If you are a parent, then you know that finding a trustworthy, responsible, and kind-hearted adult to take care of your child while you are at work, attending school, or even running errands is truly one of the most important and monumental decisions that you could ever make.
How do you decide who is “good enough” to take care of your child when you aren’t there?
At Pa Family Support Alliance, we know that children are our most precious resource. They need to be cherished, cared for, and loved. That is why our mission is to prevent child abuse through education.
When you leave your child for any period of time, you want to know that not only will your child remain safe, but that your child will be comfortable around the person you choose, regardless of whether you are hiring an occasional babysitter, a full-time nanny, or placing your child in daycare.
If you are embarking on this journey of trying to find a trustworthy individual to care for your child, first, know that you are not alone! There are thousands of other parents all across Pennsylvania right now who are trying to make this decision as well.
You probably have so many questions swirling through your mind, and while there is no “one size fits all” answer—every child, parent, and family dynamic is different—there are certain steps you can take to ensure that your child remains safe and protected.
We compiled a list of tips together to help you navigate this process.
- Know your child’s needs and educate yourself on what type of characteristics and qualities you would want this individual or daycare facility to possess.
- Sometimes the best place to look for a caregiver is in your own family, like a grandmother, aunt, or sister—but not always. Placing your child in someone’s care is a very personal decision, so you need to detach yourself from the idea that family equals safety and examine that individual accordingly. You should ask yourself, “If this individual wasn’t my _____ and was a complete stranger, would I hire her to care for my child?” If the answer is yes, then great! If the answer is maybe or no, then you might want to consider other options.
- Talk to your neighbors, coworkers, members of your religious organization, or fellow parents at a sibling’s school – see who they have found to be reliable, trustworthy caregivers.
- If looking at daycare facilities, be sure they are licensed daycare facilities. By only pursuing licensed daycare facilities, you will weed out those who are consistently using unsafe practices with kids (examples: too many kids with one staff, unsafe toys, caregivers with a history of abusing kids, etc). Daycare licenses, as well as licensing violations and statuses, are available to the public. In PA, daycare licensing information can be found at http://www.dhs.pa.gov/citizens/searchforprovider/childcareprovidersearch/index.htm
- Once you’ve come up with a list of potential caregivers or facilities, meet them and ask them any questions you want answered. Have the questions that you want to ask prepared ahead of time so you don’t forget to ask any pertinent ones. Here are a few suggested questions you can ask:
- Are you licensed?
- What are your teacher-to-child ratios?
- What are your policies on vacation/sick days/snow days/summer hours, etc?
- What are your rates?
- Who provides the meals and snacks?
- What is your discipline policy?
- Where do the kids nap and what time is naptime?
- If you believe you have found a trustworthy individual to care for your child, ask for references and make sure you call each and every one of them. Ask the references probing questions about the individual or daycare organization you are thinking about hiring.
- Check the individual’s qualifications by requesting that individual or staff provide you with their Child Abuse, Criminal and FBI background clearances. Wait till you see those clearances before making your decision.
- If you have decided on an individual that you want to hire as your child’s caregiver, invite the individual over to your home to meet your child. Observe and see how they interact together. If you have decided on a daycare facility to care for your child, spend a morning at the facility and allow your child to meet his/her teacher and interact in the room with the other children. Do not let the first time you leave your child in their care be the first time your child meets this person. If the interactions appear off or something feels very wrong, trust your gut and don’t place your child in their care.
- If you hire an individual to watch your child at your home, make sure you establish what your family’s rules are and put ANY and ALL emergency contact information easily accessible, should it be needed.
- Consider arriving early to pick up your child or drop by randomly during the day to check in without the caregiver expecting you. Think of it as a surprise visit! Be observant when you do this – is your child being supervised appropriately? Does your child appear clean and happy? If your child is old enough to talk on a phone, call your child on the phone and ask how things are going.
- Once you are home with your child without the caregiver, ask your child questions—both direct and open-ended questions about their day. See how your child thought the time went without you and if your child seems comfortable with you being gone. If your child is non-verbal, watch for changes in their behaviors – especially acting-out behaviors or behaviors that appear to be driven by an unseen or misplaced fear. Those types of behaviors are warning signs that something may be causing fear or anxiety in your child.
- Lastly, don’t be afraid to change a caregiver because you have concerns with how they are caring for your child. Your child’s health and safety is more important than the feelings of that caregiver.
For more information on childcare resources in your area, click here: http://www.dhs.pa.gov/citizens/searchforprovider/childcareprovidersearch/index.htm
On how to recognize the signs of abuse and neglect, visit our website at https://www.pa-fsa.org/About-Us/Understanding-Child-Abuse-Neglect-in-Pennsylvania/Recognizing-Abuse-Neglect