It can be difficult to determine whom to allow into your family’s little physically distanced bubble right now, but as businesses open back up and more parents return to their in-person jobs (or actually attempt to get work done at home), someone’s got to watch the kids. Finding the right babysitter during normal times can be a challenge; finding the right babysitter during a pandemic is a whole other level. But there are some questions you can ask and procedures you can put in place to keep everyone as safe as possible.
Start with a virtual meeting
Until you know the babysitter’s specific circumstances, it’s safest to conduct at least your initial screening interview over the phone or via video chat. If, after a phone call or two, everyone feels comfortable, you can then have an in-person interview (with masks on!) to see how they interact with your kids.
Ask about their potential exposure
Go ahead and start off with some pretty basic questions — ask them if they’ve had any exposure over the past two weeks to anyone who had COVID-19 or anybody who had any of the symptoms we know to be associated with the disease.
“I would want to know … what is their exposure,” says Dr. Kate Cronan, a paediatrician and emergency medicine physician at Nemours Children’s Health in Delaware. “And not everybody would know exactly, but if they’d been around someone sick, I’d want to get the details about that.”
Keep in mind with this — and with our other suggestions — it’s fair for your potential babysitter to know these same details about your lifestyle and your exposure risk, so go ahead and offer that up before they even have to ask. You’re building trust here.
Determine how “distanced” their lifestyle is
You probably wouldn’t normally ask a babysitter who else lives in their home or whether they get together for barbecues with friends over the weekends. But right now, it’s a fair question. You don’t need to be completely invasive, but it’s important to know whether they live with a partner, a roommate or a parent who works in an essential job or if they’re regularly socialising in large groups of people.
You should probably also ask whether this will be their only job or whether they’ll be babysitting for multiple families or working a second job in, say, a restaurant or hair salon.
Ask whether they’ve travelled in the past two weeks, particularly to locations known to be hot spots, and ask how they’ll get to your home for work, whether it’s by walking or driving themselves or whether public transportation would be involved.
“I don’t know that we can really control” what they do in their free time, Cronan says, “but I would be more apt to hire someone who says, ‘After babysitting, I just go home and hang out and don’t really go into crowds.’”
Ask if they’re comfortable following these ground rules
What a potential babysitter does outside of your home is important, but what they do once they arrive is equally as important. Cronan says babysitters should wear masks, at least at the beginning.
“I can’t say that it would need to be for the whole time, if it’s going to be months of them working there,” she says, “but in the beginning, when we don’t know for sure [about their exposure risk], I would say I wanted them to wear a mask in the house.”
Another one that may sound obvious but needs to be mentioned? Hand-washing.
“I would be very explicit about hand-washing — say to really be sure you’re washing your hands every time you do xyz,” Cronan says. “It might seem like a no-brainer, but I would want to be explicit.”
Also encourage them to get outside as much as possible, provided the home has an outdoor space or they have access to non-crowded local outdoor areas, such as trails, parks or playgrounds. Kids need to run off their energy and it lowers the risk of transmission.
You might also ask them to take their temperature before arriving each day (and you do the same!) and, of course, to not come if they are experiencing any symptoms.
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Don’t forget to ask the regular stuff, too
The COVID-related questions are obviously a big deal right now and should be a priority during your interview. But don’t forget to ask the questions you’d normally ask a potential babysitter, such as their qualifications and experience, what types of activities they like to do with kids, and how they handle behavioural issues.
Care.com has a good list of regular interview questions that you can pull from.