March 18, 2021

What Does It Mean to Be on a Child Care Waitlist?

Child care availability – especially when it comes to high-quality educational child care – often can be elusive. Especially now, when lingering COVID-19 restrictions have placed capacity limits on many facilities.

The search for reliable, high-quality child care takes time. You do all the research, take the tours and finally pinpoint the perfect location for your little one. When you go to enroll, you’re told that they will add your name to the waitlist.

Ack! That’s not the news you wanted to hear, but does that mean it’s bad news? Maybe not, but It does raise several questions.

We asked Doug Schwartz, from our Operations Department, to answer some common questions about child care waitlists and how you can navigate them more easily.

Child Care Waiting List FAQs

What is a waiting list?

DOUG SCHWARTZ: Since child care providers can only provide care to a specified number of children (per state and local licensing regulations), they can only have so many children in a given classroom at a time. If they are already at their maximum number of children, they will often start a waitlist, which is basically a list of interested families who get the next spot as it becomes available.

When should a parent put their name on a waitlist?

DS: Although it varies by provider and by city and state, in many instances, infant spaces fill up very quickly. For that reason, I recommend that parents begin their search for child care shortly after they find out that they’re pregnant and either enroll or get their name onto a waitlist as quickly as possible.

Is there any cost involved in going on a waitlist?

DS: It depends. Most providers will charge a non-refundable fee to hold the spot for a family who wants to enroll at a later date. That is a little different than a true waitlist, where the provider is not necessarily guaranteeing a start date. For a waitlist, a provider may not ask for a deposit and if they do, it is often refundable if they don’t have space when the family needs it.

If you’re on a waitlist at your first-choice provider, but you find a spot in another facility, should you remain on the first waitlist?

DS: If your number one choice is really where you want your child to be, then yes, you should remain on the waitlist. It’s not uncommon for parents to start their child at one center while they wait for their preferred child care center to have a spot become available. However, you might find you like your “second choice” more than you thought, and you may end up staying there, in which case you can remove yourself from the original waitlist you were on.

Is there an average amount of time you should expect before an opening comes available?

DS: This really varies by location. It’s very difficult to predict how quickly spaces will become available. Waitlists for infants tend to be longer than other age groups because there are fewer spaces in most child care centers for infants. But spaces can open for a variety of reasons—a family moves, one parent decides to stay at home with their child instead of using child care, etc. In those instances, you may get a phone call that you’re off the waitlist sooner than you thought.

If you’re on a list, is it worth checking in with the provider from time to time on the status, or is that bothersome?

DS: We strongly encourage our Academies to communicate proactively with families on their waitlist. However, a parent should always feel comfortable calling or emailing for an updated status without ever feeling like they are a burden.

Thanks, Doug – that’s great advice!

If you’re currently looking for child care or have a child on the way, contact your local Kiddie Academy location today for more information on enrollment.


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