Tips For Finding Good In-Home Day Cares

Our contract with A-Care is over on June 8th, and we are now desperately trying to find new care for EH starting this summer.  We knew this was coming, but didn't think it would be hard to find another person. A-Care was very upfront with us early on that she takes her kids to the pool every single day in the summer, for hours and hours, and she didn't feel comfortable taking a baby with her.  She also usually takes a trip to her hometown for a full month during the summer, and obviously that doesn't work when you're caring for someone elses kid full-time either.

We confirmed with A-Care recently that she still hopes to return to work in the fall and is definitely not interested in resuming care for EH come mid-August. So, back to Craigslist for day care leads.

Here's the thing about Craigslist - the people who are posting there are all over the board.  Whether it's us responding to an ad or us posting something and weeding through the responses, the work is the same.  It's absolutely essential for us to know exactly what we are looking for.

So, with that in mind, here are some things to keep in mind when looking for some one to care for your child from Craigslist ads (or any other random source of connecting people.)

1. What are the days and hours and that you need care?  For us it's Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

2. What is the most that you are willing to pay? 
For us, our max is $250 per week.  We've found that most ads list their rates at about $10 an hour (which is $450 a week), but when we tell them what we are willing to pay, they are usually ok with that.

3. Where will your child sleep?
  Will they be sharing a room with another child or have a space in a separate room? Is the room dark and quiet?  Is there already a place to sleep, or do you need to provide a pack and play to leave there?

4. How many other kids will the person be watching? What are their ages?
  While we would prefer that the caretaker only have one other child, we are ok with EH being 1 of 3, at most.  We know from our daycare experience that 4 kids per caretaker is just too many when you're dealing with infants.

5. What do you need to provide? What are you willing to provide?
  With A-Care, she didn't have anything and we need to provide it all.  For this search, we know that we can provide, if needed:
- Pack and play with changing table and mobile
- Exersaucer
- Diapers, wipes, and diaper cream
- Extra sets of clothing
- Linens for the pack and play, burp clothes, bibs, etc.
- Toys
- Bottles, formula and food on a daily basis
- Stroller
- Car seat and car seat base

6. What are your expectations of a caretaker?  We include the following things in our expectations:
-  No television
-  Keep a log of the time of all naps, bottles, and diaper changes - this helps us to plan our evening once we pick EH up
- A reasonable effort is made at getting EH to nap

7. How will days off work?  It might seem premature to discuss this early on, but it's definitely something to consider, and for us it's essential to have someone who is reliable.  For our situation, we agreed that we would pay A-Care the full weekly week if we kept EH home for a day or number of days on short notice.  If we gave plenty of advanced notice of a week where we would not need her to watch him, we would not be expected to pay.  Likewise, if she notifies us of a day that she cannot watch EH, we would not be required to pay for that day. She agreed up front that she would still take him when he was sick, or when she was sick.  In our communications with caretakers now, we are very clear that while summers are flexible for us, we cannot handle many unplanned days off or week long times when the person can't care for EH, outside of holidays.

Additionally, here are a few things we discussed in advance:

- We would provide clean, empty bottles as well as pre-measured formula each and every day.  We transport this in a small black bag.  In this bag we also include any other foods we want her to give him, as well as extra clothing, diapers, wipes or anything else that we're sending that morning.  The bag comes home with EH each evening with the rinsed out bottles and anything that needs to be washed.

-We agreed that EH could accompany A-Care wherever she might need to go, which on an almost daily basis includes picking her 5 year old up from school around noon and walking to and from the bus stop for the older child.  But EH has also gone with them to appointments and to birthday parties and whatever else she's needed to do, and we're ok with that.  It's important to decide how you feel about this one, because not everyone wants someone else driving their kid around.  For us, we decided that she is usually also transporting her own kids, she isn't going to be reckless, and we also recognized that if we held her hostage with EH in her own home and made it so that she would resent watching him. 

There's a lot to think about when trying to find in-home child care, and really, this list is just a start.  With day cares it's usually a this-is-how-it-goes sort of set-up and the people in charge there have thought of everything already, but when you're just dealing with one other person, and just one or two other kids, it's important that you think of everything that's important to you, because in many cases this is the person's first time providing child care in her (or his, but usually her) home. 

On the flip side though, it's so much easier to make sure that your requests are being met and DH and I feel so much better during the work days knowing that EH is getting the attention that he needs and deserves.


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