Employing A Limited-English Speaking In-Home Caregiver (page 2)
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.)
Good communication is crucial and there are many techniques which you can use to insure an open exchange of information. One of the best ways to communicate your child’s routines and your particular preferences for care is to demonstrate these yourself. In order to do this you may want to have the caregiver start working for you when you can be home with her for a few days. Since child-rearing practices do differ from culture to culture, you need to actually show, rather than tell, the caregiver your preferences. For example, you may want to show her when you think the baby should be picked up, when the baby should be talked to and when the baby should be allowed to cry a little. Walk the caregiver through other tasks such as diapering the baby, disposing of soiled diapers, making the formula, heating the formula, etc.
Plan a daily routine. For example, Mornings: bathe the baby, floor play, walk, lunch....Afternoons: storytime, naptime, outdoor play, etc. Specify whatever it is you want to happen and when. Be specific about things that are important to you – the baby’s diet, getting out of doors once or twice a day, making sure the baby gets adequate sleep, having diapers changed frequently – whatever matters to you.
If you also want the caregiver to do light housework, laundry, clean the baby’s room, etc., you need to tell her when you want these activities to occur. Go through this plan step-by-step with the caregiver for a day or two until you are confident you have communicated your practices and preferences clearly. You will also want to take the time to familiarize the caregiver with your home and any equipment you want her to use – stove, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, etc. Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers should be part of this review. Make sure you introduce your caregiver to your neighbors – especially any who are home during the day and who could be of assistance in an emergency.
When it comes to housework, one parent suggests: “Parents need to keep their priorities straight; if the caregiver is great with the baby but occasionally makes a mistake carrying out household duties – gently clarify the procedure.”
Graphic charts are a good way to convey the baby’s routine using pictures, simple English phrases and pictures of clocks showing the time you want the baby to eat, nap, etc. This same chart concept can be used for the provider to communicate with you. If you laminate your chart or cover it with clear contact paper, it can be used over and over. The provider can draw hands on the clocks with a crayon to show you when the baby last had a nap, a bowel movement, etc. The crayon will wipe off with a cloth.
Debriefing at the end of day is important to most parents. Use the type of chart shown above or some kind of pictorial checklist to assist the caregiver in telling you about the child’s day. (BANANAS sells a “Daily Report Train” to aid caregivers in communicating with parents. It is available for $4 in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese or English.) If you ask the same questions in the same way every day, you will find it becomes easier and easier for the caregiver to share information. Explain to her that you are asking these questions because you miss your baby and want to know what happened while you were away. Tell her that you are not trying to “snoop” on her and that your questions don’t mean you dislike or distrust her.
It can be helpful and reassuring (but isn’t absolutely necessary) if you can find a friend or acquaintance who is fluent in the caregiver’s language to assist in clarifying communication now and then. Perhaps an Englishspeaking member of the provider’s family or one of her friends can play that role. This person could meet with the two of you when you first discuss a new topic like potty training or when you discuss an area where miscommunication seems to be occurring.
Be aware that some foreign caregivers may be very shy and sometimes even afraid to hold your baby when you or another adult in your family is present. People’s homes may seem very personal and make the caregiver feel like an intruder. Give your caregiver time to adjust and do whatever you can to make her feel comfortable.
Reprinted with the permission of BANANAS, Inc. © 2007 BANANAS
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