Arrange to visit the minder in their own home. Try and do this during the day, when the Childminder has own children and other minded children around. The environment in which your child is minded will influence him/her and parents should be able to imagine themselves as children spending each day with this person, in this house. Don't rush through the visit to the prospective childminder's home. If they are the right person to care for your child, they will fully understand your need to take your time.
If the Childminder does not make you feel welcome and relaxed, you have no reason to think that your child will feel any different. It is his/her responsibility and also a measure of his/her professionalism to make the interview a pleasant and informative experience for you. She can do this by being forthcoming with an offer to go around the house and see the area available to the children.
Be observant. What sort of person is this childminder? Can she make conversation easily? How does she interact with the children? Does she handle the situation of needing a bit of peace to talk to you well? You must allow that children 'act up' when visitors appear - can she cope calmly? Do her own children appear secure? Can you imagine her reading a story with a bit of animation, or cuddling a teething baby? Is she a good listener? Does she avoid eye contact?
Ask to look around the house. Untidiness is perfectly acceptable to children because it is a by-product of their play activity. Danger, dirt or chaos is a different matter. Are there toys, books, musical instruments? Is the house obviously geared for children, with guards on fires, potties and a child-step for using the toilet and a gate at the stairs? Is there a quiet room for children to sleep during the day, with clean bedclothes? Is the garden secure, with a sand pit, swings or slides, or climbing frames? Is there a pot-guard on the cooker and a fire blanket or extinguisher in the kitchen? Do you notice any over-loaded sockets or trailing flexes?
If you are at ease with the potential Childminder and are satisfied with the house, you must ask some questions. They will expect this, and should not appear to be defensive.
Here are some questions which a good Childminder would expect:
1. What experience have you had as a parent and Childminder?
2. Can I have a reference from parents of other minded children and from your family doctor?
3. Are you insured for Childminding?
4. Have you attended any courses in child development and First Aid?
5. How many under-sixes are there in the house, including your own children?
6. Does your car insurance cover minded children?
7. What are your rates?
8. Are you flexible about collecting time?
9. What is included in your charge - e.g. meals, making up bottles, some laundry?
10. Are you a member of Childminding Ireland?
11. Are you and other adults in your home Garda Vetted?
12. Will you ring and fetch older children to and from play-school or big-school?
You must follow any references up.
Garda Vetting is available, free of charge, to all Childminders and adults in their home. For Childminders minding 4 or more children it is a legal requirement, for others it is voluntary. Details of Garda Vetting are here. You are entitled to ask if the Childminder is vetted and to request that he/she gets Garda Vetting before minding your child.Ordinary household insurance does not include minded children. Cover for minding children is available and he/she should have a certificate of cover.
If she has a professional approach to the job, or as a parent is interested in child development or child psychology, he/she may have attended some relevant course.
However, if you notice a shelf of books on child care and development and the house contains some obviously well cared for children, with plenty of toys, play materials, books, dressing-up clothes and baby equipment - don't press too hard for qualifications. Practical experience and the right temperament are the most important requisites for undertaking child care. You could ask what she would do if a baby swallowed a penny, or started to choke, or developed a high temperature.
Is the minder is 'mobile' - i.e. able to take the children to the shops, or for a walk, as this is one of the great advantages of family care. Children learn about the world by being taken to the shops, the bank, the library, the hair-dressers, the post office. Like adults, they need variety in every day-life.
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