I need a caregiver for my kids for about 10 hours a week, on a regular basis. Where do I begin to look for someone? - Samantha, New Orleans
Finding quality childcare is tough -- but finding quality part-time childcare may be even tougher! You don't mention the schedule that you need for daycare or the ages of your children so I will go through a few alternatives, some more suitable than others depending upon your specific needs:
There are daycare centers which accept pre-school and younger children on a fixed part-time basis, meaning pre-specified days and hours every week. The best way to find centers that offer this service is to ask friends and neighbors, check the phone book, and to check out local review sites like the child care section on Yelp or a pay site, such as AngiesList.com.
Additionally, lists of daycare centers are also maintained by non-profit referral agencies -- usually run by counties or states -- so you could check with the one in your area (some of these agencies can be found on the Web if you search under "daycare referral agencies). If you do find some daycare centers, you need to go through the same sort of evaluation process that you would when you are deciding on a full-time daycare center.
Some family daycare providers also are willing to care for children on a pre-scheduled/drop-in basis. To find these providers, I suggest that you network in your community and look in the local papers. Family daycare providers also sometimes list themselves with referral services (see above). Again, once you find a good prospect, please take the time to evaluate it carefully.
If your child is of the right age, you can find pre-school programs which meet for half-days (a.m. or p.m.) and two, three, four or five days a week. This might require that you sign your child up for more days than you need, but it will be a fun and enriching experience, so the "downside" to that is minimal.
Retired people are often interested in working with children and have the sort of scheduling freedom that could meet your needs, especially if your children are school-aged.
To find these "grandparents-for-hire", you need to be creative. Call up the local senior citizen center or housing complex and ask to speak with the director. Inquire if they have a newsletter, bulletin board or listing of seniors who like to babysit. They may let you post your job in their newsletter or on the board or even know of people who are interested.
Remember that you want someone who has the energy, patience and interest in keeping up with your kids so look for someone who is an "ideal grandparent."
If the job is an "after school" arrangement, you may be able to find a high school or college student to fit the bill. However, teens and young adults tend to have very full calendars so it might be hard to find someone who can commit to you for all the days and hours you need.
Some great ways to find these teens are to call your local YMCA or houses of worship and speak to the youth coordinator. Describe the position and ask if they can recommend anyone for the job. Chances are that you will have to leave your number and let the caregiver call you so follow-up can be tough. However, I did have success finding some really nice teens to watch my children on occasional weekend nights by calling the youth minister of a large church in our town.
Last but not least, you can put a classified ad in the local paper (by "local", I mean a paper that circulates just in your community) or in the appropriate section on a site like craigslist. Be very specific about the days and hours you want since your idea of "part time" may not coincide with that of the job applicants.
I have mixed feelings about placing ads. On the negative side, you can get inundated with calls from people who are not even vaguely qualified to do the job, and it can be time-consuming to separate the wheat from the chaff -- or you may not get any replies at all. On the plus side, it is a very cost-effective way to find childcare, and I do know people who have found wonderful caregivers through the newspaper. It's hard to argue with success.
In closing, I want to emphasize that you must take the time to carefully interview anyone who you want to watch your children and to check their references as well. Even though this is "just" a part-time job, the level of responsibility is still significant and warrants your special attention.
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