Secure Quality, Affordable Childcare in Maryland [Free Templates]

Daycare and Preschool

Finding quality, affordable daycare for your child can be a daunting task, I’m not going to lie. There was a period of life where I felt like it was a second, full-time job. The good news is, once the quest is over, the contract is signed, you’ve made it through the trial period with no issues, it was just a temporary and necessary part of life.

Provider Type

One of the first things you’ll need to determine is right for you is the type of provider that you choose. And, for the sake of this post, I’m going to focus on group daycare, because that tends to be the least expensive option, versus a private in-home nanny. Which pretty much leaves you at the two most common choices: a drop-off daycare center or a drop-off family / home daycare (in the provider’s residence).

CenterFamily / Home

  • Child socialization
  • Curriculum (often including learning multiple languages and sign language)
  • Ratio average for infant: 1 to 3
  • Some allow cloth diapering
  • Mommy keeps career and income going (therefore contributing to retirement savings gap)
  • When a single caretaker takes vacation, you don’t have to

  • Least expensive monthly fee ($1040/mo*)
  • Fewer total kids (8 kids and only 2 under age of 2, per license)
  • Child socialization
  • Mommy keeps career and income going (therefore contributing to retirement savings gap)
  • Rarely, if ever, closes for bad weather (the provider lives on-site) - if you (ever) work from home, you know you can't get any work done with the kid(s) there!


  • Most expensive monthly fee ($1775-1865/mo*)
  • Rushing from work to pickup
  • Missing own child growing up (however they do share photos and daily updates)
  • Likely closes for bad weather (caregivers have to travel to their place of employment)


  • Ratio: 1 to 8 (or less)
  • Less structured curriculum (likely only learning one language)
  • When caretaker takes vacation, you do too
  • Rushing from work to pickup
  • Missing own child growing up (however they do share photos and daily updates)

*Prices are approximations from a search that took place in the late Spring / early Summer of 2015 and are likely higher now. These apply to Central Maryland.


Next up is finding centers in operation, with no (preferably) or limited violations, and having availability. In the case were you’re seeking daycare for an infant, note the extremely high ratios of adults to children and/or the limited “under 2” spots at family daycares. The thought here is if there was an emergency, no daycare facility should face a situation where they cannot arm carry all immobile children out of the center together. So, that means there’s a shortage of spots. And, in some cases where a family daycare has just accepted two near-newborns, those children (should they stay in the program the whole time) wouldn’t age out of “under 2” for two years, meaning the center is wait-listed two years out for children that haven’t even been conceived yet. Add on top of that the best-of-breed providers with the highest recommendations are the absolute hardest to score a spot at.

Start your child's daycare search as early as possible for the most potential options in finding the perfect marriage of quality and affordability. #affordablechildcare #qualitychildcare #daycare Share on X

In addition to joining the local mom groups on Facebook and asking for recommendations (none of which ultimately panned out), and asking on our neighborhood’s private, virtual community on Nextdoor (which did work out), I went to the Maryland State Department of Education – Division of Early Childhood Development (MSDE) web site. On this web site’s home page, is a search form. I would set nothing other than “Homes” in the Facility Type drop down and then my specific Zip Code in the corresponding field. This returned about 20 or so results close to home.**

Federal government employees also have access to the WorkLife4You portal, offered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, designed to assist you in seeking the child daycare that you need.

And you may want to search for groups on Facebook, such as the Maryland Licensed Home Daycare Search.

Project Management & Note Tracking

I copied and pasted the form search results from MSDE into a Google Sheet. I then did this for neighboring towns (that were en route to my husband and my respective places of employment). Ultimately, I had about 75 rows on the spreadsheet, between the recommended providers and the ones from the MSDE web site.

**Close to home is key when selecting a daycare. Imagine a parent is traveling, leaving the other to do both drop-off and pick-up on particular days. Or, you need to get your child to his/her doctor quickly, you’ll want them close by.

This embedded Google Drive file is best seen when viewed on a desktop browser.

Copy and paste the contents of this template into a new Google Sheet file of your own, and edit. Erase the sample data and add columns for items that apply to your specific search.

Once the sheet is ready for processing, and assuming both mom and dad are in the picture, list one another’s names every other row. That will assign who is to call that provider with the following call script. We often found calling providers just after lunchtime, early afternoon or after 6pm was best to reach them when children were napping and/or picked up for the day. We would each call about five per day, working our way down the list from closest to home to slightly further out.

Call Script

[___] – signify where you need to fill-in-the-blank with your own information.

Live Call

Hello, could I speak to



Great. My name is


and my [husband/wife] and I are currently seeking [full-time] [infant care] for [mid-February / early-March 2016] in [City, State]. Our child will be [12 weeks] old at that time. Would you happen to have an opening in that time frame?

If YES...If NO...
That’s great. Would it be possible for us to setup a time to meet you and tour your facility in the next two weeks?Okay. I appreciate you taking my call today. Have a great evening.
(Mark spreadsheet as Yes and mark tour date. Add Google Calendar invite.)(Mark spreadsheet as No and the ratings as 0. Mark columns to the right as N/A, except location.)


Hello, my name is


and my [husband/wife] and I are currently seeking [full-time] [infant care] for [mid-February / early-March 2016] in [City, State]. Our child will be [12 weeks] old at that time. We are curious if you would happen to have an opening in that time frame? If you could call us back at [Google Voice number] at your earliest convenience to let us know, we would appreciate it. Thank you.


On average, it would take approximately 10 phone calls to find a provider that was both: a) willing to offer a meet-n-greet tour of their facility and b) had an opening for our aged child in our time frame. Once tours were scheduled, we popped those onto our shared Google Calendar and made note of it in the spreadsheet.

Suggested Questions to Ask

So, you’re heading in to a daycare provider site tour. Be armed with and ready to ask the right questions, that will ultimately help you to choose the best provider to meet your families needs.

The following list is both a compilation of many of the questions we asked during our daycare provider site tour, as well as things we learned we probably should have asked, from after the fact. Pick and choose questions to ask that are meaningful to you. And, add in your own specific questions.

  • Do you foresee any reason you wouldn’t have the daycare open 3, 4, 5 years from now? (So important if you want future children to attend the same location)!
  • What days of the week are you open? What hours are you open?
  • What is the drop off / pick up process like? Are there any parking restrictions?
  • Do you allow parents drop-in visits?
  • What holidays and vacations do you take?
  • Does the local school weather policy dictate your openings? Or are you open regardless?
  • Do you have coverage when you’re sick? Have appointments?
  • Are any other adults present during daycare hours? Can I meet them?
  • Do you regularly offer babysitting services in addition to daycare?
  • How many full-time children are present at your daycare currently?
  • Do you provide before/after care to school children?
  • Do you provide any transportation services?
  • What is a typical day like? Activities? Naps? Meals?
  • Do you have webcam or photos shared privately anywhere?
  • What is your policy on television?
  • Do you teach dual languages?
  • Are you a certified pre-k?
  • How do you handle kids who bite, hit, etc.?
  • What is your discipline method?
  • What kinds of things will I need to provide?
  • What is the cost?
  • What methods of payment do you accept? How often do you require payment?
  • Is there a fee for late pick ups?
  • Can I see a sample copy of your contract?
  • Do you have 2-3 references which I can speak with?

Immediately following a tour, we would put our scores and notes into the spreadsheet, while they were still fresh in mind.

Reference Checks

So you believe you’ve found your top one or two choices for daycare. Now it’s time to call references. Ask each provider to give you two to three to call.

In the meantime, my husband and I researched the best questions to ask child daycare references and compiled them all into a spreadsheet and then voted them down to just the most crucial and applicable to our specific needs.

When I called each reference, I started out by introducing myself and saying that I had about two dozen questions and if it was a good time to speak. I needed about 10-15 minutes of their time.


  • How old was your child when you enrolled him/her in the home daycare?
  • How long has your child been enrolled in the home daycare?
  • If you are no longer using the provider, why?


  • Do you wholeheartedly trust the childcare provider?
  • Does your child enjoy his/her time spent at the home daycare? Does he/she have fun?
  • How would your children describe him/her?
  • What does your child like best about the home daycare?


  • How much notice do you receive when the provider has a scheduled vacation or holiday?
  • Does the provider keep you well informed about your child’s development?
  • How does the childcare provider deal with problems or concerns? In a professional manner?


  • Have you/your child experienced an emergency situation at the daycare? How was it handled?
  • Do you feel that the provider stays calm (or would stay calm) in an emergency?


  • How does the provider discipline your child?
  • Do you feel welcome to stop in at any time?


  • If healthy meals/snacks are provided, does your child like the various foods given to him/her?


  • Have you had any problems with the way the provider charges or collects fees?


  • Do you feel that your child has benefited from his/her experiences with the provider? How?
  • What do you like best/least about the childcare provider?
  • If you were to rate him/her overall performance as a caregiver, would you consider it excellent, average or poor? Why?
  • Would you hire him/her again? Recommend him/her?
  • Do you have any final comments?


Additional Questions to Consider

These didn’t make our list of questions to ask, but may be additional ones you’d like to consider for your specific needs.

  • What are his/her strengths, and what about him/her do you most respect?
  • In what areas could he/she improve? (Let the former employer complete him/her list first. If they can’t think of anything, you may offer up an instance that the caregiver raised in the interview, such as: “She mentioned that she sometimes loses him/her patience. Have you experienced that before? If so, can you describe an incident where that happened?”)
  • How are his/her communication skills? (Both with the parents and the children.)
  • Does he/she have initiative?
  • Is he/she organized?
  • Is it easy to talk to the childcare provider?
  • Does the provider partner with you and your efforts to raise a healthy and happy child?
  • How well does the childcare provider handle stressful situations? How well does the childcare provider relate to the children? How does the childcare provider treat your child? Is the provider accommodating and flexible to your child’s individual needs? Does the provider make you and your child feel comfortable in his/her home? How?
  • Is your child happy when you pick him/her up?
  • If a preschool curriculum is provided, how well does your child learn? How much?
  • What is your perception of the provider s personality? Kind? Honest? Professional?
  • What are your favorite aspects of the home daycare? If you could change anything about the home daycare what would it be? Do you feel that your child gets individual attention from the provider?

Once everything checks out and you feel comfortable and confident with your decision, it’s time to secure spaces for your kid(s) and sign the contract!

I hope you will find this guide was helpful in one or more ways in saving you time and/or money in the process. There’s always room for improvement – share your thoughts in the Comments below!

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Mom of three littles, and a small business supporter, Amy Lynn, is the woman behind the Saving Amy blog, covering a broad range of topics with an ultimate goal to encourage and inspire you to save both money and time.Have a sunny day! Have a sunny day!