Child and family care during COVID-19

Caregiving startup tips

Starting a new relationship with a child caregiver may be extra stressful during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Here are best practice steps to follow when hiring a new child caregiver.

Contact and personal information

Exchange contact information. This includes things like home address, phone numbers (work and cell) and email for your caregiver and for all members of your family. Determine the best way to reach each other during the day or in case of an emergency. For your paperwork, you may need her/their license number and taxpayer ID number.

Agree on compensation. It is important to confirm compensation before scheduling the first day of care, including how you will handle costs like meals while on the job, transportation and activities with the children. Discussing pay can be challenging so we’ve provided the following as a starting point for salary discussions:

  • 1 child: $15 – 20/hour
  • 2-3 children: $20 – 25/hour
  • 4 children: $30/hour

Discuss communication. Decide on what communication will work best for you. Text? Phone calls? Would you like the caregiver to send you pictures or updates during the day? A certain amount of communication is reasonable; however, you don’t want it to detract from the care they are providing.

Make important numbers easy to access. Write down numbers for the pediatrician, school and a close friend, family member or neighbor, and keep them in an easy place to find in case they need them.

Create a simple caregiver agreement. Draft an agreement that includes agreed-upon pay, days and hours for work and any extra things, such as housework, etc. You and your caregiver should each have a copy of the signed work agreement.

Let a few friends and neighbors know you have a new caregiver. This will ensure they don’t worry if they see your child(ren) with them outside during the day.

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House rules

Make sure the caregiver has necessary access. Your caregiver should have their own set of house keys, in order to go on walks or any other agreed-upon outings.

Explain all housing operations. Make sure the caregiver knows how to operate the heat/air conditioning, TV, dishwasher and any other household appliances they may need to use. If your house is childproofed, demonstrate how toddler safety gates operate.

Expectations for food and use. Discuss expectations for whether your caregiver will bring their own meals as well as what they are/are not permitted to use (think electronics, coffee maker, etc.)

Notify your caregiver of expected visitors. Be sure your caregiver is aware of anyone who may come to the house for maintenance, and confirm that no one else should be permitted to enter, including friends or relatives of the caregiver.

Detail all pet care. Does your caregiver need to let any pets out to go to the bathroom, walk them or feed them? Is there anything special regarding the pets they need to be aware of?

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Safety and health

Talk about the COVID-19 public health emergency. From hand-washing, disinfecting toys and surfaces to social distancing, make sure you and your caregiver are on the same page about how to keep everyone healthy and what to do if someone stops feeling well.

Discuss allergies and intolerances. Remind your caregiver of any allergies or particular food issues your children may have and whether there are any items of food that are off limits, like super sugary items or your own stash of Rocky Road. For children with serious allergies, put food away that would be harmful them.

Be sure medicine is easily accessible. Show them where Benadryl, EpiPens or any other emergency allergy or asthma medicine is located. Go over all dosage requirements. Outline this on a paper you can hang in a visible location.

Go over bathing rituals for the kids. Explain things like which shampoo and soap to use, and remind them about safety concerns (i.e., experts advise that children 6 years or younger should not be unattended in a bathtub).

Explain the diaper and potty situation. If the caregiver is changing diapers, tell them how often they should do it and what ointments to use, if any. If you are potty training your child(ren), explain the routine again.

Set rules for playtime and nap time. Let them know where it’s safe for the kids to play outside (if they can play unattended anywhere), and explain the rules for watching them on the swing set, trampoline or on their bikes. If the kids have set quiet time or naptime, let the caregiver know so they can keep them on schedule.

Special needs. Does your child need to be given additional attention in any areas? Mealtime, sensitivities, habits, or other areas in which you’d like them to respond in specific ways? Be sure to communicate these clearly, perhaps in writing.

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Daily routine

Have a written schedule. For the first week, write down the schedule until you get into a routine: School schedule, naps, meals, snacks and homework. As a general note, before you leave the house in the morning, you might want to give them a rundown of the day’s events, especially if there are changes to the routine.

Explain screen time rules. Clearly state rules for phone, TV and computer time in your house, etc.

Set social media guidelines. Discuss how you’d like your caregiver to handle their own communication when they are with your children. This includes whether or not you approve of them posting photos, videos or updates about your children.

Create a collaborative calendar. Consider making a calendar for them (and you) to refer to and encourage them to add to it as they get more comfortable. On the calendar, schedule regular check-ins with your caregiver to go over any concerns that come up.

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