Backup Childcare

What if your child attends a family day care and the day care provider's own children develop a contagious illness? What if the day care provider becomes sick? Suppose your child is in a day care center, but comes down with a stomach flu the same day that you have a presentation you cannot miss at work? Sometimes, a nanny or sitter simply fails to show up. What do you do? No matter what your childcare situation, you want to have a backup plan for childcare in place for the inevitable day when something goes wrong.

One good way to ensure a backup plan is to ask the childcare provider to have one for you, especially if your child is in a family day care or you have a nanny. When you first interview potential care­givers, find out what they will do if they are unable to care for your child due to their own illness or personal emergency. If your nanny comes from an agency, see if the agency will send a substitute. (Make sure you can check the credentials of the backup caregiver well before you need her help.) If you use a family day care, ask what the contingency plan is when one becomes necessary.

Even if the childcare provider tells you that there is a plan in place for these contingencies, have your own plan as well. If your child is in a day care center, you have to be prepared for the time he or she comes down with pinkeye (possibly picked up from the center), and is prohibited from coming back to the center until he or she has been on antibiotics for 24 hours. Unfortunately for many parents, if they have not planned ahead, the backup plan is that mom or dad misses work.

Sources for Backup Childcare
Drop-in care is a good option if your child's caregiver is unavailable. Some day care centers and family day care homes allow parents to bring children in on an as-needed basis. You should locate such facilities well before you need them. Most will require you to register your child ahead of time, and some may require payment of an application fee. Drop-in care tends to be more expensive per hour or per day than regular full-time care. In an emergency, however, it could be well worth the price if you can avoid having to take an unplanned day off work.

Relatives, neighbors, and friends all can be sources of backup care in a pinch. If there is someone you know with children of her own who is available during your work hours, you may be able to work out a childcare swap. This is where you repay the backup caregiver in kind for helping you out in a childcare emergency. For example, if you have to leave your child with the next door neighbor for six hours when your nanny develops a bronchial infection, you pay the neighbor back by giving her six hours of baby-sitting services for her children, at her convenience. Of course, you can always work out an arrangement by which you simply give her a cash payment for her services. Whatever you both prefer is fine, just be sure to have a deal worked out before you need her help.

Retirees living in your area could also make great backup childcare providers. They typically have more free time than those working or raising children, or at least they often have more ability to be flexible with their time. You do, however, need to be satisfied that the retiree is physically able to take care of one or more children for the amount of time that you need.

If you do not know anyone who might be interested in being an as-needed caregiver, you might try advertising at your local senior center or community center. As with any other potential caregiver, unless you know the person well that you are thinking of using for your backup childcare, obtain consent to perform a criminal background check.

Sick Child Day Care
As demand for quality childcare grows, so does the movement toward day care programs that are specifically set up to provide care for sick children. A few companies are even beginning to implement sick care programs—some of which are in-house—for their employees. Additionally, some day care centers now include a separate area of the facility as a sort of quarantine area. Regularly enrolled children who happen to have fallen ill on a particular day can come to day care, yet remain segregated from the healthy children.

These types of programs are far from being the norm, however. Until employers learn to see the economic benefits of helping their employees secure backup childcare, most working parents will be on their own in these circumstances. More often than not, they will have no choice but to call in sick themselves when their children are ill.

More on: Childcare

Copyright © 2005 by Linda H. Connell. Excerpted from The Childcare Answer Book with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

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