CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Would you wait a year to find out if your child could get into a certain day care?
What about nine months?
Congratulations new parents, if you just found out you're having a baby, it's time to think about day care starting NOW!
It's not uncommon to find yourself on a waiting list when you are looking for day care for infants and toddlers.
And parents know finding a good program is stressful enough already.
Cleveland19 is taking a look at the challenges new parents face here in the Cleveland area.
We spoke with a mom who lives in Berea and has a child on a day care waiting list.
Deborah Pais's daughter Annabelle is growing up fast. She turns four in March.
She didn't need day care at first.
"I work full time, I was a stay-at-home mom for three years," Pais said.
But things have changed.
"It was really important for us to find a preschool that had a curriculum and was more structured for her," she said.
Pais was overwhelmed at first, but she and her husband narrowed it down to two different pre-K options.
They signed up for a waiting list for each one.
"We put her name on it since last August, so we've been waiting since then!" she said laughing.
She didn't think it would be this difficult.
"There are people who wait nine months to a year. And I was forewarned about that, but it really didn't trigger in my head," Pais said.
Annabelle is going to an in-home daycare until they hear back from their number one choice-- a day care on-site at her dad's work.
She's number four on the waiting list right now.
"So who knows, we could be waiting the next August until she gets on there, we're not sure," Pais said.
The time your child may spend on a day care waiting list can vary depending on where you live.
A non-profit called Starting Point, based in Cleveland, tracks vacancy rates at day cares and preschools across Northeast Ohio.
"There are some pockets in the community, I would say there are suburban areas where there are some programs that have-- their vacancy rate is lower. And particularly infants and toddlers because those classes are smaller, the group sizes are smaller," said assistant director Debbie Fodge.
Fodge says there are no massive waiting lists in Northeast Ohio as compared to other cities across the country.
Cleveland19 asked if the East side or West side sees more of a wait, and Fodge she says they're pretty equal.
We asked Starting Point for data on day cares for several cities in the Cleveland area.
Here's a look at vacancy rates in four of those cities when it comes to infant daycares.
In Independence, Starting Point found 100 percent enrollment in 56 day care spaces for infants, so no open spots there.
In Lakewood, there is more than 95 percent enrollment in 150 spaces, with just over four percent of spots are vacant.
In Cleveland Heights, enrollment is at 86.5 percent with 119 spaces for infants.
And in the city of Cleveland, enrollment drops to just over 64 percent for 2,046 spaces, so more than one-third of day cares there have openings.
If you'd like to see how a few more communities fare, take a look at the graph attached to this story.
The bottom line is it's not worth taking your chances and waiting.
"If you're thinking about getting pregnant, start looking. Because the infant and toddler spots are the ones that are at a premium," Fodge said.
Some parents don't have to stress as much about finding a day care, it's offered at work.
Kathleen Vegh works at Hyland Software in Westlake.
"The biggest thing for me is that my husband and I can both work, without sacrificing the top priority for us, which is the care of our children," Vegh said.
Her husband works here, too.
They have three kids in the on-site daycare including Clare, who is three years old.
"You don't give it a second thought. You know who the children are with, you know the other parents and employees," Vegh said.
170 students are enrolled in the program, which employs 48 teachers.
The cost is deducted from employee's paychecks.
Nicole Waffen is the manager of the Child Enrichment Center.
"I think for Hyland, it's a big piece for them because, for recruitment purposes, for retention, I've had many employees say 'I stay here because my kids are here,' they love it," she said.
But even here, you can't escape a waiting list.
The day care is so popular, they keep expanding to keep up with demand.
Many parents enroll when they find out they're expecting.
"I think there's a ton of perks. One of the biggest from the parent's perspective is that they're coming to work, so they just bring their child in, it feels like home," Waffen said.
Many parents choose to skip traditional day care and look for alternatives.
Some head online to websites like care.com to find a nanny to come to their home, and other parents take their children to in-home day cares, where a child care provider watches a few children in their own home.
These options can offer more flexible hours, but vary in cost compared to daycare centers.