DayCare or Nightmare?

In my professional career I have hired and fired many employees. While I thought I had a strong basis for hiring the right staff person for a particular position, my years of training and experience gave me little comfort when I set out to hire my daughter’s daycare provider.

Never before had my choice been so crucial. Would my baby be safe? Would she be loved and emotionally nourished? Would her mind be stimulated and her needs met? Would she be exposed to attitudes and responses that were consistent with mine? What environment would be best for her?

If I hired the wrong person or organization, it would affect more than the company’s bottom-line or project completion…. If this job was not done right, it was my daughter’s safety, well-being and development at stake. That’s when I realized that I had to use both my personal and business skills in the search process.

On one level, I am a firm believer in going with my gut and combining that with keen observation. How do I feel in the environment my child will be in? Is it warm and nurturing? Are the people caring and concerned? Would I want them as friends? Do I see a safe child-proofed area. I look for the way the children are handled, the way they act when they are left or picked up, I drop in unexpectedly and put my observational skills to use on each encounter. But I also came to realize that my business training would be equally beneficial in choosing the best daycare. Many parents hire a childcare provider solely by word of mouth and/or a personal observation meeting, but as in business, these should just be the starting point in a successful hiring process. In the business world we would rarely hire someone based on a quick meeting and a warm referral.

In interviewing a day care provide or selecting a daycare center, we want to make sure not to make a choice based solely on the “Halo and Horn Effect” — the tendency to base evaluations on a general impression of the interviewee/candidate. It is better to use a formal interviewing process that would bring out information on the interviewee’s skills and attitudes. During the formal interview process each child care provider interviewed should receive the same questions to ensure consistency for comparison. The interview should also include the “behavioral event” interviewing technique, which helps identify relevant skills from the childcare provider’s past behaviors. How have they handled particular situations in the past? For example a behavioral event interviewing technique question for a childcare provider might be, “Tell me about a time when a baby in your care would not stop crying. What did you do?” or “What do you do if several are fussing at once?” “How about a baby that sudden becomes listless and feverish?” These thought provoking questions can really help you determine how they would react in real-life scenarios.

So when hiring, have consistent questions asked of each child care provider candidate, use a behavior event interview technique to find out how the candidate handles real life scenarios, listen to your gut, get the child care provider’s reference (and be sure to contact them), and make more than 1 unexpected drop by visit.

Bottom line. Start the interviewing process early (preferably in the beginning of your pregnancy), take your time, speak to other moms whose judgment you respect, be prepared with questions, and interview a number of different providers so you can get a feel for the differing daycare environments, philosophies and care-givers.

If you are in need of childcare interviewing forms, nanny interviewing forms or childcare reference check forms they can be found in our Smart Solutions Toolkit for Working Mothers.

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