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The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 3

The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 3
 

The third part of this series is to discuss one of the issues that arise when hiring an employee to assist you in your child care. This situations is one I, my friends, and fellow providers have come across over the years of having helpers. It is only one aspect of finding the right employee but it’s one that can significantly alter your business if it isn’t done with foresight, boundaries, and full agreement from the very first interview.

This very important issues is the potential staff assistant wanting or expecting to bring her own child or children to your child care. You have to decide if you will allow this or if you interview only assistants who don’t have children or have child care already arranged outside of their employment.

Most assistants I’ve interviewed who have young children believe that they should be able to bring their child or children and it should be for free. Some centers allow the workers to bring their child for a discounted rate or paid through child care assistance. In my state a worker can access state funding for their child for their workplace if it is a center. If it is a home child care the state will not pay for the child to be there when the employee is working. My state believes if the parent is in a home setting and caring for their own child that they should not be paid to care for their own child. At a center, the employee is likely to have her child in another room under someone else’s care.

If you allow the assistant to bring her own children for free you have to first consider the economics of giving her slots in your child care. If you are limited in the number of children you can legally manage (especially babies) you should calculate the cost per hour of the slots she is taking and consider that into her salary. If you are paying eight dollars an hour and she is bringing two children into your day care you will really be paying her fourteen to sixteen dollars per hour. That’s a VERY high salary for a child care assistant.

One problem with allowing the staff assistants child to be free is most likely the staff assistant will not see it as a part of her salary. You will but it would be a rare assistant who after the first few weeks wouldn’t consider it her entitlement to have her child there. When something is given for free it looses it’s value very quickly. You have to be mindful that you will consider it to be a big portion of her salary and she will not consider it at all. Once she leaves your home and enters the workforce where she pays for her own child care she will see the value. By then she will no longer be working for you so you won’t reap any benefit from it.

If you can work out the financials of having her child or children in your home then you must work out what her children’s role is in your house. Are they day care kids or are they family? Do they have to follow the same rules and routines as the other day care children or are they allowed the same privileges as your children? Who is in charge of her children when she is on your property? If she is in charge can she abide by the safety rules and day care rules you have in place? Are you allowed to discipline her children or will she insist that she is the only one? Will she be allowed to discipline your children and do her children have the same leeway in your home as your children have?

If the staff assistant has an infant who is breastfed and/or is an attachment parented child you can end up paying a large portion of her salary just for the care of her own child. If the baby is an on demand feeder, is “worn” in baby wraps attached to the mother, and uses breast feeding for suckling the baby must have its mother available as needed. This can interfere drastically with the availability of the staff assistant to you and the other children in care.

If she is allowed to be on the clock supervising the other children while she feeds, suckles, or carries her child you really need to discuss how she will manage this when the other children’s needs come up during the care of her own child.

One of my friends hired an assistant who had an infant who was on nearly continuous breast feeding cycles. He really needed to be physically attached to his mommy most of the day. My friend had a situation where the staff assistant was outside sitting at the top of the back steps supervising the other children while her child was feeding. One of the other children tripped down the small set of stairs she was sitting on. The assistant started calling out for my friend to come and get the child who had fallen. When my friend asked her why she didn’t get up and tend to the child immediately she simply said “Vincent was eating”.

Sounds ridiculous but it is a good example of how the immediate needs of her own child superseded the care of the other child even when the other child had a much higher need and the solution to just lay her child down and tend to the other child didn’t even cross her mind.

Another provider friend owns centers and has had to implement very strict policies for breast feeding for her staff. When she first started she allowed the staff to feed their own child on the clock in a breast feeding lounge. She had a tremendous amount of problems with staff clocking in and immediately going to the lounge to feed their own child. They would also be called out of their rooms to feed the baby. The amount of time it would take to feed their baby got so expensive that she had to make a hard decision to have all feedings be either pumped milk given by staff in the child’s room or the employee would have to go off the clock for feeding. The day she quit allowing the feedings on the clock is the day the feeding issues stopped. The staff quickly adjusted to feeding their child before they left home and started supplying pumped milk for the child during the day.

My advice is to not allow any feedings on the clock. I’m all for breast feeding but there has to be an understanding of what your business can sustain financially if you are paying for staff time to accomplish it. Most providers who can afford help have a fairly limited budget for staff and have the staff on the clock during specific times for help with the group.

If the child is breast fed then it’s best to work it out so the staff assistant goes off on her own to a nice comfy part of your home and feed. This way it takes any conflict out of how long it takes to feed and how often the child will need to be fed. If the baby needs to suckle or be worn you need to consider if it will impede the employee from doing her job with the other children. Have these discussions during the interview process so you are both clear on what you can and can’t do. If you don’t do this you can very easily end up paying the employee for her one to one care of her child and having her child in between herself and your other day care kids all day long.

The staff assistants child can affect your child care in many other ways. The behavior of their child can turn your business upside down especially as the child gets old enough to talk and have their own opinion. We all know that children act differently around their parents than they do with us. Staff assistant children are not an exception to that rule.

I’ve had some wonderful experiences and some really bad experiences having a staff assistants child in my home. In my environment it has worked pretty well with them from birth to two because I enforced strict guidelines that the child was to be on the same schedule as the other children and have not allowed a disproportionate amount of one to one care. This worked well until about the age of two.

Once their child is old enough to have their own opinion and exact their will upon their mother, it became much more difficult to manage the role of supervisor and boss of the staff assistant. I’ve had one instance where I had to let an assistant go who had been with me for over seven years because her child was so terribly unhappy here.

My experience has been that the child can be demanding enough that the only thing that really keeps the child happy is doing one high end activity after another. The activities that make them happy are ones that take a lot of adult time, supervision, and clean up like painting, crafts, play doh, etc. It’s something that can creep up on you over time but when you realize that the assistant is spending a good portion of their day invested in the singular happiness of their own child, there is a good chance that the general purpose of you having her is left unattended.

You should also consider liability when having assistants children in your home. Even though their parent is the one providing the direct care, if they are harmed on your property you could be liable. I’ve had a number of issues with staff allowing their child to do things in my home that are not allowed for safety reasons because the staff was willing to take the risk. It’s our nature to not be as cautious with our own kids. You have to work really hard with the staff to train them to not take risks they would normally take without thought in their home.

Lastly, if the staff’s child has a Father in their home or life, you must consider whether or not you want to work with him as a day care parent. If he believes the salary you pay his wife is “in kind” support and part of the staff pay then he may have his own opinion of what you are to do and not to do with his child. This can come up especially in core areas of your child care like nap times, potty training, and times when the child is ill. He may feel comfortable having his sick kid come to work with the mother so that he doesn’t have to miss work or care for a sick kid at home. It’s necessary to discuss with the staff during the interview about what their back up plan is for child care if their child is sick.

The Father may also have an opinion on what portion of the pay you receive from your clients should go to his wife. I’ve had one staff assistant’s husband who felt very cheated that his wife didn’t receive half of the pay because she did the majority of the direct care of the kids when she was here. Even though he worked in a job where he received one fourth of the hourly rate HIS boss charged customers for his mechanic services, he believed very strongly that we should split the money.

Yeah that actually happened ;-)

The way I have managed staff assistants is to require them to pay for a full slot in the child care just as anyone else would. I have them agree to holiday, vacation, and absence pay just like my normal clients. I don’t allow the father of the child to have any say about any of the policies in the child care. I do not allow staff to bring their sick kid and I require a fair division of absenteeism between the father and the mother for illness. I don’t allow their child to consume an inequitable amount of time and they must have an identical schedule to the other children. I don’t allow the staff assistant to leave for transporting their child to and from school and I don’t provide care for school aged kids whether they are staff kids or day care kids. I watch out for any signs of favoritism that would be unfair to the other kids. I expect the same level of excellent behavior with staff children as I do day care kids. I also reserve the right to do disciplining as I do with my own and the day care kids. If I find that the child simply cannot be happy here with “my house -my rules” then it’s time to move on and find another assistant.

You should really think about whether or not you can manage the issues that come along with having an employee in your home who is also a “day care parent”. It can be a blessing to have the life experience of helping raise a child who belongs to someone you are attached to and help you be successful in your business. It can just as easily be the most difficult part of doing day care. I’ve learned the hard way that the staff assistants child can

ROCK

YOUR

WORLD

I’ve had one time in my eighteen years where I was profoundly unhappy doing child care. This was a six month time when I had a staff assistants child here who was as unhappy as I was. I won’t do that again. I’ve learned my lesson and hope to save you from making the same mistakes I made.

The fourth part of this series will discuss the relationship between your staff assistant and your clients.

The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 1
The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 2
The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 3
The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 4
The Daycare Home Staff Assistant Part 5

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