Amazing how quickly our worlds have been turned upside down. We were all hoping for a return to normalcy once summer ended. This we know is not happening. So what are parents to do? There are a ton of scenarios that parents and caregivers are sharing with us as we head “Back to School. ” Here are a few: A hybrid of a few days at a school or day care and a few days home; Remote learning at home with no outside help; Remote learning at someone else’s home; Hiring a facilitator for children during remote learning time; Hiring a care giver so parents can go to work; Leaving children with a neighbor; A relative; Leaving the kids at home alone for various stretches of time; Joining a pod with a group of families. First, let’s not judge other people’s choices – each family is unique. You will all find what will work best for your family.
The key is to make the decision with eyes wide open and through a KidSafe lens. What is most important? Your child’s safety. If there is not a foundation of safety in the new model of school you are building for your child they will not be able to be fully present to learn. So we ask that you interview and have conversations with the people you will be trusting with your child’s care. Let’s not rush. Let’s choose wisely.
Hiring someone to watch our kids should be done in the same way we would get hired for a job outside the home, even though it does feel different. It has to do with trust and our reluctance to think that a person who wants to work with our children could ever harm them. We ask that you exercise due diligence.
Whether you will need full-time care or just one day a week, finding the right person to trust with this responsibility is a very big decision. Often, parents aren’t sure what questions to ask, how personal they can be, or even where to begin. Add a pandemic to the mix and it is even more complicated.
Here are some things to consider and below is the interview you can download and use to help you have the important conversations.
Start with these tips:
- Before you meet the candidate, make a list of what you want your candidate to know. It should include your “must dos” and “never dos.” You are looking for someone who is a good match for your values and beliefs.
- Consider what feels safe in terms of COVID-19 and social distancing. Do you need this person to be self-isolating? Wearing a mask when with the kids? Have they been around people who have been sick? Will you require use of hand sanitizer?
- Consider your child’s age and any specific needs they might have. This will help you decide what age candidate is appropriate and how much experience they will need to have. Do you have expectations of this person teaching your child? Facilitating? Doing homework? (That word has become an oxymoron.)
- Decide what standards you want for discipline, medical knowledge, etc.
- Consider use of technology. Are you comfortable with the candidate being on the phone while she/he is minding your children? Are you okay with your children being on the candidate’s phone? If the children want to use TikTok and various other apps – what is okay and not okay. Be clear. Are you comfortable with your kids connecting via technology with the candidate? (KidSafe does not recommend this.)
- Always keep your child’s safety and the prevention of abuse at the very top of your mind. If your child will be at another person’s house (relative, friend, neighbors, the pod) what other children and teens will be there? Will they have interaction? What are the boundaries? What would bathrooming rules be? What about access to bedrooms? Is there a gun in the home? Will there be any other adults in the home while your children are there? If so, who? Etc.
- You have every right to ask personal questions of someone who might be caring for your child. Keep it professional, it is a job interview, it will make things easier and create an atmosphere of respect.
Before you meet a potential candidate, ask questions over the phone/facetime to identify any deal-breakers:
- Do you smoke or vape?
- Do you have a valid driver’s license? Insurance? Clean record?
- Do you take any drugs (prescription or not) that impairs your driving? Ability to perform tasks? (Listen to how they answer the question – not just the answer itself.)
- Do you know CPR?
- Do you know how to swim? Are you comfortable taking kids swimming?
Tell me about your own family.
Ask about their parents and siblings, and what kind of family life they had while growing up. Ask them to talk about themselves. It will give you a very good idea of their experiences with children and their attitudes to responsibility.
Why do you want this position to work with my children?
It is fine that they are working for the money, but they should mention that they love children and enjoy being with them.
What do you like to do with kids?
This is an important question. They should know how to interact with children in your child’s age group. Of course, fun and creative ideas that you know will engage your child are a bonus. It is an added challenge entertaining kids during the pandemic as some places are open, others are not and social distancing is advised. Can this candidate list at least a few ideas that would be something new for your kids? (Let the candidate do the talking.)
How do you discipline children?
You are trying to determine if their methods gel with your standards. They may mention time outs, taking away a special treat, or talking firmly with a child. You must tell them your rules. Now is the time to explain that you do not believe in spanking or any type of physical discipline. They must respect your views. Note their demeanor. Ask them to describe the most challenging discipline situation they have dealt with. (Listen for how they talk about the child – do they come from a place of compassion? Frustration? Disrespect?)
How do you get an infant down for a nap? (If applicable.)
You want to see indicators of patience. Ask them to tell you about a time when they were in a difficult or frustrating situation with a child. Assess how well they dealt with it.
When is it proper to let a baby cry and for how long? (If applicable.)
You should reach an agreement on this. It helps if you share the same philosophy.
Are you comfortable with infant duties? (If applicable.)
Can they change diapers, prepare bottles, or feed an infant? How much experience do they have?
If you were hiring a babysitter for your own children, what would you look for?
You will discover if your applicant values kindness and nurturing qualities or if they would simply want someone who is on time and tidy. See if your ideas match up.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Listen for key qualities like patience, kindness, creativity, or love of kids. You want to hear honesty when they describe the areas they are working on.
What work are you doing now? Why are you leaving?
Their answers will give you a sense of any difficulties in their past working relationships and an idea of their long-term plans.
What are your thoughts on child abuse?
Let them answer in general to see if they understand the concept. Ask if they have ever witnessed child abuse. You want them to know that you are very vigilant around this issue. You need to see if you can talk with them about preventing abuse in your home. Ask them if they would be willing to take a course for people working with children about healthy boundaries and abuse prevention. (Link to CampSafe). Here is a good place to let the candidate know that you are teaching your children (all age kids) about personal safety to prevent sexual abuse. That you will have specific rules to be followed regarding bathrooming for the young kids, staying in the open area of the home with the kids, not using technology for posting anything on social media with out your permission, etc.
For longer-term candidates:
How long do you envision staying with this job?
You’re looking for commitment. You do not want to disrupt your child’s life and attachments every few months.
Tell them clearly about your rules and boundaries. For example: “My 4-year-old must be supervised in the bath but he can wash himself.”
Always ask for two or three references from people who are not family members.
Previous employers are best. Always follow up with all of them. You would be surprised by how many people ask for references but never get around to checking them. Click here to download the Interview for Hiring Caregivers for your children.