Planning for a babysitter or caregiver

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This topic is not directly related to Estate Planning, but it is a type of planning and is a concern that many of our clients with young children have. In a time when parents are so busy, they may not have time to themselves or may need extra help taking care of their children. The process, however, of finding someone who you trust to take care of your children or knowing how to prepare for this can be daunting. In fact, many parents I know long to have date nights or time to themselves, but don’t get to doing so because of anxiety. Does this sound similar to approaching other important processes that we avoid?! Even if we know something would be beneficial to us, it’s helpful to have some actionable steps to get the ball rolling.

With this blog post, I wanted to give some non-legal insights about planning, finding, and preparing for a new babysitter or caregiver. As the mother of two young children, an intern at an Infant Development Program, and someone who used to babysit frequently through high school, college, and law school, here are some of my musings.

Step 1: Planning

First, you need to consider what needs you are trying to fulfill. Are you looking for an occasional babysitter to watch your kids while you go to a specific event, a regular caregiver who comes on a routine, or someone who you can rely on if your children are ill and cannot go to school? This level of planning is important to guide your expectations and understand what level of commitment you will need. As with every good plan, carrying it out well requires asking yourself and others questions and going through a process to make sure you did not skip anything.

Step 2: Finding the right person

The very act of having to look for someone you trust, who is reliable, and who your kids will like is already a tall order for a busy person. There are a few main ways that people now seek babysitters or caregivers.

  • Asking for introductions/referrals from people or groups you trust.

    This is a good way to utilize your network and be introduced to people who you know are available for more childcare work and have been approved by someone else.

  • Connecting with the leadership of a local Community College or Regional Occupational Program (ROP) that has a childcare curriculum

    Though for confidentiality reasons, you likely cannot get a roster of students in the childcare classes, the director or professors may be able to share a list of students who have expressed interest in having their contact information be shared for babysitting inquiries.

  • Utilizing online resources focused on linking caregivers with those seeking care

    Depending on the particular resource you use, there may be different levels of oversight, background checks, and detail taken to who can be listed as a caregiver. It’s vital that you feel comfortable and confident with the company’s mode of accepting caregiver applicants. This may be a good way to have access to a large list of options in one place.

  • Directly asking people who care for children as a profession or a hobby

    These can include caregivers at the gym childcare facility or church, former preschool teachers (generally, teachers at your child’s current school cannot care for your child outside of the school setting), or coaches at different extracurricular activities.

    This is how we have found our babysitters so far: the first was a teacher at the preschool our daughter previously attended and the second is a caregiver at our gym’s childcare facility with whom my children already had a good connection.

Step 2: Determining the person is a good fit for your family

For me, a good fit requires a few things: 1) experience, 2) skills (for instance, being CPR-certified), 3) ability to work well with my children specifically. The first two items can somewhat be assessed through a conversation with the potential caregiver. If you would like proof of any certifications or background checks, this can also be coordinated. The third requires them meeting your children first. In our case, because so far we have only used caregivers who our children already knew, that step was already taken care of. If I didn’t already know them, I would ask for a meet and greet before having the caregiver stay alone with the kids. This is a good opportunity for the kids to get to know the caregiver in a familiar setting, while they still feel comfortable knowing that you are there for this first visit. This also allows you to see how the caregiver interacts with your children and whether you will feel relaxed leaving your children alone with this individual. If you cannot feel confident with the potential caregiver then you will be stressed out when you are away.

Step 3: Preparing for them being alone with your children

For me, this was the scariest part of the process. I wanted to make sure that our caregivers were very prepared and aware of the family routine, as well as our safety plan in case of emergency. This means giving them enough information so that they would know what to do if they needed to know something and we weren’t home.

On the refrigerator, we have a several page document for our babysitter, including the following information:

  • Important contact information

    • Parents’ names and contact information

    • Emergency contacts’ name and contact information

    • Kids’ names, birthdates, medical information

    • Medical providers’ contact information

    • Insurance information

  • Family schedule/protocol/rules/helpful hints

  • Important Locations

    • Medication

    • Emergency Supplies

    • Safety Plan (Two locations: immediate neighborhood and general vicinity)

  • Wi-fi Password (because it’d just be cruel not to provide this)

The first time the caregiver comes to our home, we go through all of these, make sure that he/she knows where everything is, and ask if there are any questions. It is crucial that the caregiver feel comfortable to ask questions because we cannot take for granted that others would assume correctly how our household runs or what our children’s specific needs are. Also, we let them know where we will be going, the estimated time we will be home, and that if they need anything, they can call or text.

Every subsequent time the caregiver comes, we are sure to let him/her know what the kids are allowed to do for the rest of the evening. The pajamas, toothbrush, blankets, comfort animals are put out so that everyone remembers the routine and knows where things are. One time, my daughter thought she couldn’t find her special blanket (it was under her comforter) and was very upset. We make it a point to remind the kids the days preceding that their babysitter will be coming so they can be prepared and get excited. We also let the kids know we are leaving so they aren’t surprised when we are gone.

Step 4: Have fun and/or be productive!

Try your best not to worry about the kids when you are away. If you would like text updates to put you at ease, definitely ask your babysitter to provide them (for instance, when the kids went to bed, if they had a hard time, if they ate much food).

I hope this was a fun and helpful read! Remember that the role of a caregiver is to keep your children safe (and hopefully entertained) so that you can do whatever it is that you need to do. If a particular caregiver no longer fits your family, you may have to go through this process multiple times and that is okay. Just like any type of planning (financial planning, Estate Planning, trip planning), the goals should be to be thorough, take it one step at a time, and have peace of mind knowing that you have made good choices with those you trust.

Shannon Liu Shair