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Child Care: Infant/Toddler In-Home Care


What is in-home care?

In-home care means hiring someone to care for your infant or young toddler in your own home. Your child will be in a familiar place and get lots of personal attention. The caregiver may be a friend, neighbor, relative, or professional nanny. If you hire the person through an agency, a background check should have already been done. Some states have resources that allow you to do background checks. For further information, contact Child Action at 916-369-0191.

Health and Safety

To prepare your home, here are things you should check before you hire a caregiver:

  • Does my home have smoke detectors and fire extinguishers? Regular fire drills? Alternate exits?
  • Are important phone numbers posted near the phone? (Examples include police, fire, poison control center, hospital, children's physician, ambulance.)
  • Will my caregiver always know how to get in touch with both parents?
  • Is all baby equipment strong, stable, and in good repair?
  • Are the crib slats no more than 2 and 3/8 inches apart? Does the crib have bumper pads? Does the mattress firmly abut the side of the crib?
  • Do strollers or infant seats have safety harnesses?
  • Are the crib and playpen free of toys that could be used to climb out?
  • Can all doors, inside the home be opened from the outside at all times?
  • Are the outside doors and windows locked?
  • Do strong screens or metal bars cover the windows? (especially important above ground level)
  • Do all glass doors have decals?
  • Are the rooms well ventilated and comfortable year-round?
  • Are latched safety gates placed at the top and/or bottom of stairways?
  • Are stairways and walkways free from clutter?
  • Are small, sharp, or otherwise dangerous items out of reach or locked in a cupboard, drawer, or cabinet? (Examples include pins, thumbtacks, paper clips, matches, lighters, knives, plastic bags, scissors, guns, razor blades, glassware, and appliances.)
  • Are poisonous items stored out of reach or locked in cupboards, drawers, or cabinets? (Examples include cleaning products, polish, bleach, medicines, cosmetics, perfumes, aerosol cans, and first aid supplies.)
  • Are the home and yard free from poisonous plants?
  • Are all foods or drinks within reach safe for my child? (Examples of dangerous foods or beverages: any food that a child could choke on like popcorn or hard candy beverages that are hot or alcoholic.)
  • Does my child know to keep away from dangerous places like the stove or hot water faucets?
  • Have furniture and other household objects with sharp corners been padded or removed?
  • Do all electrical sockets have protective covers?
  • Has attention been paid to objects that could be pulled or knocked over? (Examples include tablecloths, electrical cords, lamps, furniture.)
  • Is my child safe around pets? Are pet dishes out of reach?
  • Are toys safe, clean, and in good repair?
  • Are play surfaces, indoors and out, softened with carpeting or wood chips?
  • Is the outdoor area fenced and free of hazards?
  • Is the play equipment safe and appropriate for my child's level of development?

Ask your prospective caregiver:

  • Can you tell me more about your background and experience?
  • What are the ages of children you have cared for and some reasons you enjoy taking care of children? Do you have children of your own?
  • How will you get to and from work?
  • How will my child be transported if you leave the house?
  • How long are you willing to take care of my child?
  • Do you smoke? Do you have any health problems?
  • Have you had training in first aid and CPR for children?
  • What kinds of activities might you plan for my child?
  • What are your views on discipline? Meals? Television?
  • Will my child receive constant supervision, indoors and out? (Young children should never be left unattended while on a bed, chair, changing table, high chair, stroller, baby walker, baby swing, or in the water outdoor dangers include swimming pool, pond, garage tools, driveway, streets, kidnapping, wandering off.)
  • Will my baby be checked often when in a crib or playpen?
  • What is your policy on handwashing?
  • What would you do if . . . ? (Give examples such as medical and personal emergencies or common kinds of problems with children.)
  • Can you give me several references, preferably from former employers?
  • What questions do you have for me?

Things to Think About:

Does the caregiver:

  • genuinely seem to enjoy cuddling, holding, and talking to my baby?
  • welcome my questions and suggestions?
  • share my childrearing philosophy?
  • take time to share my child's experiences with me?
  • remain gentle, yet firm? consistent, yet flexible?
  • sensitively handle feelings of fear, shyness, upset, and anger?
  • respect my child's unique background and interests?
  • really listen and talk to my child?
  • seem cheerful, affectionate, and warm?
  • have training and experience in early child education?
  • kneel or sit at child's eye level?
  • actively play with my child, indoors and out?
  • emphasize my child's strengths and accomplishments?
  • set and consistently maintain limits?
  • provide consistent care so my child has a stable, predictable daily routine?

Program

Will the activities the caregiver provides:

  • balance active, physical activities with quiet, restful ones?
  • provide ample rest and nap times?
  • prohibit play that could quickly get out of hand?
  • patiently encourage my child to solve some problems on their own?
  • help my child deal with feelings constructively?
  • provide a well-defined, predictable schedule of daily activities?
  • balance structured and unstructured activities?
  • encourage language development?

Meals

  • Is my caregiver knowledgeable about my baby's food requirements and feeding schedule?
  • Is my child allowed to leave food on the plate? (Children should never be forced to eat.)

Written by Donna Warner Manczak, PhD, MPH.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-01-28
Last reviewed: 2009-05-26

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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