Choosing a Childcare Provider
By: Vicki L. Morrison
The key to success when hiring a childcare provider is establishing clear expectations. There are tough questions about pay, vacation time, sick time, and their policies around sick children that need to be asked. There is nothing worse than setting everything up, finding the perfect childcare provider then tripping over a deal breaker in the middle of a work week. “Military families don’t always have friends and neighbours to rely on in childcare situations. You need to find the right person and sometimes you don’t have a lot of time. Your military member cannot be operationally ready if they are worried about the care and safety of their child,” said Kim Whidden-Dixon, Program Manager Child and Youth Services 14 Wing MFRC. “Maybe your MFRC offers childcare, if not they should be in the position to walk you through the process of finding a childcare provider that meets the unique needs of your family.”
A caregiver contract is a useful tool when making sure childcare providers are suitable. Put in writing all of the deal breakers important to your family and those important to the childcare provider. “When everything is written down there is no ambiguity and everyone feels secure. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It just has to lay out those expectations. Items like being paid on time, or who provides meals and snacks can be laid out,” said Whidden-Dixon. One of the most important items that needs to be discussed with a potential childcare provider is discipline. “The most common complaint I hear when I educate parents in my office is their behavioural guidance methods were dissimilar to their chosen childcare provider. If you subscribe to Magic 123 or rely on redirection to get the behaviours you want out of your kids and your childcare provider relies on corporal punishment there is going to be a problem.”
Kids require consistency and routine. Two things that are often difficult to maintain as military families. If parents can minimize disruption in their children’s lives by choosing a childcare provider they can employ for a period of time, it’s worth doing the homework. “Of course you need to ask the important questions around the experience of the childcare provider, is their first-aid training up to date, are they able to administer any required medications like inhalers, are they familiar with the military lifestyle? Just because a potential childcare provider is a parent doesn’t mean that person is automatically qualified to be looking after your children,” said Whidden-Dixon. When interviewing, there are certain non-negotiable conditions that may be brought to the table. “I always insist a Child Abuse Registry Check and a Criminal Record Check be administered on anyone responsible for children. They are not 100 per cent fool-proof, but if anyone refuses to fill one out for you stand up and walk away from the interview. It’s not worth the risk.”
Don’t forget to make arrangements for a backup childcare provider if at all possible. “If your sitter is ill or quits unexpectedly what is your plan? If you are concerned you don’t know people in the community you live in that you can rely on then join a parent and tot group, go to children’s programs at the local library, make yourself familiar with a childcare service,” said Whidden-Dixon. There are a lot of options out there. Depending on the location and the province there are also licenced day cares and licensed day homes. Find subject matter experts to speak with, at places like MFRCs, know what your expectations are and you will find the right childcare fit for your military family.