How to Navigate Finding Childcare in Marin County

Marin-home Childcare

Owen Rhoades was still in utero when his parents, Amy and Dave Rhoades started their search for childcare in Marin County. As a product manager with HealthLine, a health media company based in San Francisco, Amy had four months of maternity leave before returning to work full-time. Dave is the director of workplace at Intercom, also in San Francisco. 

Amy recalls just how difficult it was to find childcare for Owen. “Initially, I wanted to do a nanny share,” she says. “The idea of one-on-one attention was appealing. Amy joined the Nannies and Mommies Bay Area Facebook group, but soon discovered most nanny and nanny-share arrangements are confirmed just a month prior to starting. “That just made me way too nervous,” she says. “I didn’t want to be in a situation where I didn’t have care when I needed it, so I shifted my attention to finding a daycare.” 

The Care Conundrum 

There are 299 licensed childcare facilities in Marin County, about an equal number of family childcare homes and childcare centers, however as Amy learned, very few childcare centers offer infant care. Of the 20 daycare centers she contacted, only two responded to let her know they had space available when she needed it. “I wasn’t interested in looking at home daycare,” Amy says. “I felt more comforted by the idea of a daycare facility that might be more regulated and have a bit more accountability.”

The primary reason childcare centers don’t offer care for infants is that it’s cost-prohibitive, according to Aideen Gaidmore, executive director at the Marin Childcare Council (MC3). “It’s very expensive for childcare programs to offer infant care because of the required caregiver-to-child ratios, so the choice of centers is limited,” she says.

A Challenge Nationwide

Parents around the country are facing similar challenges finding appropriate childcare. According to a report by ChildCare Aware (CCAoA), an advocacy group working with state and local Child Care Resource and Referral agencies to ensure that families in every local community have access to quality, affordable child care, “Parents who already had limited options for affordable, high-quality childcare before the pandemic are facing even fewer options today.”

Not all the news is bleak, though. CCAoA finds a silver lining in the attention finally being paid to the importance of childcare to our communities. They report, “A groundswell of support among voters and policymakers for continued investments in childcare has emerged.”

Securing a Spot

Thankfully, new facilities are opening. Amy was fortunate to discover a daycare center opening in San Rafael just in time to accept Owen into their program. “We were so excited,” she says. “After the tour, we immediately put a $700 deposit down to secure our spot. It felt good to be through this process. I broke down crying when we got back to the car. I was so relieved.”

For other parents interested in finding a childcare center in Marin County that fits their needs, MC3’s mission is to improve the availability, accessibility and affordability of quality early childhood education and care. “We help parents navigate childcare in the county and support them through the process,” Gaidmore says. While MC3 does not recommend specific programs, they maintain an up-to-date database of every licensed provider in Marin County, as well as offering resources for local families, including a checklist to use when evaluating facilities. Another resource is CCAoA, which publishes informative guides for parents to use to find high-quality childcare for children from infancy through school age.

“You will find the right facility,” Aideen assures. “You may tour a lot of programs, but since your daycare provider is an extension of your home, make sure you have a good relationship with the people who will take care of your baby.”