3 Things PDX Parents NEED to Know to Find Infant Care

3 Things PDX Parents NEED to Know to Find Infant Care

About two weeks out from going to back to work, I had no infant daycare plan in place. I panicked. I had gone on all the tours, signed up for all the lists…why was this so hard?!? Things worked out, as the always do, but the whole process was so unnecessarily stressful that I actually started a company to make it easier to find child care in Portland, and I’ve now helped hundreds of families find daycares and preschools.

I’m not gonna lie to you – trying to find infant care as a PDX parent is not easy. If it’s any solace, according to one OSU study, every county in the state is a child care desert, meaning there are more children who need care than available spots). But, despite what you’ve heard, it’s not an impossible task and you don’t need to pay a bazillion fees. What you do need is an understanding of how the system works, a few useful websites, and some elbow grease.

#1: Know the daycare calendar

The first thing you’ve got to know is that most (though certainly not all) spots come available during one of 3 big enrollment seasons – September, January, and summer. September is by far the biggest time for openings. This is when the preschoolers go off to kindergarten and make room for every age group to move up. It is particularly true at large centers, which typically have the longest waitlists.

Even though many new slots come open in September, peak enrollment season is actually the winter before. Starting in January, providers ask their current families whether or not they are returning the following school year. These providers then start making offers to folks on their waitlists for those fall openings, meaning that if you show up in August, that baby spot you were hoping for may have been long since promised to someone else.

What can you do about this? As soon as you know you’re going to need child care start looking. Ask how many times a provider does enrollment through the year (beyond random, one-off openings that may pop up) and look for places that use a rolling admission system, meaning they enroll children throughout the year.

#2 The “sibling bump”

Here’s the other thing that’s happening at daycares and preschools across Portland, particularly at centers – siblings of children already in the program get first dibs on any openings. At my child’s center, the only take 8 babies a year and 7 in my kid’s class are siblings.

What can you do about this? Ask on a tour how many openings they have for babies each year that are not going to siblings. If you’re going to have more than one child and you have your heart set on a particularly in-demand center, stick it out on the waitlist and make the switch at preschool, when the state mandated adult:child ratio changes and most providers open up lots of new slots. Then, your next child will benefit from the sibling bump and you won’t have to go through this again!

Photo: Casa Feliz

#3 Look Beyond Centers!

The number one mistake I see PDX parents making is the same one I made myself when I was first looking for child care – I joined the waitlists of the same 5 centers that everyone else in town has heard of, all of which only enroll once a year and fill most of their infant openings with siblings.

What can you do about this? Look at smaller providers! If you find a popular center you love of course it’s a good idea to join the waitlist for a spot a few years from now (see #2 above!), but also consider in-homes. There are over 650 child care providers in the Portland Metro area and most of them don’t have any waitlist. There is no reason to drop $500 on fees at a bunch of centers with similar wait times.

Instead, join the lists of 1-3 large centers that you really love, and then use this website to find the in-homes nearby. Full disclosure, that website is super-clunky (both Paper Pinecone and Growing Upwards have nicer interfaces), BUT includes all the small providers that may not even have a website, so it’s the main website I use when I search for clients. Pro-Tip: Call (don’t email) between the hours of 1 and 3pm which is when the babies nap!

Bonus Tip: Check the License

There is nothing more vulnerable as a parent than leaving your precious little person with a stranger. Before you sign on the dotted line and put down that deposit, PLEASE check the license of your provider here. The user experience of this website could also be improved but it pulls directly from the licensing visit database. FYI – it’s an exact match search so if you get the apostrophe in the wrong place it will return the response “no results”.

Need more help? Let’s get in touch! I’ve got a free Facebook group for Portland families looking for child care where I post regular tips, videos, and other resources. You can also find me on Instagram. There’s no need to go it alone y’all – reach out, I’d love to help!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Welcome to Portland Mom Hub!

Parenting is intense: it’s as challenging as it is rewarding, and it can feel very isolating although you just grew your family!

We want to support you on your parenting journey and share everything that we wish we had known when we were starting out!

Dr. Angela Potter

Supporting mothers from fertility through postpartum.  Visit me at DrAngelaPotter.com

Ren Johns

Looking for quality day cares and preschools in Portland, Oregon?   Visit my site at RenJohns.com

Marie-Eve Gagnon

If your family is experiencing sleep struggles, I can help!  Visit my site SlumberTimeSolutions.com

Katharine Burton Jeffcoat

Feeding a family and children can be challenging!  I can help.  Visit my site at PortlandPediatricNutrition.com