Vetting and Hiring Caregivers During Summer 2020 – Think Pandemic and Personal Safety

Amazing how quickly our worlds have been turned upside down. We were all looking for a return to normalcy to occur once online/home schooling ended. For most of us this is not going to happen. Camps, understandably, are not opening up as they can not ensure the safety of our kids and their employees. So what are parents to do? The economy is reopening, we need to get the kids out of the house, and many parents, grands, and foster parents are being called back to work – and they are eager to go!

It is time to consider seriously hiring a ‘babysitter’ or an ‘at home camp counselor’ for our kids this summer. The good news is that they are out there for hire. We have seen a trend of teachers, college students, and teens reaching out via social media and word of mouth to let us know they are available and ready to take care of our children. But let’s not rush. Let’s choose wisely.

Often we hire a Saturday night babysitter because our neighbor down the street said she/he was good. If we were hiring a person to work in our business we would interview, check  backgrounds and call references. Hiring someone to watch our kids should be done in a similar way, 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. Here are some things to consider and below is the interview you can download.

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 useful tips:

  • Before you meet the potential babysitter, make a list of what you want your babysitter 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 out with the kids? Have they been around people who have been sick? Will you require hand sanitizer after an outing? Etc.
  • Consider your child’s age and any specific needs they might have. This will help you decide what age babysitter is appropriate and how much experience they will need to have.
  • Decide what standards you want for discipline, medical knowledge, etc.
  • Consider use of technology. Are you comfortable with the babysitter being on the phone while she/he is minding your children? Are you okay with your children being on the babysitter’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 babysitter? (KidSafe does not recommend this.)
  • Always keep your child’s safety and the prevention of abuse at the very top of your mind.
  • 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 babysitter, 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?

Interview questions

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 to be a babysitter or at home camp counselor?

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 parks and community pools have not reopened (as of this writing). Can this candidate list at least a few ideas that would be something new for your kids?

Are you comfortable with infant duties?

Can they change diapers, prepare bottles, or feed an infant? How much experience do they have?

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.

How do you get an infant down for a nap?

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?

You should reach an agreement on this. It helps if you share the same philosophy.

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 in any of the homes they have worked in. Have they ever been accused of hurting a child? 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 professional course for summer staff about healthy boundaries and abuse prevention. (Link to CampSafe).

For longer-term nannies:

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.

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