I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately – reflecting and evaluating are powerful problem solving tools. My current dilemma is that, in a recent meeting with a couple seeking childcare, I was asked for references.
Now, the problem isn’t that I don’t have references. Many of the parents who contact me begin the conversation by saying “I have a friend/neighbour/co-worker who has had or currently has a child in your care”. They already have the reference and don’t ask for more.
I will also say that I do believe that all parents should want references before leaving their child in the care of anyone they don’t personally know. Employers check references before hiring new employees. Homeowners get references from contractors before getting renovations done on their homes.
My concern lies in the sharing of personal information – phone numbers, email addresses, etc – of parents with children in my care. Both the Privacy Act and the Provincial childcare licensing regulations restrict the sharing of personal information.
I am diligent in maintaining confidentiality for past and present families. Even with families that I know spend time together outside of my childcare home I ensure I get permission before sharing any information. So, it makes me very uncomfortable to ask them for permission to share their contact information with someone I just met and know very little about.
Over the sixteen years I’ve been a licensed childcare provider there have been occasional difficult families that caused problems for me, the school and other families with children in my care. In those sixteen years I have had to dismiss three families due to the behaviour of a parent. All of them seemed nice enough when I first interviewed them but it didn’t take long for it to become apparent that their conduct was not respectful to me or the families with children in my care.
I have occasionally reversed the request and asked a prospective parent to allow me to share their contact info with my currently enrolled parents. That way the parents I already know and trust can contact the prospective parent without divulging any of their personal information. However, this too bothers me because the prospective parent is seeking a reference and their first experience with me involves me asking to share their contact information with others.
I have considered and occasionally asked a parent to provide me with a letter of reference which does not have any contact info and can be shown to a prospective parent – but is this really a good reference? What if the prospective parent wants additional information other than what is covered in the letter? There is no way for them to ask specific questions.
Sigh. These are the kinds of things that keep me awake at night. I still don’t have and answer.