Child Care Is in Demand. Here’s What the Gig Looks Like During COVID-19

A boy plays video games with his babysitter.
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As school districts around the country make plans for the fall school year, many parents continue to fill the childcare gap with in-home care through a babysitter or nanny.

While becoming a babysitter can be a lucrative employment path with flexible hours, there are some key considerations anyone seeking to be an in-home caregiver should consider right now, says Carrie Cronkey, Care.com’s chief marketing officer.

Here’s what you should know about becoming a babysitter or nanny during the pandemic.

What the Child Care Field Looks Like in 2020

In the U.S., there are more than 1.1 million childcare workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which includes those who work in childcare centers, in their own homes or private households.

The median pay for caregivers last year was $24,230 per year, or $11.65 per hour. (The median annual wage for all workers is $39,810.)

“Approaching summer, families became more comfortable bringing a sitter into their home, resulting in a triple-digit percent increase in jobs posted on the Care platform,” Cronkey said. In a recent Care.com survey, the company found that 63% of parents were reluctant to return their children to group care settings, and a third of those parents were instead hiring in-home caregivers.

“As we enter a topsy turvy back-to-school season, we anticipate parents will use in-home care or care shares this fall as a feasible and flexible option to help juggle part-time school and remote learning schedules,” Cronkey said.

That spells opportunity for displaced teachers, daycare workers and after-school counselors.

How to Safely Provide Child Care During the Pandemic

The key to keeping everyone safe in the current environment, Cronkey said, starts with communication between employer and caregiver.

“For those providing care in a family’s home, we strongly encourage transparent conversations with the family to set expectations and guidelines. These can then be reflected in a written contract to ensure that everyone is clear,” Cronkey said.

Guidelines can include things like removing shoes when entering the home, best practices for handwashing, maintaining physical distance, wearing face coverings and reducing cross-contamination by changing into new clothes when returning from work in a home setting.

While in-home care may feel less formal than a traditional workplace, Cronkey stressed that you should consider your employer’s home your place of business and that best health practices such as those outlined by the CDC should be followed.

The CDC recommends that employees stay home if they are sick, except to get medical care. For the family you are working with, each party should exercise flexibility and understand that there may not be advance notice when it comes to health-related absences.

It is also recommended that families and individuals avoid large social gatherings and maintain distance (at least 6 feet) from others when possible. While keeping distance may not be possible while caring for kids at home, caregivers should keep social distancing in mind at parks and other public venues.

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Advice on Nannying During COVID-19

Casey Hauptman, 21, has been nannying for a family with two young girls for the last two months in Massachusetts, at one point a hotspot for COVID-19 cases.

When she met the family, Hauptman asked about their comfort level of playing with other children, hygiene and other in-home care guidelines. “I think it is always important to feel comfortable, and starting a job right now during a pandemic can bring some worried thoughts,” she said. “Even if you are scared to ask questions, just … ask them.”

Hauptman stressed that she washes her hands frequently during the day and that pays attention to her own health and how she is feeling. “If I felt like something was off with me, I would never go in and put myself around the kids,” she said. “I also make sure that there are no sharing certain things like drinks.”

The family she works for lives in a close-knit neighborhood with children around the same age who love to play together. Hauptman makes sure the children stay distanced and play outside rather than entering anyone’s home.

“Some things the kids love to do together is going for walks down to the pond, bike rides and just playing games,” she said. “This way they can still social distance from each other but get to socialize with their friends and play with them.”

While there may be considerable new challenges in providing in-home child care as COVID-19 persists, experts say the key to a successful employer/employee relationship is open communication, clear expectations and adherence to laws and rules surrounding the pandemic.

“I worked in a restaurant for over four years and they unfortunately had to close due the pandemic, so I lost my job,” Hauptman said. “But I luckily got contacted by this family and now I see them three times a week.

“I love being a nanny and I love the family I nanny for.”