Hello and welcome to the second post in my blog series about childcare and food allergies.
In case you missed my first post about our experience with in-home childcare and food allergies, you can check it out here!
I want to also restate that these have been our personal experiences and are not blanket experiences for all. This is only meant to share the lessons we've learned so that others can be aware when considering childcare options.
To give you a quick recap, our in-home experience was when our oldest had her first reaction (and then some additional exposures). Because of these situations - mainly the exposures after notification and discussions, we decided we needed to find a better solution for our kids. We found a great center, but the wait list was long and we didn't want to stay where we were. So we opted to seek a nanny for our two kids until we could get into the center.
Our Nanny Childcare Experience
We hired a service as well as scoured online childcare sites. The service was nice because they were very thorough in background checks and filtering for our needs.
It was not easy and took us quite awhile to initially find some prospects. Again, the whole trust with our kids food allergies created some extra challenges when seeking someone who would be comfortable.
We ended up interviewing about five individuals who we thought would be a good fit. The woman we ended up going with had six children of her own, worked at her Church nursery and had a lot of experience with children. She was very easy to talk to and took direction well and had a calm personality. She stated she was fine with the food allergies and giving EpiPens if needed.
We thought it was a good fit and hired her and took our kids out of the in-home daycare.
To assure safety for our kids, I would write out their menus for the day and make sure all the food was available and placed on the counter (if it could be left out). Our pantry is our safe-zone for the kids. Everything is our pantry was safe for all three kids for snacks. We do have some non-safe food in high cabinets, which we walked her through, as well as their emergency medications.
Charlie was also in part-time preschool at the time, so she dropped off and picked her up as well as took the kids to the park and other outings.
In regards to our kids food allergies (milk, egg, peanut, and tree nuts), she was pretty good, especially with me writing out the menus and preparing most of the food. There was one incident, when a family member was living with us, and bought Pringles that had milk in them and she gave them to the kids. It was actually right when I was coming home and she had only given them to our son and just one or two. He did not react thankfully, but we had to have a discussion again with everyone about where the safe food and non-safe food is stored and to always read the labels if I haven't already put it out.
But, we had some challenges come up that we did not expect, unrelated to food allergies.
We found out that our nanny was not apparently as engaging with the kids as we expected. We were told by our neighbor, who happened to be at the same nearby park one day as her and the kids, that she sat in her car while the kids played.
We were also told by Charlie what her favorite shows were (Maury) and also that she sometimes napped on the couch while the kids watched TV.
We had discussed with her and had it written what the kids were/were not allowed and our expectations (one 30-min show per day or one movie, but not everyday). So that was obviously not the case.
Another big concern that caused a lot of stress was the day she forgot her phone at home. I We don't have a landline, so we told her upfront we would communicate through cell phones and she was good with that. I had meetings and work to get to and she lived a good bit away, so I ended up buying a burner phone and minutes so that we make sure she could get ahold of us and vice versa.
So we were in another pickle with childcare and this time not because of the food allergies, but because of the overall lack of engagement and care of the kids.
The good thing is that by this time, it wasn't too far off from being able to start at the center we were on the wait list for. We did have a discussion with her and went over our expectations again until we were able to transition again, so it wasn't ideal, but they were safe.
Overall, I think the nanny experience would have been great for us, especially with food allergies. Even though there were references we called and all were glowing, it still wasn't a great fit for our expectations of engagement with our children, especially from an educational perspective and playing with them.
Tips & Questions for Nanny Childcare with Food Allergies:
Are they familiar with food allergies and identifying symptoms of a reaction?
Are they comfortable administering epinephrine and do they know when to?
Are they comfortable preparing food themselves or would it be better if you prepared/set out all the food?
Are they capable of handling an emergency situation?
Be very detailed in your contract and write down all of your expectations and needs for the children. From where the food is stored, reading labels, to TV privileges, outings, and more.
Make sure they have safe and reliable communication and transportation.
Are they okay with pets? We also had two small dogs at the time.
Consider doing an unexpected visit. I think this would have alerted us had our children and neighbor not seen/spoken up about what was really going on.
Make sure they have a copy of your allergy action plan!
Nannies can be expensive so consider your budget. This was definitely more expensive than our in-home and comparable to our center childcare expenses.
Have you hired or considered a nanny for childcare? Would you add anything to this list? Share in the comments!