Heather's Tips for Finding A Child Care Fit for Your Family

Choosing and scheduling childcare can feel like a nightmare when trying to balance schedules, activities, school recitals and extra shifts. Let us help you make it a tiny bit easier.

Both Heather and I work non-traditional hours. She provides therapy in her own practice and often sees clients on weekends and evenings. Heather juggles her mom duties and profession as best as she can while teaming with her husband to make sure her little sea monkeys can still participate in all their activities.

I (Jessica) work several jobs that require me to manage a 40 hour traditional work week with contracted work peppered in on evenings and weekends. To say the two of us have childcare needs would be an understatement. We need reliable and affordable quality care for our children.

And finding said care isn’t easy. Childcare centers operate on traditional 9-5 schedules, many home providers can’t run kids to activities, and really good babysitters graduate and move on to bigger and better things.

So Heather devised a system to help her manage the ebb and flow of finding the best fit caregivers. And she’s been fine tuning the process since her littles were babies—

Here are some tips to help you:

Heather: I found that most of the people interested did not read my ad but sent applications whether my ad fit for them or not. This required me to sift through a pool of people who may or may not actually want to watch my children.

Step One:

Private message the applicants and repeat my requirements and expectations. This helped me inform them of my needs and if they were truly interested, I could ask for a resume to be sent to my email address.

Here are some examples of questions you may need to ask:

1. What hours are you available? Are your hours flexible?

2. What training have you had (CPR, 1st Aid) that helps you care for children?

3. Do you have reliable transportation?

4. Does your schedule change?

Step Two:

Heather: Requiring a resume helped screen out poor applicants or those that might not work best for my family. I could keep a record of applicants and review their experience.

I then review resumes looking for regularity in their work experience and goodness of fit for our family.

Jessica’s note: It’s important to define a good fit for your family. What qualities are you looking for in a caregiver? Heather and I have talked about needing two very different kinds of caregivers at times. For instance, I have boys at home that push limits so I need someone with the confidence to say no. We both value someone who shares creative activities and who can safely drive our children to activities. What do you need from a caregiver?

Questions to help find a fit:

1. What is your philosophy in caring for children?

2. What would a typical day look like when you care for my children?

3. Are you comfortable preparing meals?

4. How do you best communicate? (text, call, email)

5. Do you have allergies to pets? (Jessica’s note: How do you feel about chickens? Seriously, I need to ask this since my backyard has a flock of fowl running about while kids play football and soccer). So if you have an emu running around in the back or a snake that slithers freely—make sure your sitters know in advance.

Step Three:

Schedule a meeting at a park with the potential caregiver.

Heather: I would watch their interactions with my kids and talk about their experiences with children and any other information listed on the resume. This is a great time to get to know one another and follow up on resume questions.

I also added a short bit of info on my perception that this job tends to fit in someone's life at a certain time and frequently there comes a time when it doesn't anymore. I would tell them to please just let me know when that is and reassure them that I would not be angry about it. I found this to decrease the likelihood of being ghosted when I was relying on them.

Jessica’s note: Heather struggled with sitters that just stopped communicating. She created this portion of her interview to tackle that problem head on. So far it’s helping. My advice is be purposeful and clear with what you need and be ok if the sitter says it won’t work.

Step Four:

Finally, ask for a couple of references. Contact the references by asking questions wherein the reference can share their experiences with the caregiver.

Once you inform the candidate you’d like to hire them discuss payment and expectations. Will you pay a daily rate? Weekly? Hourly?

Make sure you handle these details ahead of time to assure everyone is on the same page.

Jessica’s Note: If possible, have a brief contract worked out that outlines these areas of sensitivity. No one likes talking about money--- but when you show your caregiver that you value them and want to support them with payment you do get a higher return on investment. You don’t always need a contract for occasional babysitting. But long term care or longer hours may require something in writing so your provider can refer to your expectations as needed.

Finding a Few Fits:

Heather: I tend now to have one main person I use all the time and a couple

of others who can help out as needed. With the combination of three it seems someone can usually help out with the dates I need covered. I try to work out the dates with my main person first and fill in other dates later with backups. Providing a schedule ahead of time helps keep things consistent and I lessen times of being in a pinch.

I do try to start new people out with shorter periods of time to see how we work together as a team to care for my kiddos. As we all get to know each other that helps us work more smoothly. They can see how I interact with my children and get a feel for the energy of our home. I welcome questions and make sure they have a tour of our space, can meet our pets, and get a sense of the varied hours I will need care.

Heather: Child care providers change over time and each one will have a special place in your heart. And if you’re lucky your family will have a special place in their hearts too.

Stop! Need More advice? Keep reading....

Not everyone wants to have someone in their home. That’s ok. You can look for childcare providers in a number of places online.