay for the childcare, if you have an income like me. I don’t understand… Thank god for grandparents and a wife who has the flexible schedule of a student. When she starts working who knows what new troubles will arise.”
“I went to a neighbors house where other same aged kids went everyday”
“We lower our pride and beg anyone we can trust with our most precious gifts”
“none. my mom was a stay at home mother”
“Parents hired a maid/cook”
“I had an awesome nanny while my parents worked. Mable Hardy. She took me to Audubon park every day. And then to smoothie king if I didn’t stick my hands in antpiles. She was a baller.”
“After school my day care / my older siblings.”
“Church for preschool. Mom went back to work when I was 9 so I was home alone after school.”
“I went to day care in Lafayette. However, it was a prep institution so I was able to bypass pre-k”
“My brother and I went to my grandmothers house after school.”
“Grandparents, family friends, stay at home Mom”
“I went home alone.”
“I went to daycare and then in-school after care in elementary at a Catholic school.”
How did you go about finding child care for your own kids? What was that process like?
“That is a painful process. I thought I was going to have to quit my job because I couldn’t find quality care. In a last ditch effort I placed an ad online and found someone in my neighborhood I trusted. 5 years later I’m still amazed at the conditions people think are okay.”
“Applied to daycares!”
“Colleagues, family, then a stay home mom.”
“I stayed home and took care of them myself”
“Don’t have any kids!”
“No kidz! Though, I know it’s hard for friends with kids. The really good ones have a waiting list and cost a lot. Then they choose one by word of mouth recommendations. Not much to choose from.”
“I spent time looking for child care that was both affordable and offered more than just watching children and giving them a snack.”
“When my children were in that age group, I had to have a job that would both pay for the child care without taking too large a chunk of my budget, as well as being able to be off work or get off in time to avoid the late charges.”
“Through Alumni University”
“The school provides after care. Daycare: I called around to see what was available then toured them.”
“Luckily finding a preschool was easy as we originally lived right down the street from ours sons’ preschool. I wouldn’t consider that daycare as our older son received an excellent education at age 2! And our younger son is just starting! But aside from that at all times they weren’t in school my wife and the grandparents would spilt time depending on her school schedule.”
“I worked for myself her first three years, when i had to take a job, thay went to school,pre-k. Just due to logistics, i settled for aftercare at the school. That means my kid is with strangers 10 hours of the day. It’s not my ideal. But we have to eat, so I have to work.”
“I selected my first daycare based on location to my house. My second experience was based on location to my job.”
“We saw an ad in the church’s weekly bulletin for a woman who did home-based child care. Used her for both children”
“Don’t have kids but I can’t imagine how hard that is given how squirrelly I am about who I trust with my dawg.”
“I started by going to all the open houses, then asked coworkers and conducted research, it was long and gruelling trying to fit visits and work. It finally came down to ranking what the kids would learn, affordability and location(drive time is crucial).”
“When Rory was a baby, I got lucky that i had a great system and friends who took iver when needed. Babysitters were abound and the pediatrician got me WIC and at that time cloth diapers and milk was still being delivered (dirty diapers and empty bottles picked up by delivery service"
“For the most part I was home with my kids , I worked evening and over night’s only to be there for my kids, if the need arrive my mother r my sister was there for me and my children”
“Doing it right now. New Orleans Moms Blog has a list of reader recommended preschools. Used that as a starting point. It is a little scary not knowing other moms to ask. And not knowing what to look for as a first time mom.”
“Long and painful lol. There are so many waiting lists. It’s best make a checklist and try to keep options open with at least 3 schools. Especially if put on a waiting list.”
“I used care.com to find a nanny that comes to my house for my 16 month old. She comes twice a week from noon to 5″
“One of the reasons we put iff having kids is that there is no family close to help, my BFF is barely making more at her job than they pay out for child care”
“Very hard - especially after Katrina. And summers are the worst - with all the different end and start dates. So hard on parents. Worse are camps with no before or after care”
“School cafeteria was for me,my kids had mom to stay home with”
“asking parents, Internet research, calling places, made a spreadsheet, and toured”
How does (or will) childcare affect other aspects of your life (work schedule, budget, etc.)?
“Crazy expensive. I have credit card debt I never had before. And working late is out of the question most of the time, even if my employer expects it.”
“Finished with childcare now.”
“It won’t as both of my children are adults now”
“It would impact significantly if I had kids, but thankfully do not”
“It won’t for the foreseeable future, because I’m not having a baby.”
“Affects what camps they go to and what after school activities they can do.”
“I’m worried about the cost. I have two brothers who were stay at home dads because daycare cost more than the salary they were making”
“I currently work from home its not an issue.”
“We are a 2-income household and both salaries are high enough that outside childcare made sense financially”
“Jesus H I’m thankful that’s a consideration I don’t have.”
“I’m a proud co-parent of twins and finding one spot is hard but two spots is a challenge,luckily we were accepted in school that offered a preK program with aftercare but it is definitely the bulk of our expenses now and requires many social sacrifices, nothing like when I grew up and had a grandmother or retired aunt to watch over me. It was definitely be a big help if couple’s had a bigger tax credit.”
“This was 1989… Rory was an open adoption… it made me more aware of others behaviors as well as my own. Priorities do change but he made me a better person. Budget was tight and you learn that you are not a priority but your kid is. Makes you realize yiur behaviors and what is need versus a want.”
“Yes because all children needs stability in their lives I would like to set up a home care for kids who have to stay home alone , while mom has to make a living for them, totally on a volunteer basis.”
“Affects everything. I am a student as well as a mom. The Mothers Day Out program I found will allow me to take a daytime class in the fall.”
“Childcare is expensive. It helps that they have extended hours however it costs.”
“She will need to go to some type of school Soon and that will cost a bit to get her in preschool. Honestly I need to start researching that and the costs of it. I’m sure it will affect my budget and my work schedule. Work is flexible so that helps.”
“One of us would have to quit or cut back at work to stay home& that’s no option”
“Def will affect my budget,way too high priced. Some are 100 per child per week”
“I’m always late for work bc I drop my son off at daycare and I can’t stay too late either.”
If you want, send us a picture of the kids who got you into this mess to begin with…
Kelly Harris DeBerry is a freelance writer and editor of the website BrassyBrown.com. We met her on Twitter.
We asked if we could meet up with Kelly in person to talk about her experience with daycare in New Orleans, and she was generous enough to invite us to her house on a morning when she was at home with her 2-year-old daughter Naomi. Kelly's husband works full time, and they've taken a hybrid approach to childcare. Naomi goes to daycare twice a week and is home with Kelly the rest of the time.
Affording day care, and getting off a waiting list is one thing. But then there’s the challenge of balancing motherhood and a career. Kelly has passed on multiple job offers.
“How can I get valuable or equal pay for my skills and talents, without it totally interrupting her progress? The biggest compliment I get is she seems so happy. And I wonder if things were different would she not be happy?" she says.
But Kelly does want to get back to work, and realizes good day care is important for Naomi’s future.
"In order to get into a good school parents are willing to put the money in on the front end to get into a fancy daycare to get into a Lusher and be able to test well. If everybody’s rushing to get into the good schools, the other ones must be bad. Why can’t we just have good schools?"
Click below to hear more of our conversation with Kelly Harris DeBerry.
If you want to join our bimonthly conversations, text the word “hello” to 504-303-4348. Or hit us up on Twitter: @LP_NOLA.
See you at the Listening Post!