We’ve been around the block when it comes to childcare at this point. We’ve toured daycares, schools, interviewed babysitters, nannies, teachers, administrators, and everyone in between. It can be so hard to find the right childcare provider for your family – they often spend more time with your child than you do so it’s imperative that you trust their judgment and share their values. Beyond the basics, it’s important to me that anyone who cares for our children strikes the right balance of warm-hearted and affectionate but firm with discipline and manners. I also want to know that whomever is helping raise my children shares our philosophies about social justice issues.
Where to Start
Word of mouth is ideal. Whenever possible, start any search for childcare with your immediate circles. Friends, family and neighbors are the best resource because they likely already share many of your values or beliefs and can vouch personally for the caregiver’s credibility.
I’ve had really good luck finding a range of service providers through communities on Facebook. For example, the mothers’ group in our old neighborhood (the Fishtown Mamas), had over a thousand members and helped me find an OBGYN, our first nanny (Cole) whom we adored, a pediatrician for Daisy and a yoga studio!
Daisy’s school also has a great supportive network of parents always willing to share and pool resources. There are bulletin boards, newsletters and a Facebook group for parents all available for posting.
When we’d gone through all of the above options and still had not found a new nanny, we registered for an account with Care.com. For $30 a month you can advertise a job posting which stays active for as long as you’d like. For our posting I received about 90 responses and was able to view profiles, look at testimonials from other families and see who had passed a background check, possessed a valid driver’s license with a clean record etc. You can also find date night babysitters, night nannies, dog sitters and other service providers on Care.com too. With all of its upsides, there are some down sides too. When you have no known acquaintances in common, it’s a lot easier to flake. We set up 8 interviews over the course of ten days and only 3 came to fruition. I knew right away with two of them that it wasn’t a fit but wanted to be polite, so, we sat with them for a full hour which I would’ve preferred to spend differently.
Most major metropolitan areas have a nanny placement agency of some sort. Working with these outfits is especially helpful if you’re looking for live-in, long-term care and want a formal employment contract in place. Important to note there are significant placement fees and regular pay tends to be higher because the agency gets a cut.
Here’s the template we’ve been following that seems to work best.
Introduce your family – what you (parents) do for work, what your schedules are like, how old your kids are, any key pieces of information about medical issues, special needs, etc. Mention pets.
Ask the candidate to introduce themselves – how they became involved in childcare, what they like about it, why it’s a good fit for their lifestyle.
Ask what the candidate is looking for in an ideal arrangement in terms of hours, pay, number of children, responsibilities and length of employment.
Ask about approach to discipline – give one or two hypothetical scenarios to see how they might handle them
Ask how they would spend a rainy day in the house with two kids.
Describe what a typical week would look like including each day from morning to night. Ask about additional responsibilities involved (in our case: light housekeeping, some meal preparation and school pickup/drop-off).
Ask the candidate to walk through their CV, citing some favorite experiences and some challenging ones.
Ask about certifications and training – CPR, First Aid, etc.
Ask about schedule flexibility – are nights and weekends available if needed
Open the discussion for the candidate to ask questions of you.
Nick also likes to ask things like “if you have a three-day weekend, what do you do?” “where’s the coolest place you’ve traveled” and “what do you watch on TV?”.
How to Check References
Having a conversation about your prospective nanny with their former employer can be awkward, but, it’s a necessary evil. Nick and I have learned over the years that we tend to be overly trusting and have gotten ourselves in some hot water as a result (goodbye $10,000 to criminal contractor who is still at large) so we’re now very careful to do our due diligence on every person we hire, no matter how time-consuming or uncomfortable. These are the things we ask:
How long did you employ the candidate?
Did you part ways on positive terms?
Would you hire the candidate again?
Did you feel the candidate was trustworthy? Did they exhibit good judgment?
What were some of his or her strengths? Any weaknesses you’d want a friend to be aware of?
Did you feel she/he handled stress well? Did you agree with their approach to discipline?
Making a Decision
Ultimately, we’ve found that trusting our intuition has served us well. I know I’ve found a good fit when I feel at ease being myself around the candidate, they interact with my child in the same warm way that I do, I believe our family will be better for having them a part of it and I trust that they will always do the right thing and put my child’s safety and wellbeing first. If you don’t feel all of these things – keep looking until you do. The right fit is out there and it’s worth waiting for!