How should you Interview a Childcare Provider?
Welcome to the only interview question guide you will need when looking for childcare for your little one.
So it’s happened.
Those two pink lines appeared on the pregnancy test. You (and possibly your partner, spouse, significant other) have everything ready: nursery, name, clothes, bottles, breastfeeding plan, etc. The only thing you haven’t figured out yet is who will be caring for your precious little one when maternity leave eventually, well, ends.
As a childcare provider, I’ve seen it time and again. Parents wait until the last month of pregnancy, or worse yet, the last month of maternity leave to find a childcare provider!
Take away the fact that high quality care for a child under the age of two years is incredibly difficult to come by, every parent in need of childcare must interview childcare providers in order to find THE FIT.
To help out those parents who have found themselves in the midst of this process, I’ve compiled a list of questions to ask while interviewing a prospective childcare provider. (As well as a few questions NOT to ask!)
What to ask in an interview:
1. How long have you been in the childcare field? What are your proudest accomplishments?
Questions like these will help you distinguish if the provider you’re interviewing is in this career for the long haul.
2. What are the guidance techniques you use?
Even if you’re interviewing a provider for infant care, you should ask this question! Your sweet baby will grow up eventually, and it’s important to know how the provider plans to handle unwanted behaviors, set limits, and respond to difficult situations.
3. What do you look for in a family that you’d like to enroll?
You might not know it, but if you’re interviewing with a high quality provider, you’re not the only one! When I’m interviewing for 1 open spot, I often interview between 3-5 families. If a family asked me this question, I would be over the moon. Children need a strong home-childcare connection; it helps them (and you) feel more secure every day.
4. What is your early childhood philosophy?
Every provider has a different philosophy, and it’s important that you know what it is! Some providers believe in complete free-play, some believe in hands-on learning, some believe in academics, some are all about the outdoors. As a parent, you may have a vision of what you’d like your child’s days to be like. Make sure you and the provider have similar visions; it’ll make everyone’s days go better.
5. How can I (as a parent) be involved?
Parent involvement in a child’s schooling is the #1 factor in a child’s success! If you ask a provider how you can help, she will give you something- guaranteed.
What NOT to ask during a childcare interview:
- Are your rates negotiable?
Spoiler alert: No, they’re not. Ever. While every provider loves caring for children, it’s still their income. It’s a business. And not an extremely profitable business. So please don’t try to negotiate rates, paid days off, etc.
I know- childcare is expensive!
There’s no argument there; however, childcare providers are seriously underpaid. And just like everything else, you pay for quality. The more education, professional development, years of experience and professional growth a provider has, the higher her/his rates.
2. Do I have to contact you if I’m running late?
Um…. YES! My time is just as vaulable as yours. This kind of question sends the message that you don’t respect the provider’s profession or time. When I’m asked this question (or something similar), it’s an immediate red flag for me.
A friend of mine put it quite nicely: [Family childcare] is not a Target. Just because my hours are from x:00 -z:00 doesn’t mean you can pick up or drop off anytime inbetween x and z.
We have lives and plans just like you.
3. Do you take paid time off?
Do you?? Yes I do. Family childcare has a very high burn out rate. We care, love, teach, and guide young children for 10-12 hours a day.
There is no a lunch break.
We don’t get to chat with other adults.
Sometimes we don’t even get to pee in silence.
If you value your child’s experience in childcare, you’ll WANT your provider to take some time to him/herself.
4. Does my child need to nap?
Please read above. Nap time is SACRED. Not only to a provider’s sanity, but to children’s brain development as well. It’s the time for everyone to recharge and start the afternoon refreshed.
Not to mention, almost every state has regulations regarding children napping.
So yes- your child needs to nap.
You might feel overwhelmed.
Interviewing childcare providers can be overwhelming. No two are the same; some are great and others… aren’t. Here are some final tips to help you along your childcare search.
Take notes. Lots and lots of notes. Ask if you can take photos of the environment.
Check out your state’s regulations. Every state has a DCF website with resources for parents about finding regulated care. You can read the regulations and better understand the rating system of your state. This is going to help you know what to look for in a center. It also may help you reduce the number of “nitty-gritty” questions you have during the interview such as: “Do you have CPR training”. Knowledge is power!
Ask for references. Talking to other parents who have had their children enrolled in a program will help you get the answers to questions from the point of view of a parent. You can also ask for professional references! Providers should be networking with other providers, and their peers can also attest to their professionalism.
If you are interested, ask how you can enroll your child. Some providers want paperwork and an enrollment fee. Some will be contacting the families they’re interested in. Everyone has a different way of handling enrollment. Make sure you know what you need to do in order to secure that spot for your child!