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☐ Screen your potential childcare provider carefully.

You might have multiple options in your area, including both individual caregivers and childcare facilities that provide a range of childcare services. Whichever option you choose, making sure you thoroughly screen any provider you are considering is very important.

Employment Application

If you are looking to hire an individual caregiver, you can request information directly from them, as well as from references and public sources. Ask them to complete an Employment Application so you can obtain key information like their work history and childcare experience.

It’s a good idea to ask if they are licensed or hold any certifications, such as for CPR or first aid. You may be able to confirm the information they give you with your state’s Department of Health and Human Services, a childcare licensing agency, or other agency. If they are not licensed, ask about other professional development education or training.

Consent to Background and Reference Check

An Employment Application and interview can tell you a great deal about a prospective caregiver, but you may wish to dig deeper to help ensure they are safe and trustworthy. A signed Consent to Background and Reference Check allows you to conduct a background check and find out what others say about a person. You may ask for references who can speak to the person’s experience and services. Be sure to get phone numbers and other contact information.

You are required to obtain the person’s written consent before you do a more thorough background check. To run a credit check or criminal background check, request that they provide their date of birth and other identifying information, such as a driver’s license or Social Security number. If the caregiver may care for your child in their home instead of yours, you may wish to ask for permission to do background checks on other household members who may be present.

You can also conduct your own research by looking up the caregiver on the internet and social media. You may even ask prospective employees to show you their social media pages. Checking online review sites for both accolades and complaints can be revealing as well.

Research childcare centers

If you are taking your child to a daycare facility or a provider’s own home daycare, you may want to know more to make sure they can offer a safe environment for your child. Consider asking questions about the facility and its staff, such as:

  • Does the facility run background checks on all staff?
  • How big is the center’s enrollment? Is the child-to-staff ratio appropriate? 
  • Do staff members trained in childcare, first aid and safety?
  • Does the facility have an emergency preparedness plan?
  • Are staffers required to have up-to-date vaccinations?

You also want to look for yourself at the condition of the facilities and the activities that the provider offers. As you observe, ask yourself:

  • What is the condition of the location? Are the toys and furniture in good repair?
  • Are the activities and toys age-appropriate for your child? 
  • Does the facility vary the activities each day to capture a range of skills and interests?
  • Do they offer field trips, special days, or presentations?
  • Does the center have an outdoor play area, or does it provide outdoor activities?
  • Do younger children have scheduled time for napping?

☐ Use a written agreement with your provider.

A written Child Care Contract offers peace of mind for both you and the caregiver or childcare provider. It ensures that everyone is on the same page about the caregiver’s services and your expectations. And it gives you a way to hold your care provider legally accountable if something goes wrong.

By itself, though, the Child Care Contract might not be enough to make your wishes clear. You can also add specific care instructions, an emergency plan, and a contact list to the contract.

A Parental Consent Form allows your child to participate in various activities with a caregiver, childcare provider, or other service. This might include sports, field trips, and other outdoor activities or games. You may give consent for your child to participate in all activities that a childcare program offers, or you can limit your child to certain activities to ensure their well-being.

☐ Include specific instructions for your provider.

You can tailor Child Care Instructions to your child’s specific needs and interests. This lets your childcare provider, caregiver, or nanny know exactly how you want things done. The instructions can include:

  • Schedules for activities and naps.
  • Information on how to pick up the child from a childcare center or school, if applicable.
  • Meals, including your child’s favorite and least-favorite foods.
  • Recommended or prohibited activities.
  • Chores.
  • Locations of toys, games, and important supplies like diapers.
  • Special needs such as medication.
  • Emergency contact information, including family members and health care providers.

☐ Make a plan for emergencies.

No one likes to think about the possibility of things going wrong. Accidents sometimes happen to children, though, no matter who is caring for them. Give your childcare provider any information and documents that can help them take the right action at a critical time.

An emergency plan can address what to do in case of a fire or other disasters in the home. For example, it can provide instructions on where fire extinguishers are located and how to evacuate children and pets. It can provide contact information for people who can help in the event of an emergency that is not life-threatening, such as a plumber to help with a burst pipe.

Be sure to note whether your child has any specific medical or health care needs, such as allergies, and provide the location of necessary medications. Include the names of and contact information for your child’s doctors, as well as preferred nearby pharmacies, urgent care centers, and emergency rooms.

Your child’s caregiver is required to obtain your permission prior to taking them to a doctor’s office or hospital. A Medical Treatment Authorization for a Minor Form gives them this permission. You can specify how much authority the caregiver has, and which types of treatments or procedures require your consent.

A Consent for Medical Treatment of a Minor serves a similar function as a Medical Treatment Authorization for a Minor Form. You can use it to give your child’s caregiver the authority to make medical decisions affecting your child when you are not available.

Each state has its own laws regulating childcare services. Some laws may vary from one city or town to another, and these laws may change. If you have questions about a specific childcare situation or the laws in your area, contact a Rocket Lawyer network attorney to learn more.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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