When you are looking for quality childcare for your family, some things, like your child’s safety, just aren’t negotiable. Unfortunately, different childcare providers offer a wide range of experience and qualifications, and regulations on childcare providers range from non-existent to poorly enforced. So, before you choose a childcare provider, whether it’s a nanny, an au pair or a daycare, read our list of must-have qualifications and be sure to do your homework on any candidate you consider.
1. Previous experience caring for children
There’s nothing like hands-on experience caring for children to prepare someone for the realities of childcare. Whether a person has grown up babysitting for siblings, cousins and neighbors or worked in a professional daycare or school setting, the fact that they have spent time being responsible for the well-being of children the same ages as your kids is probably the most relevant item on their résumé. When it comes to au pairs, many parents are surprised to hear that au pairs are required to have a minimum of 200 hours of previous childcare experience, and many have much more than that. Additionally, for an au pair to be eligible to care for an infant under two years old, they must have had at least 200 hours of experience caring for children under age two.
When interviewing a nanny, au pair or even a daycare provider, ask lots of “behavioral interview” style questions. These kinds of questions help you to understand how a candidate has handled situations in the past, and their answers are the best way to gauge how they would handle these issues with your children. For example, “Tell me about a time when you were taking care of a child who wasn’t following your instructions. What did you do?”
2. Good references
Since your potential childcare provider will have previous experience caring for children, she or he will also have references who can give you another perspective on her strengths and potential pitfalls. If you are looking to hire a nanny or daycare provider, ask for at least two references from other parents and be sure to call them.
If you are considering a Cultural Care au pair, all candidates will have submitted at least three non-relative references, and the references will have been called by someone from the Cultural Care office to verify the information and also to get the references impressions of the candidates. Families are also encouraged to reach out to the au pair’s references themselves.
3. A criminal background check
It’s a good idea to make sure that the person or people you entrust with your children have a clean criminal record. In the U.S., be sure that you check your candidates in a national registry, not just a state one. Also, you will need to use a service that is FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) compliant if you are doing a background check on a potential employee. If you are evaluating daycares, be sure that all employees of the daycare are subject to national criminal background checks.
Since au pairs come from overseas, they won’t show up in a U.S. registry. Check with the au pair agency to see what kind of screening they provide. Cultural Care Au Pair requires all au pair candidates to undergo a national criminal background check in their home country.
4. Pediatric and Adult CPR and First Aid certification
Hopefully, your childcare provider will never have to use these skills, but in the case of a medical emergency, you want the peace of mind that she will be prepared. Certifications can be earned through the American Red Cross, and are good for two years, though they also offer online refreshers to help keep skills and knowledge fresh.
If you are considering an au pair, Cultural Care includes American Red Cross Pediatric and Adult CPR and First Aid certification as part of the training that is provided to all au pairs the week before they arrive to their host family, so you can be sure their skills and knowledge are up-to-date and in the forefront of their minds.
5. Training on disease prevention
If you’re a parent, you’re aware of how quickly kids spread and catch germs. Especially if you’re considering daycares, it’s a good idea to find out what policies are in place to reduce the chances that your kids will come home sick all the time. Proper hand washing, diapering, and food safety practices are among the basics, as well as understanding what kind of restrictions they place on sick children or caregivers. Nannies and au pairs should also have a good understanding of how to prevent illness, even though you can better control how much exposure your kids have to others. Cultural Care au pairs are given specific training on prevention of disease during their time at the Au Pair Training School before joining a family.