Figuring Out Care & Schooling in a Pandemic: Questions to Ask

Tiarra Hamlett
Aug 2 · 5 min read

The article below is suggestive only, and not meant to replace the opinions or expertise of public health officials, experts, medical professionals, or epidemiologists. Always follow local, state, and federal rules and guidance first.

With childcare centers and schools remaining closed, working parents need to find alternative care. To help working parents manage caring for their children while working, the most effective way to remain productive may require finding a caregiver or a small group of parents (these “pandemic pods” we’re hearing so much about) whose children can be taught or cared for by the same provider. Because we’re all impacted today, demand for caregivers has outstripped supply, making it harder than normal to find and organize care, requiring more thorough vetting on the part of parents.

Below, we’ve outlined a few questions to help you determine your needs and find someone to help.

First, figure out if you need a caregiver or a teacher.

You need a caregiver, if you need help keeping your child(ren) following a school’s curriculum while learning online or to watch your child during work hours. Caregivers will:

  • Monitor and keep children on track, making sure they’re following lessons and completing coursework
  • Planning children’s days:
  • Scheduling breaks and time for learning
  • Planning fun activities
  • Making meals
  • Ensuring handwashing

Where can you find a caregiver today?

  • Helpr
  • Podmatch
  • CareVillage
  • Existing parenting group on Facebook or Nextdoor
  • Ask your school district or children’s teachers
  • Daycare or childcare provider whose center is closed by local ordinance
  • Teacher laid off in districts making cuts
  • Through a nanny or au pair service

You’ll need a teacher instead of a caregiver if:

  • You’re looking for curriculum to be developed and work to be graded, effectively homeschooling
  • Special courses or help is needed for your child’s learning needs

Once you’ve determined your needs you need to know what you can afford.

Budget

How much can you afford? Determine from your household budget how much you can afford to pay per week, and then divide that by the number of hours per week you will need help.

Coverage for a full school day would be 6 to 8 hours per day.

The hourly rate will depend on your local market, but expect to pay:

$16–25/hour to a caregiver, at least

$25 or more/hour to a teacher, at least

Don’t be afraid to ask your company for help covering the cost. Having someone to watch children at home does wonders for productivity! If your company worries how other employees without kids would feel about parents receiving a stipend for care, make sure to remind them that everyone benefits from a productive team member.

Hours per Week

What hours do you absolutely need? Full school hours? Partial school hours?

What days? Monday through Friday?

Think creatively around work hours and sharing the burden with your partner and the caregiver or your pandemic pod’s host family to reduce the cost if needed. If you, your partner, or your pandemic pod’s host parents have flexibility in work hours consider splitting the workload with the provider to reduce the total cost or to increase the hourly rate you can afford.

Parento parents receive access to discounted care and preferred access through our caregiving partners. Interested in becoming a Parento parent?

Questions to Ask When Vetting the Provider

  • Ask about where they previously worked, including education and certifications.
  • Ask which ages of children they have taught or cared for in the past.
  • How many years of direct experience do they have?
  • Experience to look for:
  • Undergraduate education or teaching degree
  • Nanny and babysitting experience
  • Experience at a day care or childcare
  • Tutoring experience
  • Teaching experience
  • Are they available for the hours you prefer?
  • Ask about their hourly rate and ensure it fits your budget.
  • Ask if they are comfortable with the COVID-19 prevention standards you set. (See below for guidance)
  • Will they also plan activities throughout the day (arts and physical activity, parents should provide the materials)

Importantly, don’t forget to ask about their approach to childcare and teaching. Does their approach match the style your child is most receptive to, e.g. patient and caring, firm and disciplinary, etc.

Continue to Limit Exposure Risk

Set appropriate COVID-19 prevention standards, and make sure everyone follows them. Keep in mind that while less susceptible to COVID-19, children may still carry the disease to friends and family, and while exceedingly rare, it can cause death in children. All parents and the caregiver should agree on the level of acceptable expsoure risk to the coronavirus, and make sure to set expectations with the caregiver and the families in any pandemic pods you join, should you go that route. Ask the caregiver about their habits and standards around reducing exposure to COVID-19 in their personal life. Set expectations on what is and is not okay for them to do outside of work because in these times, their exposure in their personal life puts you and your family at greater risk. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Will the caregiver and children all be expected to wear masks for the full day?
  • Do they wear a mask everywhere?
  • Do they minimize their time outside the home?
  • Are they dining out often or going to the gym?
  • How are they spending their personal time?
  • Are they getting together with friends regularly? If so, what precautions do they take?
  • Is anyone in their home working outside the house? If so, where do they work?

You can refer to the chart below. Using your level of comfort and risk exposure, make sure you, the parents in the pandemic pod, and the provider are aligned on what are acceptable risks. Determine acceptable and prohibited activities based on the chart.

Parento

Parento is the first and only comprehensive paid parental leave program designed to support the modern workforce at the most critical juncture in their professional and personal paths. Parento is a new approach to paid parental leave that is streamlined, compliant, and no fuss.

Tiarra Hamlett

Written by

Mom, DIYer, and Director of Marketing at Parento

Parento

Parento is the first and only comprehensive paid parental leave program designed to support the modern workforce at the most critical juncture in their professional and personal paths. Parento is a new approach to paid parental leave that is streamlined, compliant, and no fuss.