Ask Grandma Maggie

Parenting & Childcare Advice
Peggy Moss (1933-2014), also known as Grandma Maggie, penned a parenting column on this site for many years. Back by popular demand, we are republishing the column, sharing with you the best of Grandma Maggie’s parenting and childcare advice.
Unfortunately Grandma Maggie is no longer able to take questions.

What are good questions for a new childcare worker?

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family-1178614_640Hi!

My husband and I are expecting our first child in September. After my 6 weeks of maternity leave I will have to go back to work. Neither of us have family members to watch our baby; therefore we will be in search of a place for childcare. Being a new parent, we are both very nervous and skeptical of trusting someone we don’t even know. My question is, what are some good questions to ask childcare facilities when we begin our search?

Emily

Dear Emily,

This is a difficult question to answer, as I don’t know what’s available where you live or your financial situation. First I would ask others if they can recommend their childcare facilities or provider.

If it is a facility with other children then I would ask them the ratio of adult caretakers to children and also ask how their day is structured. How is discipline handled? Can you visit at any time and observe? See if they have books and age appropriate toys available.

If it’s an individual, then ask how many children are at the home and if you can inspect the home. If the caregiver is coming to your home, make it understood that the baby is the primary focus and only obligation. If you want someone to clean, then hire a cleaning person or service. You can ask the person to clean up after the baby while the baby is asleep, but that (and perhaps the baby’s laundry) should be the only task. Say because of your concern for your child you will probably have a nanny cam. A good caretaker won’t mind being videoed. Pay the person well. It amazes me that people will pay thousands when their children reach college age, but those important first three years they try to scrimp and save.

Ask for references and check them out as thoroughly as possible. Also do a background check. I know in Colorado, background checks are relatively easy to obtain online and cost under $10. Other states may have different rules, but never hire someone without investigating them first.

Settle in the interview if your nanny gets vacation and sick time. Try to have a back up person on hand in case something unexpected comes up. A caretaker may have a family and may be needed by them during an emergency.

Ensure that the nanny is certified or licensed by the health department, but realize that covers only the physical structure and not all the other things so necessary for the nurturing of a child. Sometimes you have to trust your intuition. You might also try the library or Amazon.com to see if there are any books available on this subject. It is not too early to begin looking and interviewing.

I wish there were more definite things I could tell you, but there are not. I am even worried that I might have skipped an obvious caveat. Oh, yes, if you use a facility, ask if health forms are required (I would hope so) and their policy on sick children.

Best of luck,
Grandma Maggie