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The Struggle to Find Decent Childcare is Real, According to New National Poll

“Safety and health factors are important to parents, but too often, parents aren’t sure how to determine if a childcare option is safe and healthy.”

Parenting is one of the most heavily debated topics there is. But at the end of the day, don’t we all want the same thing – healthy and safe kids? It’s a parent’s top priority, and it’s why finding childcare can be so anxiety provoking. A new national poll from the University of Michigan shows that it’s also remarkably challenging.

According to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan, two out of three parents struggle to find childcare that meets their safety and health standards. That’s a pretty troubling statistic, especially given the fact that dual-income families represent the overwhelming majority in the U.S. – meaning that most parents rely on childcare.

The poll report includes responses from a nationally representative sample of 307 parents who had at least one child ages one to five. These parents shared their desired and required criteria for childcare centers or individuals they entrust with their kids’ care.

The poll revealed that, for parents looking at daycare or preschool centers, safety and practical matters are of utmost importance. Parents are seeking locked doors, a safe outdoor play space, and background checks for staff. For parents considering an in-home daycare, the most important considerations turned out to be clean kitchens and healthy food, plus available books and educational toys.

Parents also have deal-breakers when it came to selecting childcare. The most common are safety-related. About 70 percent of parents report that they would not send their child to a school or center located in a “sketchy” area, and 56 percent note they would never choose a place with guns on the premises. Forty-eight percent of parents say the presence of other adults besides staff is also a disqualifier.

Health matters, too. Roughly four in 10 parents would not consider a childcare facility that allows unvaccinated children to attend. About three in 10 parents wouldn’t choose an in-home or center option where a staff person smokes.

Unfortunately, 62 percent of parents say it’s hard to find childcare options that meet their standards. But perhaps even more unsettling is that only half of parents feel confident in their ability to even discern whether a childcare setting is safe and healthy, making the daycare search a stressful process.

Parents don’t want to compromise on the level of care their children receive, and yet, many are not even sure how to tell what’s a good fit or not.

Poll co-director Sarah Clark advises parents to go the extra mile in assessing childcare options. She suggests taking the following steps:

  • Make a drop-in visit to evaluate safety measures, like the security of the entrance and the location of a playground in relation to the street.
  • Research their health-related policies, such as vaccination requirements for kids and staff, and look into their rules about background checks and security policies.
  • Talk to the director about other health and safety concerns.

“The more research parents do ahead of time, the more confident they will feel that their children are in a safe and healthy environment,” says Clark. She points out that some health and safety matters are clearly observable during a daycare tour, while others – like how frequently toys are cleaned – will require you to inquire.

Having gone through the childcare search myself four years ago, I believe the more questions you ask the better. A simple Google search yields tons of great examples of what to ask when interviewing childcare providers. If it’s an option worth pursuing, the staff will certainly take the time to sit down with you and address all of your concerns.

Some great checklists can be found on Care.com, Parenting.com, and BabyCenter.com, which has separate lists for home daycares and daycare centers.

Some questions are more obvious than others: Are the teachers CPR and First Aid certified? How often are the staff and kids required to wash their hands? Are babies placed to sleep on their backs on a surface free of any objects? How and where are meals and snacks prepared and stored?

Before doing my research, though, I never thought to ask: What’s your method of keeping track of children as they transition out to the playground or to another classroom? What’s your disaster plan (in the case of a fire, for instance)? I also never thought to purposefully visit a center during a busy time, like lunch, to observe how the staff operates under pressure.

In addition to questions concerning health and safety, another important and relevant question is, “What’s your turnover rate?”

Last year, NPR reported a 30 percent turnover rate among childcare workers nationally. That number is not so surprising when you learn that, in 2016, the average pay for childcare workers was less than $10 an hour, and nearly half of childcare workers relied on public assistance.

“Specialists in early education say low pay doesn’t just hurt child care workers,” NPR reports. “It has an effect on babies and toddlers, too, and poses a major challenge in creating high quality child care.”

One thing’s for sure: Childcare reform is needed in our country. If you’re currently struggling to find good quality care for your kids, know that you’re far from alone. Remember knowledge is power. Do your homework and show up prepared so you can make the best choice possible for your child and family.

While you may never find the perfect fit, you can strive to find a place that puts your mind at ease, so that your only worry during the workday is that pressing deadline and not your child’s health or safety.

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Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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This month isn't just the start of a new year, but the start of a new life for those due in 2019. If you're expecting a baby this year you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow mamas-to-be expecting in 2019:

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega 

The Spy Kids actress and mom to 2-year-old Ocean will soon have to get herself a double stroller because PenaVega and her husband Carlos are expecting again.

"Holy Moly!!! Guys!!! We are having another baby!!!!" captioned an Instagram post. "Do we wake Ocean up and tell him??!! Beyond blessed and excited to continue growing this family!!! Get ready for a whole new set of adventures!!!"

Over on Carlos' IG the proud dad made a good point: " This year we will officially be able to say we have 'kids!' Our minds are blown," he write.

Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald

In January Counting On Jessa Seewald (formerly Jessa Duggar) announced via Instagram that she is pregnant with her third child with husband Ben Seewald.

We love that she was able to make the announcement in her own time, not worrying about speculation about her midsection. She's been over that for a while.

[Update: January 18, added PenaVega]

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