By Paula Bernstein

We’ve all heard the stories about parents who put their future progeny on waiting lists for daycare even before they are born. Unfortunately, those aren’t just urban legends. They’re true.

“With more women than ever in the work force, many of the country’s roughly 11,000 nationally accredited child-care centers are full to capacity,” according to the Wall Street Journal. As a result, some child-care centers don’t accept applications. Instead, they hand parents a wait-list form.

Some centers even let parents sign up on a wait list before conception.

At Bright Horizons, a daycare center in Boston, wait lists are about a year long. Alyssa Soper, the center’s director, told the Wall Street Journal that she gets wait-list requests from families who say “they’re trying or thinking about” having a baby.

It’s clear the system is flawed and needs a major overhaul. But barring that anytime soon, here are 8 few tips for getting your kid into daycare.

  • Put your child on more than one wait list.
  • Register your child a year before you’ll need childcare.
  • Since siblings of current students get priority, enroll all your children at the same center.
  • Check in with the center regularly to make sure you’re still on the wait-list.
  • Since wait-listed families may only have a couple of days to respond to an offer of admission, make sure they have your current contact information (even when you leave town).
  • Try to enroll in the summer since there are usually more slots available then.
  • Be flexible – you may have to accept a slot sooner than you had planned or take a part-time slot if it’s all they have available. 
  • It might even pay to stay on the wait list at your first-choice center even after you enroll your child elsewhere. It’s good to have options!

Keep in mind that child-care centers and preschools sponsored by employers, religious institutions, schools, or universities typically give priority admission to affiliated families.

Although it may be tempting, there is one tactic that experts advise you not to do: giving bribes. But it doesn’t hurt to be super nice.