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How to Find the Nanny of Your Dreams
By Dawn Fry

A childcare epidemic is sweeping the country. Recent studies indicate that children in standard childcare programs do not receive quality care. The studies also show that the majority of care given is potentially harmful to a young child's development. Even more alarming, children who are being cared for in their own home's, by a nanny, experience many of the same problems as children in "programs."

This raises an important question: "Is nanny care worse than daycare?" The answer is that it can be. However, when done correctly, nanny care can be a good alternative to daycare.

The Nanny Myth
When parents choose nanny care over a childcare center, they forfeit all the knowledge, experience, and built in safety nets a quality, licensed childcare program can provide. The problem begins with the term "nanny." A nanny is a profession that originated in England, and is defined in the dictionary as a" child's nurse." The title "nanny" implies that the person has attained a certain level of education and experience.

Calling a childcare giver a "nanny" in the United States is a misnomer because the nanny need not have any childcare education. In fact, most nannies have had no formal childcare education, including CPR. So calling a childcare giver a "nanny" can give parents a false sense of security.

Thanks to laws and operating regulations, children in centers have added protection because childcare facilities have to comply with licensing standards. For example, the caregiver in a center must have a criminal records check, be finger printed, have a negative TB test, achieve a CPR certificate, and must have several units of early childhood education. The facility must also comply with licensing health and safety standards. Conversely, nannies are not licensed, and most of the homes they work in do not meet licensing standards for health and safety.

Additionally, caregivers who work in centers have schedules and routines they must follow. Parents are kept informed as to where their children are at all times and what they are doing. This system provides many safeguards for children. Nannies, on the other hand, rarely set a routine for the children to follow. While their employers know what their children are doing much of the time, they don't know what's happening every moment. As such, the parents often entrust their children to well-meaning but under-trained and unsupervised caregivers.

Parents who employ a nanny need to take an active role in qualifying, establishing, and monitoring the care they want for their children. By not relying on the false sense of security the title "nanny" implies, parents can have quality in-home care for their children.

Getting Quality Nanny Care
Having in-home childcare is convenient for parents, so it is easy to understand why they choose to hire a nanny. With a nanny, parents don't have to wake sleeping children, struggle to dress them, prepare breakfast and feed them, drive them to childcare on time, bring supplies to childcare, stay home with them when they are ill, or make arrangements with daycare when they need to work late. But convenience is not reason enough to hire a nanny. Quality childcare needs to be the main goal. By following guidelines similar to that of a childcare center and keeping the communication lines open, you can find a nanny who delivers the quality of care your children deserve.

1. Follow standard licensing requirements.
When you follow childcare licensing requirements with in-home caregivers, you can increase the quality of childcare for your children. Just as the centers do, require your potential nanny to undergo a criminal records check, finger printing, a TB test, CPR training, and several units of childcare education.

Also, if the caregiver will be driving your vehicle, ask that she present a copy of her driving record. Take a test drive with her to observe her driving ability. Be sure she knows the proper way to install a car seat. If she uses her own vehicle, ask to see her proof of insurance. (Note: If she uses her vehicle you need to reimburse her for maintenance and gas expenses.) For information about licensing, contact Bananas, a nonprofit organization providing childcare information and support, at 510-658-0381.

2. Establish boundaries
At the time of the interview, establish what kind of relationship you want to have with your nanny (your employee). Are you looking for a person who can become a member of your extended family, or a person who wants to keep a more professional relationship with you? Be sure that the person you hire has the same desires as you. Many caregivers have private lives and families of their own. Often, it isn't practical for them to take time from their families to join your family vacations or celebrations.

3. Create a job description
Before hiring someone, have a complete job description written for the potential nanny to review. Be sure she agrees with all the responsibilities. List those responsibilities in a written contract, which needs to include a work schedule and pay rate. Also include in the contract provisions for overtime pay, sick leave, vacation pay, paid holidays, additional pay for added responsibilities (like walking the dog), medical coverage, pay raises, and bonuses. Have everyone sign the contract and give a copy to your employee. To ensure a happy relationship, honor all the details outlined in the contract.

4. Plan activities
Children need a set routine so they can feel more connected to their daily lives. Rather than leaving it up to the nanny to establish daily routines, create one together. Set up routines that allow you to know at any given moment where your children are and what they are doing. Give the nanny a list of
parks and educational centers, approved of by you, where she can take the children. Also provide your nanny a cell phone so you can reach her at any time.

Realize that many nannies experience burnout because they are isolated from other adults. To avoid this problem, arrange in the routine play dates with other nannies and their children. Meet the parents of the other children and their nanny. If the play dates are in their homes, visit the home and be sure it is an environment you want your children to play in. Play dates not only help the nannies but also give your children opportunities to build friendships with other children.

5. Safety-proof your home
Given the fact that the home is the number one location for injuries, and that your children are home for a good deal of the day, safety proofing is a must. It also puts your nanny's mind at ease that she is working in a safe environment with minimal risks for the children. Be sure the homes where your children have play dates are also safety-proofed. There are many companies who will come into your home and safety-proof it for children. Visit this web site for listings.

6. Set up discipline and health guidelines
Be sure you and your nanny have a clear understanding on how to discipline children. The more consistent everyone is while interacting with children, the more cooperative the children will be. Outline what is acceptable behavior from the children and from the nanny. Also, set clear limits about how much time the nanny can leave the children strapped in strollers, swings, or other chairs. And since each person has different ideas about what a healthy diet is, plan your children's menu for the week and be sure that the nanny follows it.

Nanny Care That Is Quality Care
Finding a quality nanny is indeed possible. By establishing, with a caregiver, the level of quality you want and providing responsible guidelines for your children's care you will find the nanny of your dreams.

Dawn Fry is the founder and CEO of Helping Our Children Productions, a publishing company that provides educational CDs giving practical help to parents and childcare providers resulting in happier, friendlier children. Ms. Fry has been a licensed childcare provider and educator for twenty-two years. She has more than 60,000 hours of professional experience working with children.

Schedule a "DawnTalkTM for your group or SIGN UP NOW! The Early Childhood Education Center! Order the two-audio CD's. 925-209-080



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