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7 tips for hiring an after-school sitter or nanny

Follow these steps to find the perfect person to care for your kids from 3 p.m. until you get home from work.

In today’s society, it’s more common than not to find both parents working outside the home. Your kids are in school during the day, but what happens after that? School lets out at three o’clock, but you’re stuck at your job until at least five. How do you deal with the time gap in between? An after-school sitter or nanny may be your best choice.

With that in mind, follow these seven steps to find the perfect person to care for your kids in the afternoon when school ends.

1. Plan ahead

Most schools start in mid-to-late August, which means you should have a plan in place for after-school child care in July or early August before all the prime candidates have had a chance to accept another position.

2. Outline what you need and when you need it

“When using a caregiver for after-school hours, it’s important to think through your family’s unique needs,” says author and TEDx speaker L. Carol Scott, who holds a doctorate in developmental and child psychology. “Become clear about what roles will best meet your family’s needs before selecting someone to fill those roles,” she suggests.

To narrow down your requirements, ask questions like:

  • Will the caregiver be asked to pick up children from school or just meet them at the bus stop?
  • Will you need someone with their own car or do you have an extra one she can use?
  • Will the person be responsible for chauffeuring kids to after-school activities and playdates? How often?
  • Will you need someone to make healthy snacks for your kids?
  • Do you need someone who can help the kids with homework after school?
  • Will your kids need someone who can double as a tutor when they’re struggling with a subject?
  • Do you want someone who can help kids be active in the afternoon?
  • Do you want dinner on the table when you get home? If the sitter is prepping dinner, how are the children also receiving her attention and supervision?
  • What happens if you have to work late? Will you ask the sitter to stay late or is there someone else who can step in?
  • Will you need this person to help out full time during school vacations?

School and work schedules will dictate your need for afternoon child care. You’ll want someone who’s available between the time the kids get out of school and the time you arrive home.

If you’re a stay- or work-at-home parent and just need some extra help with after-school duties, such as picking the kids up from school, driving them to soccer practice or helping them with their homework, you may only need a sitter for a couple of hours a few times a week.

Keep all of this in mind and be as specific as possible when writing your job posting to attract only candidates whose skill sets and schedules align with yours.

3. Find the right type of caregiver

Many parents hiring child care don’t realize there’s a difference between a babysitter and a nanny. If you’ll be asking a lot and want someone who can plan activities, as well as nurture your child, you’ll want to look into hiring a part-time nanny for the afternoons.

If responsibilities are limited, you may just need to hire an after-school babysitter to help for a few hours. You might even look into hiring a responsible college student who lives nearby and who will be out of school by the time your kid’s bell rings.

4. Interview candidates

Talk to the best five to ten candidates over the phone and arrange in-person interviews for your top picks. Then invite the two you like best to your home for a more in-depth interview and so they can meet and interact with your child.

5. Make safety a priority

We know you’re busy and you want to check child care off your to-do list so you can get back to it. But don’t rush through important safety precautions.

Mary L. Pulido, who holds a doctorate in social welfare and is executive director of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children says even for an after-school nanny, you should do a background check and call references, in addition to requesting a driving record if the person will be in the car with your kids.

6. Create an easy-to-follow schedule

An organized schedule will not only benefit you but also your nanny or sitter and your kids. Create a weekly or monthly schedule that outlines the kids’ school schedule, noting any half days, days off and lengthier school breaks. Also include any days you’ll pick the kids up so the nanny or sitter knows they won’t be expected. This calendar should also include any extracurricular activities (school plays, soccer practice, etc.) so everyone’s on the same page.

TIP: Use a free online program like Google Calendar so everyone has access to it.

7. Do a trial period

Once you’ve found the right candidate, offer a trial run once the year starts. Check in with your caregiver, child and child’s teacher after a few weeks to make sure everything is going smoothly and everyone is comfortable with the arrangement.

If all systems are a go, enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing your children are being cared for by a responsible, loving caregiver in their after-school hours.