“We’ve been very careful about COVID exposure, and expect the person we hire to be as well,” Becky McCabe’s post in a Facebook babysitters’ group says.
It’s a common theme. Scroll through the “nanny wanted” ads on Facebook and you’ll not only see the typical requests — flexible hours, CPR-certified, able to drive — but coronavirus criteria — social distancing, mask-wearing, COVID-free — as well.
Working from home with children that demand constant attention can be challenging, and parents are turning to at-home babysitters and nannies for help. And with the pandemic making it more important than ever to be careful about who comes over, parents are asking their hires to take extra safety steps.
“I’ve been home since March, and it’s essentially 24/7 for me,” McCabe said. She and her husband juggled taking care of their 3-year-old twins when they lost their previous nanny. “We need someone so we can actually get our work done and for when we go back to what used to be ‘normal.’”
During the hiring process, the McCabes interviewed their new nanny outside and asked her questions about her quarantine practices. They didn’t require that she get a test, but accepted her precautionary measures.
“We felt comfortable with her answers about protecting herself and our family,” McCabe said.
McCabe lost her job at ESPN last week during a surge of lay-offs at the company, but the family is hoping to keep their nanny while McCabe looks for new employment. They enjoy the stability, McCabe said, and are glad that the twins are getting individualized attention at home rather than being at a daycare, where they’d have to wear masks and pay more.
“We are so grateful we have in-home care because of the pandemic,” she said.
Parents can ask prospective hires to take coronavirus antibody tests, as there’s no law against it. Babysitters are also volunteering information, whether that be in their posts or during their interview.
“I love kids and I feel as though I’ve developed close relationships with them and their families. I just want to keep them safe and myself and my family,” said Shannon Tofeldt, who works at Kidco Child Care Center in Newington and also babysits for families on the side.
Daycares are taking extreme safety measures during the coronavirus pandemic, sometimes sanitizing up to three times a day. It’s why recent research has shown that child care employees working at daycare facilities at the start of the pandemic were not more likely to contract the coronavirus.
At-home caretakers don’t have to take these kinds of precautions. But babysitters and nannies like Tofeldt still go above and beyond.
Tofeldt said that parents ask if she’s been in contact with any people with COVID-19. She monitors for symptoms in the kids she babysits and asks their parents if they’ve been around anyone sick, too.
Though at-home rules are more lenient than at a daycare — masks, for one, aren’t required — Tofeldt said that she still takes necessary precautions like social distancing and hand washing between activities, and reminds the kids not to share food or hug others outside their families. She hasn’t been asked by parents to take an antibody test, but she’s still taken one to keep updated.
That symbiotic relationship of sharing information is important, said parent Ashley DeGroff.
“I’d say trust [is a big factor] but also transparency,” DeGroff added.
DeGroff found a nanny to help with her 3-month-old boy. She’s on calls all day and her husband works as well. She’s planning on doing daily temperature checks on her nanny upon arrival. If either the nanny or the family feels ill, DeGroff hopes there’s enough trust between them to disclose that.
“These are such unchartered territories we are all wading through. I want them to have my child’s best wellbeing in mind, but also let them know I have their health in mind, too,” DeGroff said.