For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

I’ve been talking with some moms lately who are feeling a bit overwhelmed and frustrated about their futures. They are doing the best they can to work outside their homes so they can provide the money that  their families need. At the same time, they’re concerned and confused about how to provide the best care for their kids while they’re working.

There are some excellent child care and Mothers’ Day Out programs here in Rockport.  However, I have learned there are some families whose child care needs aren’t being met by local programs. Some parents are concerned about their kids getting exposed to germs when they’re in group care and prefer that their kids stay at home in order to keep them healthy. For those who are enrolled in group care programs, there’s the dilemma of finding care for the kids when they’re mildly ill and unable to attend the group program. Some moms I’ve talked with work nights, when child care centers are closed.

The solution for many of these parents is hiring a nanny or babysitter to come into their homes. If you find yourself in this situation, here are some tips that might help you feel confident in the person you’ve hired so that you can live into the plans that God has to prosper you and to give you hope.

1. Decide what you want in a nanny or babysitter before you even begin actively searching. Do you want someone to help out with household chores in addition to caring for the kids? Will they be driving the kids to and from school, after school activities or other places? Do you want someone to just “watch” the kids or do you want someone who will  plan and provide age-appropriate developmental activities? Do you have firmly set days and hours or do you need someone whose time can be flexible? How much will you pay? Are you willing to consider a male child care provider?  Be as specific as you can in your own mind about what you want.

2. When you’ve decided exactly what you want, write it all down. Your mind can go blank when you sit down to interview a prospective child care provider, so having a written checklist will help make sure you ask the important questions and let the interviewee know exactly what you will expect of them.

3. Begin your search. There are a lot of ways to do this. Ask neighbors, friends and coworkers for recommendations. Advertise in the newspaper or on social media. Go to an online Child Care resource.

4. Set up interviews. You might want to meet the first time at a public place, without the kids. Go for a cup of coffee and sit down to talk without distractions. You’ll want to talk about the basics, such as hours and pay. You’ll want to ask about the candidate’s child care philosophy. What does she think is important for kids? What does she know about child development? What experience has she had caring for kids other than her own?  What kind of training or special skills does she have? Is she willing to take classes to help improve her knowledge and skills? Is she certified in First Aid and CPR or willing to become certified? Describe some scenarios and ask what she would do. For example, “What would you do if my toddler started choking?”, “How would you put my baby down for a nap?” or “What would you do if my three-year-old hit his little sister?” Ask for three references of people for whom she has worked previously. Ask her for written permission to run a background check.

5. If you’re still interested in the candidate after your interview, it’s time to screen her. Call the references. Ask how long they’ve known the candidate and how they know her. If she was a caregiver for their children, ask about the number and ages of kids she cared for.  Ask how long she worked for them.  Arrange for a professional background check that will show up any criminal history. Look at her social media presence. You can learn a lot about a person’s values and lifestyles by reading their Facebook and Twitter posts.

6. Once the background check comes back with a clean record and you’re satisfied with the references and social media presence, ask the candidate to come to your home to meet the kids. Stay at the house, but back off a bit and observe the way she interacts with the kids. Notice how well the kids respond to her. Does she seem to enjoy their company, or does she seem bored or uncomfortable? Is she texting or checking her phone every few minutes or engaging in conversation or play activities with them? Do the kids seem to like her and feel comfortable with her?  Half an hour should be plenty of time for you to get a sense of how well things will work out.

7. If all goes well, it’s time to hire her on a trial basis. Before you leave, make sure you’ve clearly established ground rules about what’s acceptable in your home. Is it ok for her to watch TV? Are you alright with her posting pictures of your kids on soclal media? What about smoking? Drinking alcohol? Swearing? Having guests?  Cell phone usage?

8. Make sure she knows where everything is – diapers, wipes, formula and bottles, emergency phone numbers, emergency exits, smoke detectors, the first aid kit and the fire extinguisher. Be sure she has your cell phone number and the address and phone number of the place where you’ll be.

9. Let her know what schedule you want the kids to follow – mealtime, bedtime, screen time limits and such. Tell her what your household rules are – what the kids are allowed to do and what’s off limits .

10. If everything goes well during the trial run and if you, the kids and the child care provider are all happy, then it looks like you’ve found just what your family needs. Just keep the lines of communication open and make sure that she feels valued as you continue developing your relationship in a professional, mutually respectful way.

I pray that these tips can help you as you seek a good solution to your child care needs. If I can be of help in any way, please reach out to me. I would love to talk with you!

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