Noe Valley Voice December-January 1998-99

Ferreting Out Family Day Care In Noe Valley

By Alison Pence

My son, now 14 months, is interested in socializing. So, even though I knew it would be hard to leave him in the hands of another, this fall I began a search for licensed family day care within walking distance of my Noe Valley home.

What is family day care? It's the care of children by a person in her or his home. To be licensed by the state, family day care providers must pass a background check and be certified in first-aid and CPR. They also must follow strict rules on the number and ages of children they take care of. In my case, I was looking for homes that would take kids under 2 years old.

My first step was contacting the Children's Council of San Francisco, a nonprofit advocacy group founded in Noe Valley more than 25 years ago. The Children's Council operates a free referral service at 243-0111, and will match your zip code to its listings and give you the numbers of licensed providers over the phone. The group also has a resource room at 2601 Mission St. (Suite 600), where you can go for information. Hours are 9 to 4, Monday through Thursday (but please call ahead for an appointment).

In addition, the Children's Council gives free workshops on "Choosing Child Care." The workshops -- call to preregister -- take place on the second Tuesday of the month at the Council's downtown office, 575 Sutter St.

After calling this group, I received a large packet in the mail on how to scout for child care. I then checked out another organization, Care Guide, which provides a phone referral service (474-1278), as well as a web site (

After reviewing the information and materials, I was sorry to see that there were almost no listings in Noe Valley for the kind of day care I wanted.

"In the 94114 zip code, we have only five listings for family day care right now, and they're full," says Gladys Lopez, referral specialist at the Children's Council. "Unfortunately, Glen Park is the same."

The reason family day care is so popular, she adds, is that "usually the hours and days are more flexible than at the centers. Also, fees are often negotiable."

Since the Noe Valley daycares all have long waiting lists, they rarely need to advertise their services. Most are not even in the phone book.

This convinced me that my best resource would be "word of mouth."

In fact, I got most of my leads by talking to parents at the Noe Valley Library lapsits (Wednesdays at 7 p.m.), the Tiny Tots program at Douglass Playground, or Kids' Gym at Upper Noe Recreation Center on Day near Sanchez.

The bulletin boards at Kids' Gym and at Peek-a-Boutique (1306 Castro St.) offered some helpful listings too, but I found that they were usually for daycares out of the area.

I also discovered that Natural Resources, the childbirth center at 1307 Castro St., has two large binders: one for "Child Care Provided/Share Care" and another for "Child Care Wanted." The store has a form to fill out for people who want to be listed. And there is no fee.

There is one drawback, however: The "Child Care Provided" book lists very few licensed providers and is so large it will take you a whole morning to go through. Most listings are for individuals who would like a nanny position, so if that's what you're after, go for it. Parents should also note that more options exist for those who want to go to Bernal Heights, Diamond Heights, or the Mission District.

Because of the young age of my child and because I do not need full-time care, Natural Resources suggested that a play group or share-care group might work best for me. Joining a family co-op, where several families take turns watching all the children in the group, is another possibility. These groups often put notices on the bulletin boards or link up via the lapsit network.

Last month my husband, son, and I joined a play group on our block with four other families. (We also made a commitment to attend more lapsits!)

So all my research wouldn't go to waste, however, I put together a table listing some of the preschools recommended by parents and child care advocates I'd met along the way (see below).

The table shows rates and hours as of November 1998. I have not included details such as after-hours services, the ratio of kids to adults, and the meals offered. Also, the fees and minimum ages could vary, depending on the slots available and the hours you need.

Many of the more established daycares offer two, three, or four days per week, or half days. But they may be starting to fill up for 1999.

"It is not too early to apply for next year [September]," says Kim Hughes of Rainbow Family Child Care.

She adds that parents can be very disappointed if they find that their first choice for day care is already booked up. They end up placing their child at the last minute with anyone who has room.

Searching now will allow you to visit and compare the services offered and to make the best choice for your child.

Good luck!

A Peek at Local Day Care Centers

Last month, I did a phone survey of Noe Valley homes and preschools offering licensed day care.* If you need more information, call the day care center you're interested in. But please respect the caregivers' privacy by calling during regular business hours. Also note that all daycares require an appointment before visiting their facility. -- Alison Pence

For Infants and Toddlers

Name Contact Phone Address Min. Age Hours Rate

Debra King School Debra King 641-1950 26th & Church 18 mos 8 ­ 6 $800/mo

Diamond Street Day Care Ellen Wood 648-4123 625 Diamond St. 3 mos 8 ­ 5:30 $180/wk

Katherine Michiels School Kate Brickley 821-1434 1335 Guerrero St. 3 mos 7 ­ 6 $950/mo

Kids' All Around Day Care Araceli Rodriguez 824-2403 Local Infants 8 ­ 5:30 Variable

Rainbow Family Child Care Kim Hughes 641-5288 26th & Church 18 mos 8 ­ 6 $5/hr, $175/wk

With Care Child Care Dr. Kathleen Albert 550-7527 50 Fair Oaks St. 2 weeks 8 ­ 5 $7.75 ­ $8.75/hr

For Children Older Than 2

Name Contact Phone Address Min. Age Hours Rate

Eureka Learning Center Leslie Banta 821-3422 464 Diamond St. 21/2 yrs 9 ­ 6 $675/mo

Katherine Michiels School Katharine Michiels 821-1434 1335 Guerrero St. 2 yrs 7 ­ 6 $750/mo

Noe Valley Nursery School Nina Youkelson 647-2278 1021 Sanchez St. 21/2 yrs 9 ­ 12:30 $160/month

Timothy Mouse House Valerie Valdez 282-0215 601 Diamond St. 2 yrs 8 ­ 7 $795/mo

Treehouse Preschool Susie Williams 641-8867 Fountain & 24th 2 yrs 8 ­ 6 $700/mo

Wind in the Willows Pat O'Connor 285-5510 1444 Church St. 21/2 yrs Half days $415/mo

Peppertree Day Care & Preschool Ann Fcalf 282-5650 4333 23rd St. 2 yrs 7:30 ­ 5:30 $700/ mo

*These listings are provided as a public service, and do not guarantee licensing by the state. Nor do they imply endorsement by the Noe Valley Voice.