One of the biggest challenges of being a working parent is finding child care — a task that is made all the more daunting by the pandemic. Many parents are finding themselves in that position now, however, as they prepare to return to their workplaces or realize they can no longer juggle a full-time job with full-time child care.
Before you start looking for child care, families need to “determine their needs and the level of risk they are comfortable with,” says Shannon Auster-Weiss, director of Nanny Lane, a site that connects nannies and families. “For instance, if there are grandparents who live in the home, the family may require stronger precautions than other families.” Then, ask yourself these questions to help you choose the right child care provider for your family.
WHEN CONSIDERING A NANNY
If you’re thinking of hiring a nanny, you’ll want to make sure you are both on the same page about everything, from safety protocol to expectations on the level of care being provided. “When selecting candidates, families should first determine if the candidate’s availability and risk thresholds match their needs,” Auster-Weiss says. Here are a few questions that can help.
What safety precautions do we agree on?
“During this pandemic, communication is key,” says Yi-Hsian Godfrey, CEO and co-founder of child care services provider Apiari. “Families should be transparent and should encourage dialogue and flexibility with their providers. We recommend families and providers share how they have been social distancing and roughly how many other families they come in contact with.” Consider also if you feel comfortable with the nanny taking public transportation to get to your home each day.
At Apiari, both families and providers are asked to make a formal commitment to do their best to follow CDC guidelines, engage in open communication and check temperatures before each shift. “Let each party be OK to cancel a session or more, if needed, to make sure the other isn't exposed to any potential virus,” Godfrey says.
In addition, be clear on whether you’re providing paid sick days (along with any other benefits, such as paid vacation and holidays).
What are you expecting your nanny to help with?
During the pandemic, it’s natural to want to have help with homeschooling or tutoring, but not all nannies will have that background. So if you're looking for a nanny with tutoring skills, make that clear in your job description, and expect to pay accordingly, based on both the skillsets required and the number of children the nanny is expected to tutor.
When should you meet in person?
To ensure the safety of both your family and your prospective nanny, communicate virtually until you and your children feel confident you’ve found a match.
“We recommend families save in-person meetings as the final step in the hiring process before offering a candidate the position and conducting a background check,” Auster-Weiss says. “When meeting in person, we recommend practicing CDC guidelines and following local laws such as staying six feet apart, meeting outside if possible, wearing face masks, using hand sanitizer before the interview and disinfecting where you are conducting the interview.”
WHEN CONSIDERING A DAY CARE CENTER
Day care centers are typically less expensive than hiring a nanny (an average of $215 per week compared to $565, according to Care.com), but you’ll want to be clear on the safety measures being implemented before you choose one. Here are some questions to ask when evaluating a day care center.
What are the hygiene protocols being implemented?
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommendations for safety protocol for child care centers, it’s likely your state’s public health department has guidelines as well. So ask the school what their rules are when it comes to the wearing of personal protective equipment, temperature screenings, frequency of hand washing, the availability of hand sanitizer, and how often the school sanitizes toys, door handles and other high-touch surfaces. Ideally, these protocols will be openly shared on the facility’s website or through other communications.
Are social distancing measures possible?
See if the school has some social distancing measures in place, such as spacing naptime mats apart by at least six feet, having the same child care providers remain with the same group of kids all day, or staggering out playtime on playgrounds.
What are the plans for pickup and drop-off?
Larger day care centers may stagger class start times and pickup times to avoid large numbers of people entering or leaving the building simultaneously. You might also ask if the facility has a policy about having the same adult accompany each child each day to limit exposure.
How will cases of illness be handled?
One of the most important things to ask is what steps the day care center will take in the event a child becomes symptomatic. The center may have a separate space or room dedicated to isolating ill children until a parent can retrieve them. Similarly, ask how the school will handle communication with families should a child or teacher become sick.