Selecting Child Care
Many of you have faced significant disruption with the closures of schools and daycare centers due to the spreading of the COVID-19 or coronavirus. However, your places of employment may still be operating and you may still need to go to work. It is imperative that you find child care for your child – and fast.
While it is very tempting to contact the first person who responds to your child care request on social media or posts an offer to babysit on your community’s Facebook page, you must do your due diligence as a parent to protect your child. Unfortunately, child predators look for times like these when parents are in need and the most vulnerable.
Below are steps you should take to protect against harm to your child:
Conduct phone, video, or in-person interviews. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. If the person becomes uncomfortable, then they are not the one to babysit your child. Sample questions:
- How long have you been babysitting?
- Is there anyone who might suggest that you should not work with children?
- Do you have experience caring for children of [X] age?
- What activities do you like to do with kids?
- How comfortable are you enforcing household rules?
- How do you typically deal with behavior issues?
- This is a [screen-free/sugar-free/dairy-free/pet-friendly/non-smoking/etc.] home. Are you comfortable with that?
- What’s your favorite thing about babysitting?
- What do you find most challenging about caring for children?
- Have you taken any child care or safety classes?
- Are you willing to prepare meals and snacks for my child?
- Are you willing to assist with any work sent home by the school or online learning requirements?
- How often do you rely on screens when caring for kids?
- Do you have experience caring for children with allergies?
- Do you have experience caring for children with special needs?
- What would a typical day/evening/afternoon caring for my children look like?
- Do you have reliable transportation?
- How long have you been driving and do you have a clean driving record?
Check references. References can be more important than the interview. Please do not hire a babysitter without checking their references, including other families. Sample questions:
- How long did the person babysit for you, and how often? (It is not a good sign if the person does not have any previous families to use as references.)
- Did they have any attendance issues?
- Did they follow the rules of your house?
- Did your children like them? Why or why not?
- Do you think they could handle an emergency?
- Were there any incidents or issues during their babysitting you want me to know about?
- Would you hire them again?
Check their social media. Check Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media accounts and be on the lookout for any photos of behavior that might make them inappropriate for the job. Anything the person posts publicly online is fair game for you to use as part of the screening process. Search the internet for any news articles about them. Review state and local websites to obtain any relevant public information.
Trust your instincts. You know your family and child better than anyone, and if something feels not right, then it is not right.
Beware of red flags. Be concerned if a babysitter:
- Forgets something significant that you discussed
- Doesn’t return calls or texts in a timely manner
- Shows up late
- Speaks negatively of past families or children they’ve cared for
- Seems unwilling to perform the basic functions of the job
- Seems distracted or unenthusiastic
- Tells your child that it’s okay not to follow the rules
- Asks your child to keep a secret from you
- Communicates with your child via texting or social media without you knowing
Child predators operate by access, privacy, and control. Listen to your child if they tell you something is wrong and observe their interactions with the babysitter. Nurture an understanding of healthy relationships in your child. Demonstrate the importance of sharing feelings. Evidence suggests that children are more likely to disclose abuse when a parent or loved one initiates a conversation about sexuality or abuse. Ongoing communication with our children can help to nurture qualities within them that render them less likely to be targets of abuse. Good communication ensures that when something is difficult or something goes wrong, the parent or primary caregiver is there to help.
We must all work together to protect our children and to help them have happy childhoods and develop into strong and healthy adults. Good luck during this difficult time.