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Sites like Care.com don’t screen childcare providers, but here’s how parents can

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Whether you're looking for a day care provider, a nanny or just a casual babysitter so you can have a date night, finding and vetting quality childcare can be really hard. Parents put a lot of trust in word of mouth, and online marketplaces like Care.com, but as the Wall Street Journal reports, sites which list childcare providers don't always vet them or run background checks. In the end, that's up to us parents.

In a statement to Motherly a Care.com spokesperson explains "we do not currently run preliminary screens on the care businesses listed on our site but have made the existing notice about that more prominent," and that Care.com is exploring solutions to verify the identities of users posting on the site. The company has recently changed its process for approving and managing individual caregiver profiles. As of this writing, newly enrolling caregivers are able to prepare applications to jobs and complete their profiles, but Care.com isn't releasing any applications or messages from new caregivers on the site until the new preliminary screening processes are complete.

Care.com recommends parents confirm the personal information of potential candidates found on Care.com, interview them and run a background check, noting that it is "a process that takes time, thoughtfulness and rigor."

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So here's what parents need to do when hiring a childcare provider:

1) Do Google and social media searches first

Google the name of any day care center, day home provider or babysitter you are considering and see what comes up. If the day care made the news due to an abuse claim or other problematic situation you might want not even want to continue looking into them and can just scratch them off your list.

If you're considering a day home provider, look not only at the social media accounts for their business but also at any public social media accounts for any adult living in the home.

2) Verify any claims about licenses

It's unfortunate, but sometimes day care providers will create online listings stating that their day home or day care center is licensed by the state when it, in fact, is not. The process for checking on a provider's licensing depends on what state you're in.

According to Child Care Aware, "in some states, parents can view inspection reports online. In other states, parents must contact their local licensing office for that information."

To check if your state lists the inspection reports online, check out the Child Care Aware resources map and click on your state.

3) Ask about safe sleep practices

Day homes and day cares should never be putting children down for naps in strollers, swings or car seats, but unfortunately this does happen frequently and can lead to tragic consequences.

Parents should ask questions about where and how babies and children nap at a day care or day home. Babies should be sleeping in a firm crib, bassinet, or Pack n' Play that meets the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the American Academy of Pediatrics notes. There should be nothing in the crib with them.

Toddlers and preschoolers should be napping on safe, low surfaces (like cots). In center-based care settings a staff member should be supervising napping children at all times.

Day care centers or day homes should be able to show you where and how the children nap. If they don't want to, that's a big red flag.

4) Criminal reference checks

Any adult who is present in a childcare setting should have passed a criminal background check. For center-based care, ask how the center checks the backgrounds of all staff members, from early childhood educators to janitors and kitchen staff. Day care centers should be running comprehensive background checks on all employees who have access to the building.

For home-based care, any adult living in the home should have a recent criminal background check available for parents to see. This includes the spouse of the caregiver and any adult children living in the home.

If you're hiring a nanny or babysitter, they too should have a recent criminal record check from the local police service handy. If they don't have a current copy, they should be comfortable with you requesting they provide a new one.

5) Ask about supervision ratios (and make sure they're accurate)

When we're talking about infant care, an adult should only be caring for about four babies at a time. Child Care Aware recommends centers align with the following best practices, and ensure workers are always within sight of each other so that no one worker is never alone with the kids.

  • For babies 0-12 months: 3-4 children per caregiver, max group size of 8 children
  • For babies 13-23 months: 4 children per caregiver, max group size of 8 children
  • For 2-year-olds: 4-6 children per caregiver, max group size of 12 children
  • For 3-year-olds: 7-9 children per caregiver, max group size of 18 children
  • For 4 and 5-year-olds: 8-10 children per caregiver, max group size of 20 children
  • For 6 to 8-year-olds: 10 children per caregiver, max group size of 20 children
  • For 9 to 12-year-olds: 12 children per caregiver, max group size of 24 children

6) Ask about health and safety practices

If vaccinations are a concern for you, ask if your care provider accepts staff and children who are not vaccinated so you can find care that aligns with your beliefs. Center-based daycares should be able to show you where the first aid kits are kept and how many staff members (all of them, ideally) have been recently certified in First Aid and CPR. There should be policies regarding the storage and dosing of medication for children.

Home-based care providers should also be certified in CPR and First aid and be able to show you where medications are stored (out of reach of children) and how they make sure medications and doses do not get mixed up.

In both center-based and home-based care, exterior doors should be locked at all times.

Bottom line: Parents need to be detectives

When choosing a center or individual to care for your child, it's important to ask as many questions as you have. It's not rude, it's just our jobs as mamas. Ask about curriculum, discipline, nutrition and don't be afraid to follow up.

Ali Dodd is the founder of Shepard's Watch, a community dedicated to advocating for safe child care. Dodd lost her infant son Shepard four years ago when his day care provider put him down for a nap in a car seat and he asphyxiated (it should have been a flat crib, as per the AAP). As Dodd recently told Fox 25 News in Oklahoma, parents should never be afraid to ask questions of a potential or current child care provider.

"It feels like, by you bringing this up, you may be rubbing your provider in the wrong way or you're communicating to them that you don't trust them. But a good provider would never feel that way. Ever," she explains.

"If parents have to be a detective I want them to know how to do that. It's the most important thing to do before putting your child in day care while you're at work," says Dodd.

Dodd suggests that parents don't just do background checks when enrolling in child care, but also periodically as your child remains in care. "I would set an alert on your phone if you're using a home or center. Put a recurring alert because you won't know until you check. And no one is going to tell you," she explains.

If you live in a state where inspection reports are online, it's pretty easy to take a peek every few months.

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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The author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth is an example of the kind of character she seeks to foster in the next generation. As the founder and CEO of the Character Lab, a nonprofit dedicated to children's character development, as a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and as a mom, Duckworth is trying to teach parents to let their kids struggle and that success is a long game.

According to Duckworth, grit is "this combination of passion and perseverance over really long periods. So it's loving what you do and working really hard at it for a very long time."

During the latest episode of The Motherly Podcast, Sponsored by Prudential, Duckworth tells Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety, "One could argue that motherhood requires more grit than anything else because it is such a stamina sport and the grind doesn't always feel like it's working."

As Duckworth explains, mothers can model grit every day by persevering in the face of challenging parenting moments, but we can also instill grit in our children, even very young kids, by encouraging them not to give up. It is so easy to tie a child's shoes for them when we're running late, but if we take a moment to stop and let them work through that challenge on their own we are being gritty and encouraging it.

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"You let them struggle and you don't solve their problems for them too early," Duckworth tells Tenety, recalling a time when one of her daughters was struggling to open a box of raisins. "When she gave up and like walked away thinking that's too hard, I did worry about her long-term grit. I was like, oh my gosh my daughter's been defeated by a box of SunMaid raisins. But the important thing is that when you see your child struggle, let them struggle a little longer than maybe is comfortable for some of us."

By not rushing to open the box of raisins for her daughter, Duckworth taught her an important lesson in perseverance: If you want something you have to keep working at it yourself because you can't assume people will do things for you. This can be hard for parents because we often want to rush in and fix things for our kids, but Duckworth suggests we force ourselves to wait a beat and give our kids a chance before coming to the rescue.

"If you solve their problems guess what? They will not figure out how to solve their own problems if you make life a frictionless path. Then don't be surprised when they are not very resilient," she explains.

When we don't do everything for our kids they learn that they are capable, and we're cultivating a growth mindset. When we let our kids struggle and persevere, we're teaching them that the ability to get back up and overcome challenges is more important than talent—we're teaching them grit.

To hear more from Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, author Angela Duckworth about grit and growth, listen to The Motherly Podcast, sponsored by Prudential, for the full interview.

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They say necessity is the mother of invention, and when temperatures soar as high as they are this summer, it's necessary that we get little ones out of the backseat as soon as possible.

But parents are only human, and as much as we think we could never forget our babies in the car, it does happen. Research suggests high temperatures don't help, as heat stress can impact our cognitive function.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 2018 was the worst year in history for kids being left in hot cars. The NSC, other safety advocacy organizations and lawmakers are encouraging auto makers to embrace technology to create backseat alert systems in new vehicles, but such systems aren't standard yet.

Luckily, there are several innovative car seat apps and products parents can use to remind them when there's a little one in the backseatand you might already have one of them installed.

Here are 5 car seat apps that lessen the risk of leaving little ones behind:

1. Waze

Waze

If you use Waze to help you beat traffic, you can set it up to remind you to empty the backseat when you reach your destination. Simply turn on the "Child Reminder" feature in your settings to start getting the notifications. It even allows you to add a custom message, so you can write a sweet note about your baby.

2. Kars 4 Kids Safety App

Kars 4 Kids

If you're not a Waze fan but are an Android user, you can try the Kars 4 Kids Safety App on Google Play. It connects to your car's Bluetooth so that when you (and your phone) leave the car, an alarm goes off. You can add your child's photo to fully customize your reminder.

3. The Backseat App

The Backseat App is available on iPhones and Android, and because it doesn't rely on Bluetooth, it's useful to parents who are driving vehicles that don't have that technology on board.

Developed by an Arizona father, this app can be used not only in the U.S., but in Australia, Canada, France, Mexico, New Zealand and the U.K. Using GPS, it reminds the driver to check the backseat when the car is parked, and if the driver doesn't turn off the alerts to their phone, the app sends a messages to three pre-determined contacts. The message will let them know that there's a possibility that a child's been left in a hot car via email and text message and send the location of your vehicle, along with your car's identifying characteristics.

4. Built-in Car Seat Alarms

Cybex

Car seat manufacturers, like Evenflo and Cybex, offer built in alarm functions thanks to innovative chest clips that don't just protect kids in the event of an accident, but also if they're accidentally left in the vehicle.

Motherly loves the Cybex Sirona M SensorSafe Convertible Car Seat, as it's "the smartest convertible car seat we've ever tried." The chest clip that alerts parents when: the car is too hot (or cold), if the child has been in the car seat longer than recommended, if they've managed to unclip it while the car is moving, or if a child is left behind in the backseat—for example, if the car is turned off or the driver's cell phone has left the vehicle, but the kid is still clipped in. If the driver doesn't respond to an alert about a child left behind, emergency contacts are alerted.

5. Bee-Alert Child Auto Alarm

Amazon

If you've already got a car seat and aren't keen on apps (or if your child has caregivers who aren't) the Bee-Safe Child Auto Alarm is a low-cost car reminder system ($29.99 on Amazon) that alerts drivers to the possibility of children both in the back seat and behind the vehicle. If your kiddo rides with someone who does not use a smartphone, this innovative alarm is a good bet.

No matter what you choose, having back up while driving the kids around in the heat is a a cool invention. And these innovative apps and products are likely just the beginning of a wave of designs dedicated to helping parents remember who is in the backseat.

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According to Arizona State University associate professor of psychology Gene Brewer, "memory failures are remarkably powerful, and they happen to everyone." He continues, "there is no difference between gender, class, personality, race or other traits. Functionally, there isn't much of a difference between forgetting your keys and forgetting your child in the car."

Parents shouldn't feel guilty about being human, but if there are apps and products that can help reduce the risk, they're worth checking out.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

[A version of this post was originally published July 6, 2018. It has been updated.]

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[Editor's Note: We support parents in making the best infant feeding choices for their family, whether that be formula feeding, breastfeeding, pumping, donor milk or any combination of feeding methods.]

Feeding babies takes a lot of effort, no matter what a baby is eating. Parents need support whether their baby is drinking breastmilk, formula or both, but we know mothers often don't feel supported in either choice. Mothers who choose or have to use formula often feel stigmatized, while mothers who breastfeed often get shunned for public breastfeeding or find themselves needing to pump in a workplace that offers no lactation room.

Individual mothers pay when society doesn't support parents in breastfeeding their babies. Formula can be expensive, but when workplaces discriminate against nursing moms, it's an expense some women have no choice but to take on. But that's not the cost we're discussing here.

A new website created by breastfeeding researchers Phan Hong Linh, Roger Mathisen and Dylan Walters suggests that, on a global scale, failing to support breastfeeding is costing an estimated $341 billion a year.

The Cost of Not Breastfeeding tool was developed by Alive & Thrive, an initiative to save lives and prevent illness worldwide through "through optimal maternal nutrition, breastfeeding, and complementary feeding practices." To be clear, the site isn't targeted at individual parents who are unable or choose not to breastfeed their babies. Rather, it's a tool that illustrates the global economic losses that might be attributed to the low percentage of breastfed babies.

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The researchers behind the tool hope policymakers will look at it and decide to commit more resources to support parents.

Using the tool, you can use a dropdown menu to see how these costs break down for 34 different countries. In the U.S., where only 24% of children are exclusively breastfed, the tool estimates that it costs more than $28,000,000 in healthcare just to treat diarrhea and respiratory infections in children that could be prevented if more mothers were supported in breastfeeding.

Though many of the developing countries in the tool have higher percentages of breastfeeding than the United States, the costs of not breastfeeding the remaining children are higher. This is presumably because the risk of the associated diseases is already higher in those countries (due to factors like poverty, water quality, etc.).

Alive & Thrive gathered data on mortality (of children and mothers); cases of diarrhea, pneumonia, and obesity in children that could be attributed to not breastfeeding; cases of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type II diabetes in mothers; the cost of medical care for those conditions; the cost of formula; and then the future cost to the economy of the loss of children's lives and having unhealthy children and mothers.

Many of these numbers are estimates based on estimates, but it's hard to argue against the bigger-picture argument of the tool's developer, health economist Dylan Walters.

"We need to be sensitive to the constraints and hardships faced by mothers and families in a world that lacks basic support systems for their physical, psycho-social, and economic well-being," Walters said in a post on Alive & Thrive's website. "Even more, mothers and families are up against a constant barrage of corporate marketing of alternatives and misinformation spread that undermines what should be boringly second nature and not stigmatized by society."

The organization recommends a minimum of 18 weeks of paid family leave and more support of nursing mothers on work sites. It also states that governments should enforce laws limiting the advertisement of infant formula.

Such laws may make sense in countries where access to clean water makes formula feeding difficult, but in wealthy nations like the United States, where formula feeding is a safe and legitimate choice, some worry limiting information about formula stigmatizes and patronizes mothers who are capable of choosing what is best for their babies.

The World Health Organization recommends that babies exclusively breastfeed for their first six months, and then receive a combination of breast milk and other nutrition until they are 2 years old. UNICEF estimates that globally as of 2016, 43% of children are exclusively breastfed during the first 6 months of life, and 46% continue until age 2. A recent survey found 1 in 4 Americans do not believe moms should be allowed to breastfeed or pump in the clear view of the public, and while 90% of Americans say they believe women should be allowed to pump at work, about 1 in 3 do not believe employers should be required to provide a lactation room.

The discrepancy here between what is recommended and what is actually supported is shocking. Mothers are being told to breastfeed, but then are also being told to cover up, or that they can't pump at work. When there are so many obstacles to breastfeeding it shouldn't be shocking that breastfeeding rates in America are lower than the WHO would like.

This lack of support and mixed messages are making the work of motherhood—something that is already deeply emotionally and mentally draining—even harder. The conversation about infant feeding should not be about supporting one type of infant feeding over another, it needs to be about supporting women in motherhood and in their choices. The cost of not doing so is staggering.

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Need a way to make your kids really, really, really happy? Here's some news that just might do the trick: Every child's favorite song is hitting a stage near you for a 100-city live tour. Yes, we're talking about "Baby Shark."

Baby Shark Live! is coming to a ton of U.S. cities (and Canada, eventually) and the first tour dates were just announced.

The pre-sale tickets go on sale this week! The tour kicks off October 3 at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and the last tour stop is the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 10.

We know what you're thinking. How can a single song (epic as it may be) sustain a whole show? Well, there will be other songs performed too. Your kids can also rock out to favorites like "Five Little Monkeys," "Wheels on the Bus," "Jungle Boogie" and "Monkey Banana Dance."



The show will be produced by Pinkfong (which is the South Korean firm that brought us the tune in the first place) in partnership with Round Room Live. It promises to provide an immersive experience for kids like the live Pinkfong performances that are already happening in other parts of the world.

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This represents the song's next step towards total world domination: In addition to becoming a total musical sensation among children everywhere, there's already a "Baby Shark" TV show in the works — chalk it all up the fact that there's a scientific reason why this song is always (always, always) stuck in your head.

Interested in taking your children to see this phenomenon come to life? You can buy tickets here.

We'd recommend acting fast. If through-the-roof YouTube views are any indication, this show is going to sell out faster than you can sing the iconic "doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo" line!

Here is the full list of tour dates:

Oct. 3 - Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium — Spartanburg, SC
Oct. 4 - Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts – Orlando, FL
Oct. 5 - Straz Center - Morsani Hall - Tampa, FL
Oct. 6 - Broward Center for the Performing Arts - Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Oct. 7 - Florida Theatre - Jacksonville, FL
Oct. 8 - Saenger Theatre - Pensacola, FL
Oct. 10 - HEB Center – Cedar Park, TX
Oct. 11 - Smart Financial Centre - Sugar Land, TX
Oct. 12 - Comerica Center - Frisco, TX
Oct. 13 - Mahalia Jackson Theater - New Orleans, LA
Oct. 14 - Shreveport Municipal Auditorium – Shreveport, LA
Oct. 15 - BOK Center - Tulsa, OK
Oct. 16 - Majestic Theatre - San Antonio, TX
Oct. 18 - Ikeda Theater - Mesa, AZ
Oct. 19 - Terrace Theater - Long Beach, CA
Oct. 20 - Center for the Performing Arts - San Jose, CA
Oct. 23 – Eccles Theater - Salt Lake City, UT
Oct. 24 - Paramount Theatre - Denver, CO
Oct. 26 – Stifel Theatre – St. Louis, MO
Oct. 27 - Clowes Memorial Hall - Indianapolis, IN
Oct. 29 - Des Moines Civic Center - Des Moines, IA
Oct. 30 - State Theatre - Minneapolis, MN
Nov. 1 - Riverside Theatre - Milwaukee, WI
Nov. 2 - Rosemont Theater - Rosemont, IL
Nov. 3 - Fox Theatre - Detroit, MI
Nov. 4 - Byham Theater - Pittsburgh, PA
Nov. 5 - Santander Performing Arts Center - Reading, PA
Nov. 6 – The Bushnell Performing Arts Center- Hartford, CT
Nov. 7 - Tilles Center - Brookville, NY
Nov. 8 - Kings Theatre - Brooklyn, NY
Nov. 9 – Emerson Colonial Theatre - Boston, MA
Nov. 10 – Academy of Music - Philadelphia, PA

[A version of this post was first published June 18, 2019. It has been updated.]

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