As a young person, you may have babysat from time to time. Maybe it was the neighbor’s kids, your mother’s co-worker’s daughter, or a friend of a friend. Think back to the “interview” process, was there one? Chances are, you got a phone call or your parent set up a babysitting gig for you and you showed up to take care of children with no more than a page worth of general instructions. Now, as a parent, it may be a difficult to think about entrusting your 15 year old neighbor to watch your children for a couple of hours on a Friday night. Sure, she’s nice and she seems to be capable, but how do you know if she will be a responsible and safe fit for your family?
Whether you are looking for in home, out of home care or someone to take care of your child with a disability, here are some tips for finding a caregiver you can trust without feeling the need to check in every half hour:
The Planning Process
Before you say “yes” to the first recommendation that comes along, figure out your expectations and what you need and want in a caregiver. Many parents don’t realize their expectations until they’ve had a bad experience with a caregiver or was too afraid to voice what they really want. As a parent, you have a right to be specific (and even “picky”) about what you want in a caregiver and you don’t need to settle for anything less. Leaving your child under the care of someone other than you can be a very stressful and difficult decision. If he or she cannot follow your instructions, however specific they may be, they may not be a good fit for you or your child.
First off, make a list of all the things you think a suitable caregiver should do and know. Do you expect him or her to be first-aid certified? If you have a child with special needs, do you require that a caregiver has experience with a child like yours? Be open to interviewing caregiver candidates and ask your potential caregiver questions that will not only showcase their personality/character, but their experience. If you get answers that make you feel uncomfortable or cautious, don’t select him or her as a caregiver, even if it means hurting your neighbor’s feelings.
Do Your Research
Hiring a caregiver for your child, whether in home or out of home, is the same as finding an employee. Select your candidates carefully and do your research, such as background checks or calling references. Remember, just because someone says that he or she has childcare experience, doesn’t mean that he or she is the right fit for you and your family. Consider your caregiver candidate’s interaction with your child as a significant part of the interview process. Your child may not like to interact with people he or she doesn’t know and may not enjoy being looked after by someone other than you. Keeping that into consideration, see how your potential caregiver talks and listens to your child. If it doesn’t feel right, keep looking. Remember to follow your gut as it’s often correct. It doesn’t mean that the caregiver is a “bad” person, he or she is just not the one for you.
Ask the Big Questions
If you’ve met with someone who really seems like an ideal caregiver for your child, it’s time to ask more “real” questions. For example, if you have a child with behavioral issues or a disability, simply ask your candidate how he or she would handle an emotional meltdown or nasty comments from a passerby at the park.
Additionally, invite your potential caregiver to come over a few times while you’re still at home and observe how she or he does with your child. You will be able to tell if he or she is engaging in genuine care or if he or she is just trying to impress you. Finally, if you hired a caregiver and he or she is not meeting your expectations or simply doesn’t seem to connect well with your child, remember that you are not obligated to keep him or her as a caregiver.