Employing A Limited-English Speaking In-Home Caregiver
Exposing your young child to another culture can be an extremely valuable experience. The child’s world view and understanding of differences can expand tremendously. Many limited-English speaking caregivers are kind, caring and capable individuals and, by thinking about hiring them, you expand your pool of potential providers. However, parents may feel reluctant to hire a person who doesn’t speak fluent English – especially if their child is a baby or a toddler. This Handout addresses the issue because BANANAS staff knows from experience that parents can learn to communicate and build trusting relationships with such caregivers.
Parents have expressed concerns in the following areas:
- Interviewing and hiring – How can I interview or hire someone if I can’t be sure I will fully understand the applicant or that the person will fully understand me?
- Communicating with the provider – Will the caregiver understand my instructions and will she be able to tell me about the baby’s day?
- The provider’s ability to deal with an emergency – Will the caregiver be able to get assistance in an emergency situation?
- Child-rearing practices – How can we find out what each other believes? And, then, will the caregiver really abide by my beliefs and instructions?
- The child’s language development – Will my child’s language development be affected because the provider isn’t a native English speaker?
Interviewing And Getting Started
You will want to do your interviewing in person. Use the telephone only to arrange for the meeting and call in the evening when the caregiver may have an English speaker at home. Allow plenty of time for the actual interview. Even if the applicant speaks conversational English, find someone to help translate or ask the applicant to bring along a friend or family member who speaks English. You need to be sure that the caregiver really understands what is being said and what agreements are being made. The applicant may also feel more comfortable having an interpreter present. Don't let the interpreter take over the interview. Try to insure that he or she is not changing or embellishing the applicant’s statements. Keep in mind that many cultures adore children and that actions speak louder than words. Encourage the applicant to play with your child at some point during the interview – keeping in mind that many young children take time to warm up to a new face. An experienced and loving person’s personality and child-rearing abilities will show when she interacts with your child.
As with any interview, find out what experience the caregiver has had and request the names of other families the applicant has worked for. Follow through by calling all references. Some people may not have local work experience. Ask for the names of friends who have been in the U.S. for a long time, as a kind of “credibility” check. BANANAS has additional information on interviewing caregivers in our Handout “Where and How to Look for a Caregiver to Work in Your Home.”
Before you make a final decision, pay the applicant to work with your child while you are at home or in-and-out on errands. Do this at least once or twice. This will give you both a chance to be more at ease and will help you make your final decision. Hire the caregiver on a parttime basis for a short probationary period before you actually need the care so you have a further opportunity to evaluate the situation. This kind of caution is no different from the care you would use in hiring fluent English speakers. Having confidence in your decision is the basis of building a trusting relationship.
Business and interpersonal practices differ from culture to culture. Do not take anything for granted. Clearly state your requirements, such as two weeks notice if the caregiver is going to quit, early notification if she is sick, open communication in the case of disagreements and dissatisfaction, etc. Address such topics as using the phone for personal calls and how you want the caregiver to take your phone messages, etc. Don’t assume that she knows how things are “usually done” in the United States.
Make sure the caregiver understands the terms of employment – the hours, pay, vacation or sick days, etc. Write up the agreement and, if possible, review it with someone present who speaks both languages. Make sure both you and the caregiver have a copy. (BANANAS has a Handout called “Sample Agreement for Parents and In-Home Caregivers” that can help you write your own agreement.)
Reprinted with the permission of BANANAS, Inc. © 2007 BANANAS
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