We were very happy with the care our son was receiving during his first 3 months at Alma's until the last Friday of September 2010. Alma called and said that I needed to come to her house at 6:30 pm for an emergency meeting.
At the meeting she let us know that she had had a surprise inspection the day before and that they had too many children under the age of 2. She was licensed for 4 ""infants"" but had 8. They hadn't been inspected in 5 years, she said, and was given one week to make changes. She knew she was licensed for 4 babies but took that risk and didn't explain that clearly to me before I moved him into Alma's Children's Garden.
As a result of the inspection, the 3 newest infants (one was my child) had 1 week to find alternative care. Alma suggested that one of the parents host a nanny share with 1 of her 2 daycare providers, Bertha, until the older ""infants"" turned 2 years old. Alma was not going to be able to pay for Bertha and didn't want to loose her. As you can imagine, this was very upsetting, stressful and decreased the trust we had in Alma. Plus, letting us know on a Friday evening, instead of the day it happened, prevented us from trying to find another daycare until Monday.
Over that weekend it was decided who would host the kids and Bertha. It was a 3 month situation and then we would go back to Alma's full time. We all thought we had the full week but found out Thursday that the next day, Oct. 1st, the kids could not go back to Alma's.
Before we were temporarily thrown out of Alma's, I asked her when she was reopening after her two week vacation in December. She told me she was reopening Tues. Jan. 4th and not Mon. Jan 3rd. I didn't understand why she was taking off an additional day. She said it is in her contract that if a holiday falls on the weekend, she can take either Mon or Fri off. I had to return to work on Mon. Jan 3rd and so did most of the other parents. This meant paying a sitter for that day and also paying Alma for the full month of Jan.
When we returned to Alma's, she had made 2 major changes to her contract. The first was that her rates had gone up by $5/day for each child to be able to provide ""organic milk, eggs, fresh chicken, some fruit"" as well as cooking with olive oil only. The other change was a 60-days, not 30-days, notice when terminating daycare.
When we gave notice, she thought we owed her a week's worth of vacation pay instead of checking her records first to double check that we did not owe her money. Considering she has 12 kids in her daycare, it doesn't seem that difficult to keep track of start dates & payments.
She also wanted us to pay $10/hour for the last week of our son's daycare (it fell in the new month) rather than pro-rate us what we had been paying her monthly.
To sum up our experience, here are the pros & cons.
- Alma and her staff are good with the kids.
- Alma provides home cooked organic meals.
- The children learn Spanish.
- The outside is great when the weather is nice.
- She is less expensive than most other day cares.
- When the weather is bad and the kids can't play outside, they are stuck in 2 small rooms.
- Open from 8-5:30, not 7:30-5:30 and she prefers the kids under 2 years old to be picked up by 5 pm.
- Alma's is closed 4 weeks a year and the families pay for 3 weeks of that time. In her contract she states that she ""will let all the families know one or two months in advance.""
- Takes off all the Federal Holidays plus Good Friday and the day after Thanksgiving.
- The daycare may close on a day other than the day the holiday falls on. For example, Alma's closed for Veterans Day on Fri., Nov. 12, 2010, not Thurs., Nov. 11, 2010.
- If the child is in the infant group, he/she will not be encouraged to go down to 1 nap a day. Our son was taking 2 naps at Alma's and 1 at our house when he was 19 months old.
- Alma requires a 60-day notice when leaving her daycare.
- The daycare is located in a sketchy neighborhood.