You have a new baby. Suddenly, your life revolves around this tiny perfect human and you feel as though you are wearing your heart on the outside of your body. Whether you are returning to work or have decided you just need a few hours to yourself each week, hiring a caregiver for your child can be a very scary and overwhelming prospect. Here are 10 tips to help you find the best caregiver for your family.
- Decide what you need and want in a caregiver: Are you looking for someone who can work in your home full-time when you return to work or just for a few hours each week? Do you expect your caregiver to help out with household tasks like laundry and tidying or will their sole focus be caring for your baby? Is it necessary that your caregiver has a car and a clean driving record or is it okay if they arrive via bus or need to be picked up? These are all important factors to consider when determining your caregiving needs. Take the time to write a thorough job description identifying all your needs and wants for a caregiver and don’t forget to include what you are willing and able to pay. Indicate the type and length of relevant childcare experience you require and any other criteria that is important to you like a college degree, CPR and First Aid certification or previous child development coursework. Being specific with your needs up front will help potential caregivers know if they are qualified for the position before applying.
- Allow time for the search: Hiring a caregiver for your baby is not a process you want to rush. Allow plenty of time for interviewing multiple candidates, calling references, conducting trial periods and deciding who will be the best fit for your family. You should start your childcare search at least two months prior to when you will need the caregiver to begin. Deciding who you will entrust with your most precious child is not something you want to do in haste.
- Connect with friends and family members for referrals: What better reference than one that comes from someone you already know and trust. When you begin your search for a caregiver, reach out to other parents you know and ask them who they would recommend. Ask family members whom you trust and who know your family well, who they would suggest you contact. You may even be lucky enough to have a family member who volunteers to help with the caregiving of your baby.
- Consider using a reputable nanny agency: If your personal connections aren’t rendering any great referrals, consider using a professional agency with a good reputation to help you with your search. Using a childcare agency has the added benefit of providing you with candidates who have already been vetted, gone through a background check and determined to be qualified for caring for babies and children. While you may pay a fee up front for this type of service, the peace of mind in the long run will be worth it.
- Don’t cut corners on the interview process: While it can be helpful to begin the process with a phone interview, make sure that you meet all serious potential candidates in person. Prepare your questions for the interview ahead of time and allow up to an hour to spend with each applicant. During your time together, you will want to ask questions about experience, child rearing beliefs, what they plan to do with your baby during their time together and any other areas of importance to you. It’s a good idea to ask how the caregiver might approach certain scenarios and how they have handled challenging situations in the past. If possible, have the potential caregiver interact with your child during her visit so that you can see her degree of comfort caring for an infant and how your baby responds.
- Call their references: Ask for at least three references from each potential caregiver and actually call them all personally. Make sure they provide you with references that can speak to their professional experience caring for babies and children and not just personal friends or family members. Ask each candidate’s references to share strengths and weaknesses they noticed while working with them and be sure to ask about any reservations they may have in recommending them for future positions.
- Ask for a background check: Unless you are hiring a friend or family member for the position, you are essentially hiring a stranger to work in your home and care for your baby. A background check is an important step to ensure that you are hiring the person you think you are hiring and to rule out the possibility of any criminal background. If you find your caregiver via an agency or online nanny website, they may already have a background check on file. If not, you can easily find back ground check services online to conduct varying degrees of searches. Do not skip this step before employing someone in your home with your child.
- Make sure they respect your parenting beliefs: If you are adamantly against letting your baby, “cry it out”, and your nanny thinks it’s okay to do, we can guarantee this will not be a good fit. It’s important that your caregiver has a good understanding of your parenting style and beliefs and is comfortable following them while in your home. You will want your child to ultimately feel that it is a seamless transition from parent to nanny in terms of the type of care that is provided. Your nanny should be working with you, not against you, to raise your baby the way you have decided you want him raised.
- Conduct a trial period: Decide upon your top candidates after the interview process and do a trial period with each of them. You can do a trial day or week depending on how much time you would like to assess the fit. During this time, stay home and observe how they interact with your baby and their degree of comfort and ease caring for your little one. Do short excursions away to see how your baby adapts to being left with another caregiver. This will also give you and your caregiver the opportunity to get to know one another better and for her to ask any questions she may have about your baby or home.
- Create a contract: Once you have decided on a good fit for your family, put all your expectations, agreements, and terms of employment on paper, review it with your new nanny, and have both parties sign and date the document. Make a copy for your new caregiver and keep one for yourself. This way, if issues arise in the future about expectations or care provided, there is a contract to reference.
With the proper preparation and thought, finding the right caregiver for your child can be a rewarding and beneficial experience for all involved. Needless to say, this person will be one of the most important people you will hire in your life as they will be responsible for love and care of your baby in your absence. Take the time to do it right—it’s worth the peace of mind.