Monthly Archives: September 2009

In Search of Mary Poppins

indexMany parents become overwhelmed when recruiting and screening nannies. Often this leads them to rely on a stereotypical idea of what makes the perfect nanny. But even though Mary Poppins may seem to have a lot to offer, parents require more that a spoon full of sugar and a song to meet their expectations.

Although the recruiting and selection process can seem complicated, it is manageable when you break it into these smaller stages: telephone screening, resume review and the interview process.

Telephone Screening

Advertising for childcare usually results in many telephone enquiries. This is a good time to assess language ability and ensure that the candidates meet your basic requirements (ie: live in or live out, part time or full time, salary expectations, experience and availability). Ask only the short-listed applicants to forward a resume and ensure that they have good references that can be contacted to verify past employment.

Resume Review

Screening resumes will save you time as you will be selecting only qualified candidates for interviews.

Here are some guidelines for reading and interpreting resumes:

  • Does the applicant have childcare or early childhood education certification?
  • What other educational designations does the candidate possess (first aid, food safe, cooking classes etc)?
  • Examine related childcare experience. Focus on the past 5 to 10 years.
  • Look for volunteer work that may have enabled the candidate to acquire knowledge and develop skills that may be useful as a nanny.
  • Pay close attention to gaps in work history and make sure the applicant has a reasonable explanation.
  • Look for patterns in a candidate’s work experiences (like frequent career changes, employment instability and short term work assignments without legitimate reasons for leaving positions).
  • Does the candidate live close to your home and if not, do they have reliable transportation?
  • Remember that first impressions from a resume can be misleading. You may find a very good candidate from an incomplete resume if you pursue the missing links and information gaps. But be sure to do this on the phone before arranging an interview.

The Interview

Once you have short- listed to a small number of applicants, send them a detailed job description before you start to interview. This will allow you to spend less time talking about job details and more time listening as the candidate discusses qualifications and experience. While interviewing, pay attention to past experience. Remember, the best way to predict future behavior is to examine past behavior. Creating behavioral- based interview questions will help you assess the applicant’s childcare knowledge.

Safety, discipline philosophy, creativity, time management, nutrition, organizational ability and communication styles are important subjects to consider. Here.are some questions you might ask:

  • Tell me about a time when you were caring for a child who was acting out. What steps did you take to address this behavior?
  • In your previous nanny positions what type of activities did you plan and provide for the children?
  • Can you describe a time in a previous position when you had a conflict with an employer and what steps you took to rectify the situation?

During the interview it is important to verify information from the resume. Try to follow up a yes or no answer with an open-ended question in order to gather more information. Discuss your childcare philosophy only after you have asked the applicant these questions. Otherwise they may answer in a way that is compromised by their knowledge of your preferences. Ask all candidates the same questions in order to make comparisons based on the same criteria.

Although it is important to incorporate the children in the interview process it is less distracting for you and the candidate if you conduct the information gathering portion of the interview while the children are being taken care of by someone else. They can meet the candidate near the end of the interview. You might also ask the nanny to come back and spend a few hours with your children on a different day. This will give you a sense of how the nanny and children will interact.

Finally it is also important to trust your instincts. Balance facts gathered in the interview with your intuition. Sometimes you just know when an applicant is the right one, (or the wrong one.).

Childcare Options: Who Will Care for Baby?

In today’s busy world, parents are working harder than ever to meet their obligations. And as working parents, they want to feel confident that their children are receiving the best care possible. Children receive care in a variety of settings including their homes, the homes of neighbours or relatives, and family or group childcare settings.

Each option has advantages and disadvantages. A parent’s choice is dependent upon lifestyle, budget, personal preference and available options in their location. Here is a rundown on the most popular types of childcare and their advantages and disadvantages.

Family Child Care

Family childcare programs are located in the caregiver’s home. The home-like, family-centered atmosphere provides an easy transition for a child departing home for the first time. The smaller group often allows for spontaneous and flexible programming and activities. Young children can form friendships with other children and are cared for by one or two consistent adults. The intimate care provided in this setting makes it possible for the caregiver to assist the child through various transitional development periods like toilet training and learning to drink from a cup.

Family childcare programs that are not licensed through the Provincial Community Care Facility Act and Child Care Licensing Regulation can provide care for up to two children (unrelated to the caregiver). Licensed family childcare programs can provide care for up to five children (plus two of school age) aged from infancy to 12 years.

The cost of this type of care ranges from $500 to $800 per month depending on the age of the child, location of the program, qualifications of the caregiver and whether or not the facility is licensed.

The primary disadvantages of this type of care can be the restricted hours and the preparation, time and energy that are required in transporting the child to and from the caregiver’s home. Some parents also find the caregiver-to-child ratio too high for an infant.

Group Day Care

There are two categories of group day care programs:
a) group day care for children aged under 36 months and
b) group day care for children aged from 30 months to school age.

Different licensing requirements exist for the two categories. Group daycare centre hours are sometimes up to 13 hours a day, offering parents more flexibility for drop-off and pick-up times. Staff are required to have training in Early Childhood Education from an approved institution or college.

These centres often offer an excellent preschool education program thus improving the transition from day care to elementary school. If a centre is located near an elementary school it will often offer drop-off and pick-up service for children needing half-day care while enrolled in kindergarten. Full-time care in this type of facility will cost between $600 to $950 per month.

The disadvantage to this type of care is that some children have a difficult time adapting to the larger environment of a group daycare. Also children with special needs or behavioural problems sometimes need more specialized care. As with family childcare programs, group day care may not be economical when two children from the same family require care.

Nannies

A nanny provides personalized care in a child’s own home. She will involve them in creative play, learning, stimulation and socialization. Nannies will engage in light housework. A nanny/housekeeper, although primarily responsible for child care, will also engage in unrelated household duties. There are many advantages to employing a nanny, including convenience and the upkeep of the family home. Children cared for in their own home are less likely to become sick, due to the reduced risk of communicable disease. The nanny has the freedom to take the children to activities outside the home and is able to provide more individual time to each child.

The disadvantage for many is economic. The cost of a nanny can be beyond the means of working families: between $1300 and $2500 per month. The salary range is dependent upon the job description and the nanny’s experience. Even if parents can afford a live-in overseas nanny, they may not be able to provide the accommodation required, or may not feel comfortable having someone outside their family living in their home.

Nanny Sharing

Here’s one way to reduce the cost. A nanny can work for two families at the same time (nanny sharing) thus lowering the cost to each family. This can be a preferred alternative for parents with an infant, as the child receives more personalized care than in a family or group childcare environment. And the cost, although more than daycare, is significantly less than hiring a nanny for one child.

The main disadvantage to nanny sharing is that it can be tricky for two families to arrange a workable situation. Employers should be sure they agree on a reasonable work schedule, vacation dates and monetary division of statutory holidays.

When searching for appropriate childcare it is important to research all the alternatives. Your final choice will depend upon your lifestyle, budget, preferences and the available options in your neighbourhood. A good place to start looking is the childcare resource and referral programs in the Lower Mainland. They are an excellent resource for both parents and caregivers.