Make an informed decision on choosing your next (or first) childcare provider.
At Winnie, we know there is nothing more important than the safety and well-being of your children. As your children grow, the day may come when you need to find a trustworthy and reliable childcare provider. Whether it’s time to head back to work, get a haircut, or go out on a date with your partner, you want to know your children are in the best of hands.
Fortunately, there are many reputable childcare options available and with the right information and preparation, you can find the perfect fit for your family.
Meet Your Needs
There are a wide variety of childcare options available so it’s helpful to understand what each major category of childcare means. Here are the basic categories of childcare.
This type of care usually takes place in a center or the home of a provider, typically where a number of children are being cared for. Children are able to learn social skills by playing with other kids.
A co-op is a group of parents, usually self-organized, who take turns watching each other’s children. Some daycares operate this way as well, offering cheaper or free rates in exchange for a certain number of hours of volunteer work.
Not just your mother-in-law! Drop-in care refers to a flexible care option that you may use on an as needed basis. For example, some gyms offer this option for members who want to have their kids watched as they work out. Many providers also offer date night care, sometimes called “kids night out”, where they will have a pizza party with a movie on Friday nights so parents can go out.
Babysitters provide care on a part time basis for an hourly rate. Duties may be set on a weekly schedule or simply scheduled as needed by the family. A variation of a babysitter is a Mother’s Helper (which we prefer to call “Parent’s Helper”) who helps the parent with childcare and other duties while the parent is home.
Nannies work with one family in most cases on a full-time or part-time basis. A nanny usually lives outside of the home. A variation of a nanny is “share care”. This means sharing the services of a nanny with another family. This also means you can share the cost as well.
Nanny, but French… just kidding! An au pair is an international young adult who lives with and works for their host family. They care for the children, help with household tasks, and are given compensation in addition to their room and board.
Once you figure out the type of care you need, the next step is filling in all the details. Make sure your specify the hours you need coverage, pay, location, ages of your children, and any other requirements like language fluency. Even if you’re searching for a daycare, it’s important to do this step and consider what it is you’re looking for in a childcare provider.
Knowing what you’re looking for in a childcare provider is half the battle. The other half is actually finding that person or facility. There are many ways to find that perfect caregiver match once you have your requirements.
Spread the word.
Post the job in your local parent’s network or on a childcare site like Care.com.
Ask your friends.
Share the job with friends (and ask them to share it). Referrals from your network are more likely to be vetted, which means less work down the road when you’re checking references.
Find an agency.
Choosing a provider can be a daunting task, so let someone else do the work. There are agencies and experts out there that can help narrow down your search for you, for a fee.
There’s an app for that!
Use Winnie's daycare directory to find daycare options in your area and what parents have to say about them. Or for an individual sitter or nanny, try UrbanSitter, Trusted or an agency like Sensible Sitters.
Be on the Lookout
Any individual or facility can look good on paper, but it’s important to do your diligence and dig beyond the surface with a phone interview and/or in-person meeting. This is a chance to really get to know the person you will entrust with your child’s life. You can ask how they handled a cranky, crying, or sick child in the past to make sure they’re prepared (and have the patience) for a difficult situation. You may want to setup a trial run with yourself, the future caregiver and your child. This will give you a better feel for how they interact with your child and it’s also a chance for you to provide on the job training.
Background checks offer valuable information to make sure you are hiring exactly whom you intend to. Use a service like eNannySource.com to confirm your potential caregiver is in fact who they say they are and make sure they have no criminal history. In addition to a background check, consider checking off the following boxes when finding the right provider for your family.
Though we never want to think the worst, it’s important to know in the event of an emergency your children will be surrounded by individuals ready to spring into action. Ask for the CPR/First Aid class your provider last attended and request they take a refresher if it’s been awhile.
Shots, shots, shots.
It’s important to know and understand immunization requirements at potential childcare facilities, as well as the immunization status of your provider.
Ask for references and call them. The more information on a facility or individual, the more comfortable you will feel leaving your children in their care. If it’s a daycare facility, look it up on Winnie and see what parents have to say about it.
Keep on the lookout.
If the care is being received in your home, consider putting one or more monitors in place to see what’s going on. It’s good practice to let your caregiver know where the cameras are. If you are recording audio, you are legally required in some states to get permission due to wiretapping laws.
3, 2, 1… Handoff!
The first time you leave your child with someone new, make sure you set them up for success by preparing them for how things should go. Approximately what time will you child want to eat/drink and what should they feed them? Should they be giving your child a bath? What are some tricks for calming your child down if he/she is upset? Also be sure to inform your provider about any allergies or other medical conditions.
As you know, things don’t always go as planned, especially when kids are in the mix. You also need to make sure your childcare provider is ready for some worst case scenarios by equipping your child’s caregiver with the answers to the following simple questions. Make sure these key answers and contact information is also printed out and displayed somewhere, not just told verbally as it’s easy to forget in an emergency.
What’s the emergency plan?
If the care is being provided at your home, your caregiver should also know how to evacuate your house in case of emergency and what a good rendezvous spot should be, like the nearest coffee shop or library. They should also know where the closest Emergency Room is and to dial 911 in an emergency.
Where do you keep the goods?
Let your caregiver know where to find first-aid materials like bandages, a fire extinguisher, and a flashlight. Be sure to instruct your caregiver on what medications they are/aren’t allowed to give your child.
Where will you be?
Make sure anyone you leave your child with knows how to contact you in case of an emergency and where you’ll be. They should also have a backup contact or two in case they can’t get in touch with you.
Do they have medical consent?
If all parents/guardians will be unreachable for a prolonged period of time, you probably want to consider putting a medical consent in place so that your child’s caregiver can make medical decisions for your child in your absence.